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Working as a Criminal Psychologist

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 27 Jun 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Criminal Psychologist Psychology Career

The role of the criminal (or forensic) psychologist is becoming increasingly popular for people choosing a career. For many, the image of police procedural television series springs to mind - where an expert will express their interpretation of how a criminal acts. Some people have attributed the increase in criminal psychology applications to these kinds of programmes. While crime scene consultation is part of the job, it forms a relatively small part of the duties you will often be asked to perform.

The role can be rewarding but it is also a very responsible one. You could be called on to be an expert witness, requiring the right level of communication skills. A lot of them are also employed by prisons to assess the level of care that prisoners need, both in terms of rehabilitation and the safety of themselves and their fellow prisoners.

Here is an overview of the different jobs available in the world of criminal psychology, as well as how to get the right qualifications and experience in order to enter this very competitive and popular field.

Qualifications

In order to study criminal psychology you need at least five A-C at GCSE and three A-levels. The kind of subjects you are required to study will vary depending on the university you intend to apply to.

The most obvious subject to study at A-level is psychology. Sociology also gives a good overview of society as well. Your careers adviser should be able to give more specific information about which courses and universities are most appropriate.

In order to qualify as a criminal psychologist you need a British Psychology Society (BPS) Accredited Degree in Psychology and a Health Council approved programme in order to complete your registration. People looking to apply for these qualifications need a good degree, usually at least at 2:1. You also need to be able to demonstrate research skills and relevant work experience, either in a hospital or community service setting.

It is expected that you get at least two years of experience. As well as looking good on your CV this will help give you an idea of the kind of people you will be working with and helping you to develop your social and communication skills.

Some people choose to study specific aspects of criminal behaviour. For example people study the treatment of sexual offenders and this can be the research subject of a PHD. While studying a degree course it is worth discussing this with your tutor to see what options are available to you and what you may wish to study further.

The Job

The work tends to be 9am to 5 or 6pm, usually from Monday to Friday. There are also part time and job share opportunities available, although these are highly sought after.

The role of the criminal psychologist is to use their specialist knowledge of criminal behaviour and their analytical skills to assist a number of organisations in a variety of situations.

They will often help the police in their investigations, often by using their ability to assess how a criminal behaves and their motivations behind a crime. However this is just one aspect of the work they might be expected to do.

The prison service is the main employer of criminal psychologists. One aspect of the role is rehabilitating offenders. This can often be through both one to one and group therapy sessions. Some offenders will have problems with anger management or drink and alcohol addiction and require sensitive treatment.

A trainee psychologist or psychological assistant may also be asked to assist in treating people with severe mental health disorders. You may be asked to assess their mental condition to see what level of care they need and whether they present a danger to themselves or the public.

Risk assessment is another vital part of this role. This is where a psychologist has to make recommendations based on the chances of a prisoner potentially reoffending. You may also be asked to be an expert witness in a case where the behaviour of a criminal is called into question. Communication skills are an important part of this.

What You Can Expect To Earn

A trainee or newly qualified psychologist can expect to earn up to £20,000 a year. Once fully qualified you can expect to earn between £30,000 to £45,000 a year. At the top level consultants and department heads earn up to £95,000 a year.

For more information about a career in criminal psychology go to the British Psychology Society website. There are also a number of agencies and vacancy pages online where you can see what work experience and job vacancies are available in your local area.

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[Add a Comment]
Floopsy - Your Question:
I am 24 and have always thought of being a prison psychologist but where do I start? And what is the best uni to go to in the uk or online if that's even possible?

