As you’ve probably seen on network TV, forensic and public service psychologists play important roles within the public safety and judicial systems. They conduct evaluations that inform and guide legal proceedings — from decisions regarding child custody to the competency of a defendant to stand trial. Others help select police officers and train first responders or work with returning veterans after a deployment.
The skills and expertise of forensic psychologists are in high demand. Forensic psychologists work in numerous job settings including private practices, government, military, academia, prisons and psychiatric facilities.
The range of topics and cases is vast. Forensic psychologists may evaluate a person involved in a personal injury suit and then testify in court about how this person’s life was affected by his or her injuries. They may also work with veterans to help them adjust to civilian life after war.
Within the criminal system, forensic psychologists might work on child abuse cases or determine a defendant’s sanity. They can give an informed opinion of whether a suspect knew right from wrong at the time of a crime and even whether a minor is being truthful in recounting an unlawful act. Some forensic psychologists work in the area of threat assessment, an emerging science predicting who may be at risk for committing a violent act.
The use for psychological science isn’t limited to clinical analysis or testifying in court, though. Social and experimental psychologists often help attorneys select juries or conduct focus groups to figure out the most convincing arguments.
The relatively young field of forensic psychology offers the chance to combine clinical work with the evaluation of crime and the criminal mind to the legal system. And via its public service component, this field has applications for community-building, particularly in working with the military sector to rebuild lives and regain confidence.
Resources to help you pursue a career in psychology
A degree in psychology can lead to a fulfilling career that makes a difference in people’s lives.
Find out what it takes to become a forensic psychologist
Forensic and public service psychology applies psychological science and principles to the public safety and judicial systems. Through the lens of human behavior, practitioners work within the criminal justice system to solve problems that keep communities safe.