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What is Forensic Psychology? Everything You Need to Know Before Studying It

posted by Hannah on Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Do you have a head for science but also enjoy working with people? Perhaps you’re interested in policing and working within the criminal justice system? If that sounds like you, forensic psychology could be a great choice for your future career.

Gaining a qualification in forensic psychology is challenging, but for those who are successful, a rewarding, varied and fulfilling career awaits. In this guide, we’ll take you through what forensic psychology is and the various routes into the profession, with advice on qualifications, study options and what’s involved.

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What is Forensic Psychology?

Forensic psychology is the study of criminal psychology in the context of the criminal justice system. For you to gain a better understanding of the overall definition, it is useful to separate out the two different terms.

 This term forensic is derived from the Latin word forensis, which relates to an open or public forum. In layman’s terms, forensics is a way to describe the application of scientific theory and practice to be able to establish when and how a crime was committed.

Psychology is defined as the scientific analysis of the human mind and how this impacts behaviour. It is then possible to trace this behaviour to an individual’s character and actions, including deviant incidences.

Therefore, by combining both terms, you arrive at the analysis of criminal behaviours against a legal backdrop.

scientist in lab conducting experiment

Forensic Psychology in Popular Culture

 You may well have first encountered forensic psychology through watching TV shows, such as Silent Witness, CSI and Cracker. Many people assume from watching these programmes that forensic psychologists deal only with high-profile and extreme crimes, but the definition of this subject area is much broader and involving.

Forensic psychologists on TV are rarely shown investigating mundane crimes or putting in time in front of their books carrying out in-depth research. But these duties are very much part of the role of a forensic psychologist, particularly for junior personnel at the beginning of their careers.

What Does Forensic Psychology Involve?

 As explained above, forensic psychology involves many elements. These include applying clinical theory, research and practice to legal contexts, as well as exploring assessment and treatment options for people who interact with the legal system. Although this field of psychology relates to criminality and the law, the emphasis is on the clinical skills of the practitioner.

Forensic psychology also involves being able to assess the risk of re-offending for individuals who have committed crimes. You could also spend time researching and developing appropriate rehabilitation programmes for offenders, or else be called upon to consider eyewitness testimony and to give evidence in a court setting.

A significant part of the role of a forensic psychologist involves contributing to policy and research. In fact, psychologists working in the field of forensics may choose to focus on continued academic research rather than actual practice.

How to Become a Forensic Psychologist?

 To become a forensic psychologist, you will need to have an aptitude for science and the ability to solve problems. If you wish to pursue this as a career, you’ll first need to complete a psychology degree accredited by the British Psychological Society.

If your degree is in a different subject area, you will need to take a postgraduate conversion course. You will then need to undertake a Masters-level study and supervised practice.

If you become employed as a forensic psychologist, you would likely work for the prison service, although forensic psychologists also work within probation services, the police service, and the NHS.

scientist looking through microscope

What Are the Benefits of Studying a Forensic Psychology Qualification?

Thinking of studying towards a qualification in forensic psychology? While challenges lie ahead, you’ll enjoy a range of benefits during your studies, including:

  • Fascinating subject matter – forensic psychology is, by its nature, a fascinating topic, so you can look forward to some truly interesting and enriching course content.
  • Different career avenues – whether you aspire to join the police, the prison service or become an independent practitioner, a qualification in forensic psychology could unlock a range of different career options.
  • Specialist skillset means strong job opportunities – given that forensic psychology is a specialist subject, you’ll have strong job prospects upon completing your qualification. While this doesn’t guarantee an immediate position, it does mean a smaller talent pool and thus, more opportunity to land your dream job.
  • Career progression and future learning – qualified forensic psychologists often go on to build on their learning, either through a certified course or as part of on-the-job training and experience. This not only helps with career progression, but provides the opportunity to develop skills and experience in other key areas.

man looking at his laptop

What Qualifications Can I Take in Forensic Psychology?

As touched on above, forensic psychology requires a degree-level qualification, either in this particular field or in a subject like psychology or criminology. From there, it’s possible to take additional courses and training to improve your knowledge and build expertise in specific areas of the field.

 Here at Oxbridge, we offer Forensic Psychology Level 3 as a distance learning course. This course would be ideal preparation for further study in this subject area. It would also be an excellent way to further your knowledge of criminal behaviour and legal practices.

Alternatively, you may want to view all the online criminology courses we offer.

We hope this guide on forensic psychology helps you decide if it’s the right subject and career path for you. A rewarding career awaits those who choose to get qualified in this area, so why not visit the Oxbridge homepage today to learn about our distance learning courses in forensic psychology? For more information or to browse our complete course range, visit the homepage or call our experienced course advisers on 0121 630 3000.