Shadowing a DoctorSeptember 30, 2014
Education, training & licensing requirements
To be able to practice as a criminal psychologist, you would need to earn a graduate degree from a nationally accredited training program. Most professionals who choose this specialty hold doctorates. While no specific major is required, completing some coursework in criminal justice and psychology is highly recommended.
Admission to a graduate program in psychology is not easy. This is a very popular specialty and competition is tough. The best ways to strengthen your application are by working hard to achieve excellent grades in college and by supporting your academics by volunteering, working or conducting research in the field of psychology.
You can choose from two doctoral degrees in psychology: the practice-based PsyD or Doctor of Psychology and the research-and-theory-based PhD or Doctor of Philosophy. Dual-degree programs in psychology and law are also available. Criminal psychologists who also hold an additional law degree usually earn a higher income and also have more opportunities for advancement.
Psychologists generally undergo essential clinical training during and after graduate school. To qualify for licensure, you will need to complete a prescribed number of hours of supervised experience. This can be done through an internship, residency or preceptorship.
Licensing is compulsory for criminal psychologists who provide forensic evaluation and treatment. To obtain a licence to practice, you must hold a degree from an accredited training program and have at least one year of clinical experience. Participating in continuing education right through your career is necessary to maintain licensure and certification.
Essential skills and attributes
Anyone who chooses this career path must have outstanding observational and analytical skills, whether they are assessing patients or conducting research. Excellent listening and verbal skills are also hugely beneficial as much of the job involves listening to and communicating with offenders and others involved in the criminal justice system.
Working in the forensics field exposes professionals to potentially upsetting situations and subject matter. You may need to view crime scene photographs in detail and work closely with people accused of atrocious crimes while maintaining professional objectivity. Only those who have a great deal of emotional stability and solid stress management skills can manage to cope in these stressful and challenging situations.
Advancement opportunities in this field
A criminal psychologist who holds dual degrees in law and psychology would be in greater demand as they have a broader knowledge base and are capable of functioning in multiple areas. Another path towards advancement in this area is specialisation in a specific area of interest such as civil, family or criminal forensics.
Since this is a fairly new specialty, the demand is huge and the number of qualified criminal psychologists in practice is not enough to meet the needs of the justice system. According to the experts, licensed and certified professionals should not have any trouble finding work in the foreseeable future.