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Psychologists are trained professionals who understand the inner workings of the human brain and psyche. A psychologist studies thoughts and behaviors, mental processes and emotions, and, using his or her accumulated knowledge and training, assesses the mental and physical states of a person by studying the individual and talking with him or her. One of the best-known roles of a criminal psychologist is offender or criminal profiling. Profilers, for instance, attempt to identify the age, gender, sex, background, physical characteristics, educational and socioeconomic levels, geographic background, and other traits of criminals who have not yet been apprehended.

Through an examination of the evidence left at a crime scene, criminal psychologists can determine the probable mental characteristics of the perpetrator of a specific crime. In the last few decades, profiling has progressed from a hunch-based guessing game, which was, nevertheless, often fairly accurate, to a more rigorous field, in which the principles of forensic science and psychology are applied to help provide more accurate profiles. Criminal psychologists do not always work as profilers.

Some work with criminals who have already been apprehended, determining the motivations for their crimes and the likelihood that they will offend again if released back into society. Some criminal psychologists work as witnesses, providing expert testimony in a variety of criminal cases.

To perform these duties, criminal psychologists require a highly specialized set of skills and a diverse base of knowledge, including:. Not all criminal psychologists work with violent crime or even with criminals. Some may use their insights to offer opinions about custody cases, for instance. For the most part, however, their focus is on crime, as the title suggests. The psychologist uses a variety of tests, tools, and interviewing techniques to construct these assessments.

The clinical psychologist may perform simple experiments to determine whether a suspect is capable of committing the crime of which he or she is accused. For example, the psychologist may perform tests to determine if a witness could see or hear a crime taking place as alleged in his or her statement. When applied to large groups, statistics can offer reliable evidence.


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Criminal psychologists who want to see patients typically get a clinically-focused Doctor of Psychology Degree, or Psy. They might work in a number of different settings, including private practice, corrections offices and law enforcement agencies.

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They conduct court-ordered psychological assessments and court-ordered psychotherapy on criminals. Non-clinical criminal psychologists tend to work as researchers in universities and for the government, or as consultants for law enforcement agencies.

Some criminologists earning a Ph. The BLS survey includes criminal psychologists in the "psychology-other" category.

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Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites. Skip to main content. Education Criminology is a multidisciplinary degree, with students taking courses in psychology, sociology, public health, statistics, epidemiology, law and neuroscience.

Licensing Criminologists don't see patients in therapy, so they don't need a license. Careers Criminologists with an undergraduate degree usually work as probation officers, prison guards and criminal investigators.

Criminal Psychology

While some psychologists are employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI , this is not as common as television may make it appear. Some criminal psychologists go into business for themselves in a freelance or consulting capacity. Others work as teachers or professors, helping train new psychologists.

They may educate aspiring psychologists at colleges, universities, or specialized training centers.

Exploring the mind of a killer - Jim Fallon

In any position, criminal psychologists are likely to spend at least some of their time profiling criminals. This ever-growing field of investigative analysis is beneficial to successfully resolving cases and apprehending criminals. The psychologist must have a thorough understanding of human psyches, behaviors, and mental processes. The psychologist is charged with answering specific questions, including:.


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Criminal psychologists are a sub-niche of the psychology field. According to the U. Jobs for psychologists are growing at an estimated rate of 19 percent between and , which is significantly faster than the rest of the job market. The good news is that criminal psychologists are likely to find employment in the field if they receive the right training.

A criminal psychologist spends his or her day examining crime scenes, looking at crime scene photos, working with law enforcement officers, advising lawyers, and testifying in court. More specifically, daily duties may include:. Therefore, many people who want to go into criminal psychology opt to earn a doctorate, either a Ph.

During your time as a doctoral student, you may choose to focus on theory or research, or you may take a very hands-on, forensic-oriented approach.


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However, at that time, you will most likely have acquired enough expertise to begin working while still in school.