What does a criminal psychologist do

Criminal psychologists study the behavior and thoughts of criminals.In recent years, due to popular TV shows portraying fictitious criminal psychologists, such as Criminal mind and CSIThe field is highly related to forensic psychology, and in some cases these two terms can be used interchangeably.

Criminal Psychologist Job Description

A large part of the work done by criminal psychologists is to study the reasons why people commit crimes. They can also assess the offender to assess the risk of reoffending (the person’s likelihood of committing a crime again in the future) or make educated guesses about the actions the offender might take after the crime.

In addition to helping law enforcement agencies solve cases or analyze the behavior of offenders, criminal psychologists often provide expert testimony in court.

Perhaps one of the most famous duties of criminal psychologists is criminal profiling, also known as crime profiling. Although this practice has been used informally for decades, crime analysis made its professional debut in the 1940s when the Office of Strategic Services asked psychiatrists to create a personal profile for Adolf Hitler.

Today, organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) use criminal profiling to help arrest violent criminals. The goal of crime analysis is to provide law enforcement agencies with a psychological assessment of suspects, and to provide strategies and recommendations that can be used in the interview process.

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Psychologists usually do not accompany police officers to interrogate arrested suspects. In addition, many cases can take weeks, months, or even years to resolve, and they are rarely pieced together as quickly and irrefutably as in TV shows.

Although this job may not be what you see on TV, the reality of this job is far from boring. In addition to profiling, criminal psychologists can also provide counseling to people who have committed a crime and need psychological evaluation. Many psychologists work in computer-related fields, such as studying cyber predators or helping to investigate cyber fraud.

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working environment

People in this field usually work in office and court settings. Criminal psychologists may spend a lot of time interviewing others, studying the life history of criminals, or giving expert testimony in court. In some cases, criminal psychologists may work closely with police and federal agents to help solve the case, usually by developing the files of murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals.

Criminal psychologists are employed by many different institutions. Some people work for local, state, or federal governments, while others are self-employed as independent consultants. Others choose to teach criminal psychology at universities or specialized criminology training institutions.

Education and training

In many cases, criminal psychologists first obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology. After completing an undergraduate degree, some students choose and then enter the master’s program in psychology.

Entering a doctoral degree program after obtaining a bachelor’s degree is another option. For those with a doctoral degree, there are more vacancies in this professional field. Or Psy.D. degree in psychology.

PhD (or PhD) degrees usually focus more on theory and research, while Psy.D. (or PhD in psychology) tends to focus more on practice.

To become a criminal psychologist, you should seriously consider obtaining a PhD. Or Psy.D. Degree in Clinical or Counseling Psychology. In some cases, students choose to focus on a specific professional field, such as forensics or criminal psychology.

No matter which type of doctoral degree you choose to obtain, it may take about five to seven years to completeIt will include class assignments, practical training, research and papers. In order to become a licensed psychologist, you also need to complete an internship and pass a state exam.


Although there are master-level jobs in forensic psychology, competition for these positions is fierce. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, although there were approximately 181,700 psychologists in the United States in 2018, approximately 18,300 of them were professional psychologists. (The database does not have data specifically for forensic psychologists.)

In terms of income, professional psychologists often earn higher salaries than other fields of practice, with an average annual salary of US$95,610. In 2018, the annual income ranged from US$41,220 to as high as US$127,510.

Professional psychologists working for state and local governments or private clinics tend to have higher average salaries, while professional psychologists employed by the federal government or hospitals tend to have lower annual salaries.

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Before you decide whether this is suitable for your area of ​​expertise, please take some time to consider your own abilities and goals. Due to the nature of this profession, you may find yourself dealing with some truly disturbing situations. You may need to view photos of crime scenes or interview people suspected of terrorist crimes. You need to be prepared to deal with the emotional distress that this type of work may cause.

One of the best ways to determine whether this career is right for you is to discuss what the job is like with a licensed criminal psychologist. Contact your local law enforcement agency to see if they can connect you with a criminal psychologist in your area.