If you have a passion for understanding human behaviour and an interest in applying that knowledge in a legal setting, criminal psychology might be the career for you.
Psychology is an exciting career in its own right. But paired with a study of criminology and an application in potentially high-leverage situations in the courts, criminal psychology has the potential to be a thrilling job.
However, being a criminal psychologist isn’t all good, all the time. Like any other job, there are benefits and detriments that must be considered before making a career choice.
Use this guide to the pros and cons of criminal psychology to develop a better understanding of this field and what might be expected of you.
Table of Contents
Pros of Being a Criminal Psychologist
You Can Specialise
As a criminal psychologist, you have the opportunity to specialise in a niche area. For example, some criminal psychologists work exclusively as jury consultants. This role revolves around helping shape the makeup of a jury for the prosecution or defence, depending on which side has contracted you for your services.
As another example, you might specialise in profiling. As a profiler, you’ll work with law enforcement agencies to help identify possible characteristics of an unknown, yet wanted individual.
There are many other areas in which you can become a niche expert. Criminal psychologists might concentrate in:
- Witness preparation for court proceedings
- Assessment of defendants
- Providing expert courtroom testimony
Furthermore, some criminal psychologists work in education settings, such as teaching courses at colleges or universities.
Criminal Psychology Services are Likely to Remain in Demand
Psychologists that specialise in criminology are currently in high demand. There’s a strong likelihood that this will continue in the coming years.
There are two reasons for this: continued crime rates and a growing desire to better understand criminal behaviour.
First, as long as there’s a crime, there is a need for criminal psychologists. While some cases are easier to solve, police forces need help from time to time to solve more complex issues. Criminal psychologists can fill that need and help shed light on who might have committed a crime.
Second, there’s an incredible interest in human behaviour and a desire of those in policing to better understand why people behave the way they do. Criminal psychologists have the unique training and skills to assist police agencies in learning more about the human condition.
While crime is certainly not a good thing, wanting to enhance the understanding of criminals and their behaviour is a step in the right direction. Improved policing, more appropriate sentencing, and a commitment to addressing mental health issues among people accused and convicted of crimes come with better understanding.
This is an Exciting Field
One of the best parts of this job is its excitement. You might be involved in a high-profile court case, interview notorious criminals, or help police identify a subject, which might all occur in a few weeks!
While not every day involves high-profile work, criminal psychology offers a lot of variety to keep you busy. No two days on the job will be the same!
Cons of Being a Criminal Psychologist
Niche Specialties Might Restrict Employment Opportunities
While the opportunity to specialise is one of the pros mentioned above, it can be a double-edged sword. Once you specialise, you might restrict your employment options to a degree.
Say, for example, that your speciality is conducting mental health assessments of people standing trial. As there’s a need for such services, you can build a strong career. However, what if that need decreases? Even if there’s a reduction in one or two monthly assessments, it can significantly impact your income.
That being the case, it might be prudent to specialise in a couple of areas of criminal psychology; that way, you have a better opportunity for consistent work. In addition to providing mental health assessments, you might also teach at a university or work as a jury consultant.
This Job Requires a Lot of Schooling
If you want to be a criminal psychologist, you’ll need a master’s degree at a minimum. You’ll have better employment opportunities if you have a PhD degree.
Usually, a master’s degree takes a couple of years to complete after undergraduate studies. A PhD might be another three to five years on top of that. You can spend the better part of a decade at university.
Your education doesn’t end there, though. Many criminal psychologists work under the tutelage of more experienced criminal psychologists. Be it a practicum, internship, work-study, or some other work experience, and you will put in long hours working in a junior position, likely for little or no money. After you graduate, post-graduate or post-doctoral studies might also be required.