Our Response:
You haven't said what qualifications you have already.If you have the relevant A levels, the easiest way to find a course is the via the UCAS website. If you search for Criminal Psychology, there are 174 undergraduate courses
CareersInPsychology - 29-Jun-17 @ 10:10 AM
I am 24 and have always thought of being a prison psychologist but where do I start? And what is the best uni to go to in the uk or online if that's even possible?
Floopsy - 27-Jun-17 @ 6:00 PM
Chae - Your Question:
Hi, I'm currently in my first year of a level (going into my second) and I have an interest in criminal psychology. I've researched the topic and requirements numerous times and would like to pursue this passion into university and study psychology. I am planning on taking a gap year before university to build up experience and knowledge of criminal psychology as I've never been involved in any work experience or internships that are associated with psychology and therefore, this summer, I wanted to prepare and look into any opportunities which would widen my knowledge of the topic, this including any volunteering work, internships or even drop-ins at institutions. Since I haven't had any luck with finding anything, I was wondering if you could give any suggestions on where you think its ideal I start to look for any experience, bearing in mind I am 17 years old. Thank you!Chae Hemmings

Our Response:
You could try local young offender teams, social services, Victim Support , Independent Custody Visiting, Mentoring etc
CareersInPsychology - 27-Jun-17 @ 1:59 PM
Hi, I'm currently in my first year of a level (going into my second) and I have an interest in criminal psychology. I've researched the topic and requirements numerous times and would like to pursue this passion into university and study psychology. I am planning on taking a gap year before university to build up experience and knowledge of criminal psychology as I've never been involved in any work experience or internships that are associated with psychology and therefore, this summer, I wanted to prepare and look into any opportunities which would widen my knowledge of the topic, this including any volunteering work, internships or even drop-ins at institutions. Since I haven't had any luck with finding anything, I was wondering if you could give any suggestions on where you think its ideal I start to look for any experience, bearing in mind I am 17 years old. Thank you! Chae Hemmings
Chae - 25-Jun-17 @ 10:34 PM
Hi I am currently studying for a psychology diploma online, would this course (if passed)be enough to apply to university to study criminal psychology
Marnie - 9-Jun-17 @ 10:02 PM
Grace - Your Question:
I am currently in year 10 of secondary school and I've been wanting to look into work in criminal phchology such as possibly being a criminal phchologist or possibly a parole officer however I'm not very smart. I want to study this in collage and then maybe go to university although as I said I'm not very smart and so I doubt I will even get in. But what will I do if that happens?

Our Response:
Speak with your school's careers advisor first of all. They will be able to advise you on what kind of courses might be the best for you study at 6th form level.
CareersInPsychology - 16-May-17 @ 10:55 AM
I am currently in year 10 of secondary school and I've been wanting to look into work in criminal phchology such as possibly being a criminal phchologist or possibly a parole officer however I'm not very smart. I want to study this in collage and then maybe go to university although as I said I'm not very smart and so I doubt I will even get in. But what will I do if that happens?
Grace - 15-May-17 @ 3:18 AM
Hi, I'm currently taking a part time degree with the open university in Criminology and psychological studies. It's my third year but i still have a bit to go. My career goal would go into criminal psychologist roles and was wondering what steps i could be taking now. Im currently unemployed and would like to pursue this career path. Thanks
mrjamesey - 20-Mar-17 @ 6:49 PM
Hello, I'm 23 and had to leave education at a young age due to a disability, I got my GCSE's all B/Cs and I'm really interested in becoming a forensic psychologist, particularly in the prison field or something more specialised. I'm just wondering what type of A levels I would need and what type of work experience as I still have a disability but I am at a point where I can manage it now any help would be great. Thankyou.
Biff - 10-Jan-17 @ 10:36 PM
Hi, i am planning to apply for my a-levels what courses can i take for forensic psychology
Naya - 17-Nov-16 @ 5:23 PM
Chloe - Your Question:
I am applying to do my A Levels and I need to organise my work experience. I want to pursue a career in criminal/forensic psychology and I am stuck on what kind of work experience I could do. What would be the best options?

Our Response:
You could try your local police authority? Sometimes they run specific placement schemes...such as our local one in Cheshire
CareersInPsychology - 16-Nov-16 @ 2:26 PM
I am applying to do my A Levels and I need to organise my work experience. I want to pursue a career in criminal/forensic psychology and I am stuck on what kind of work experience I could do. What would be the best options?
Chloe - 16-Nov-16 @ 8:53 AM
You may be interested in reading the Second Edition (2016) of my book 'So, You Want to be a Forensic Psychologist? available now on Amazon.
Brendan - 24-Oct-16 @ 10:59 PM
Hello, I am currently studying Bsc Criminology and Criminal Psychology. I would be interested in working in this field, however I do not have any experience of criminologist or psychologist.I am currently employed in hospitality, however I am wondering if there is any chance of starting my career in criminology field.
Jovita - 23-Sep-16 @ 12:17 PM
Jacks - Your Question:
Hi I have a BSc in Psychology and Criminology and an MSc in Forensic Psychology I graduated in November 2015 and I have struggled to find work in this field. I want to work for the Police but having studying for 2 degrees whilst raising my family I have been unable to gain any work experience. I currently employed in an administration role but feel that my knowledge and studies are going to waste. I am lost as to where to go from here 2 degrees no job and lots of debt.

Our Response:
Do you have time to volunteer at the moment? Perhaps working as a special constable etc? It's a great way to get into the police force. Also starting out in a police force control centre (which is paid) would be a great entry point.Twitter and your local authority websites are both places where the police will publicise any opportunities.
CareersInPsychology - 8-Sep-16 @ 10:33 AM
Hi I have a BSc in Psychology and Criminology and an MSc in Forensic Psychology I graduated in November 2015 and I have struggled to find work in this field. I want to work for the Police but having studying for 2 degrees whilst raising my family I have been unable to gain any work experience. I currently employed in an administration role but feel that my knowledge and studies are going to waste. I am lost as to where to go from here 2 degrees no job and lots of debt.....
Jacks - 7-Sep-16 @ 6:32 AM
Hi, my name is Emily. I have just done my 8 national 5s and got 6As, 1B and a C in Spanish, French, maths, English, history, biology, art and tech. I want to be a criminal psychologist in prisons as It really intrests me however I know it's a competitive field. What would help me to stand out? I would like to study psychology at edinbrugh university if I get my predicted 3As and 1B at higher in history, modern studies, English and Spanish. what else do I need to help me succeed? Thank you very much for your help in advance and I think it's really helpful you give advice to people.
Emily - 4-Sep-16 @ 10:33 PM
Hi, I'm currently preparing to take my GCSEs next year, and I'm predicted A* in all 10 of them- 3 sciences, maths, 2 English, German, French, tech and geography. For A level I'd like to study psychology, English lang, and biology. Is this sufficient? Ideally I'd take chemistry as well, but we're only allowed to take 3. Which organisations are the most prominent in the criminology sector? I'm very interested in behavioural analysis of criminals and crime scenes, and whilst I know that the FBI has teams performing this, I'm unaware of anything similar in the UK. Does the Metropolitan Police have a similar faculty? Thanks for your help! -Beck
Beck - 11-Jun-16 @ 6:46 PM
Hi, I'm currently in my 2nd year studying Psychology at the University of Northampton, and I'm very interested in doing a masters degree in Forensic Psychology for postgrad. I was just wondering whether anyone knew what kinds of work I should be looking for right now, in order to build up some relevant experience. And whether anyone could provide me with the address of that website that advertises this type of work? Any help would be much appreciated ;)
jameslee85 - 2-Mar-16 @ 5:31 PM
Hi, I have my BSc Psychology degree and am looking at my options now to get a masters. Always was interested in the criminal aspect of psychology and going by this artical, criminal psychology is the way forward. My fear at the minute is the job market in the UK doesn't seem to have an openings for this as a career? Is there any advice of the likeliness of a job once I've completed the criminal psychology masters?
Alison - 25-Feb-16 @ 7:42 PM
Hi, I was searching the web and I'm getting really confused about the difference between forensic psych. and criminal psych. On some websites criminology is the one related to profiling and working with police officers and others forensic is the one to work with police officers and profiling a crime scene. I've always been interested in the mind and what makes people tick. And even though my favourite shows are Criminal Minds, NCIS and Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch); I do have some sense that these are most romanticized. I just want to know which one is which and if being in Britain makes it different from going to America and doing it? I would be very thankful if you would help clear this up, thank you. MN
MN - 2-Nov-15 @ 6:18 PM
hi, I am currently 2yr of BSc psychology with open university (BPS accredited), OU have just announced they will be starting 3 masters degrees in psychology as of next year probably forensic/criminology/applied, however, they do state that these are not BPS accredited at moment but as long as degree is this should not prove a problem, could you tell me if this is correct please
claire - 17-Oct-15 @ 1:44 PM
Hi I'm 23 years old 24 in August. My GCSEs are D and lower. But I really want to be a criminal psychologist it's all I want to do. Is there another way I can do it without doing all 5 GCSEs again as there isn't 5 I can do to be honest. Be great if I could get some advice. Thank you
Sleather - 16-Jul-15 @ 7:08 PM
I'm currently in my final year of GCSE's (well, beginning them in September) and I am quite certain I will get A's and B's in everything, so I'm pretty confident in getting into college. In college I want to study Sociology and Psychology for sure, but I have a few other options which I'm unsure about; biology, citizenship, history, philosophy, and english language. Ideally, I want to pick just one or two of the listed options (to go along with sociology and psychology) but I can't decide which. Then, in university, I want to study Psychology, Criminology, or a course they have called Sociology & Criminology. How many courses do people usually study in university? Would getting my 3/4 A-levels fulfill the basic requirements? Which 3rd/4th course should I take in college to further secure fulfilling the requirements of the university courses I want to take/which course(s) would be more desireable to have on my application? Finally, what steps would I take after university to pursue a career in criminology? What jobs can come from having the qualifications I hopefully achieve? Thanks.
ella - 14-Jul-15 @ 1:15 AM
Hi there, I've just finished my AS levels (Psychology, Sociology, Law, and Eng Lit) and I'm hoping to do Criminology and Psychology at university next year so I can be a Criminal Psychologist... However, I've been told by a psychology student in her second year of uni that one should pursue a Psychology degree on it's own before completing a masters in Forensic Psychology rather than just doing a degree in Criminology & Psychology. My only issue with this is that I don't particularly want to do 3 years of pure Psychology (although I do enjoy I at a level) and I am not completely sure I want to do Forensic Psychology. Can you give me some insight into what you think is best in my situation please? I would really appreciate it, especially as I will soon be applying for university courses.
Di - 19-Jun-15 @ 9:10 PM
@Sparz. Any of the social science subjects will be helpful together with subjects that demand criticial thinking and adept essay writing such as English or History. Maths, science are also useful additional subjects for grasping the scientific aspects of the criminology.
CareersInPsychology - 4-Feb-15 @ 12:25 PM
what should i subjects should i take for A levels since i want to study criminology
sparz - 1-Feb-15 @ 11:54 AM
I heard that some jobs don't employ you if you have a history of depression, suicide attempts, visible self harm scars, ect. and other things relevant in your hospital records. Is this true, and if it is, is this job one of them? Thank you for your help.
Lanta - 27-Dec-14 @ 3:41 AM
Hi, I am 14 and picking my GCSEs in January, so I was wondering if someone could tell me was subjects I will DEFINATLY need? I am planning on going to Queens University in Belfast, by the way, if this helps with your answer. I am planning on picking English, Maths, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Health and Social Care, History, Art and English Literature - I haven't picked between R.E. or LFLW yet. Are these subjects okay, or is there another subject i absolutely NEED to have to be a criminal psychologist? Thank you!!
Lanta - 27-Dec-14 @ 3:36 AM
@Tiana. It sounds like it's some way off now, but it would help you to look at some university courses now, so you can see what kind of A' levels you will need. Most universities will have a prospectus detailing the various psychology courses they offer - you can find these online on individual university websites. Once you've founda few that sound interesting, check the course requirements. This should give you a good idea of what A levels you will need to study.
CareersInPsychology - 28-Jul-14 @ 11:09 AM
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