How to become a Forensic Psychologist in Australia
A Forensic Psychologist is a licensed clinical psychologist that specialises in applying their training and knowledge to legal matters, either in the civil or criminal arena. They are primarily focused on understanding why particular criminal behaviours occur and attempting to anticipate and prevent these behaviours. Forensic Psychologists are employed in a number of areas, including courts, prisons, private facilities, psychiatric hospitals and government agencies.
When working in the criminal justice system, a Forensic Psychologist performs many functions, such as studying crimes to determine the profile of a perpetrator, assessing the mental competency of criminals who are to stand trial and making sentence length recommendations in the event of a guilty verdict. Those Forensic Psychologists who are employed in civil and family courts offer psychotherapy to victims, investigate reports of child abuse, perform custody evaluations and visitation risk assessments.
Do you have what it takes to see into the minds of criminals? Follow these steps and become a Forensic Psychologist!
Step 1: Complete your basic education.
To become a Forensic Psychologist you will first need to complete your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (VCE, QCE, HSC etc) and qualify for entry into an undergraduate course.
Step 2: Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree.
The first major step towards a career in Forensic Psychology is to get your bachelor’s degree in psychology, which will typically take around 4-5 years of study. Part of this period will involve classroom instruction and may also include some work experience. This will give you a foundation in the basics of psychology.
Step 3: Complete your Masters or Doctorate.
Once you have your undergraduate qualification, you will need to obtain a master’s degree, Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Psychology. A master’s will generally take further 2 years of study to complete, while a doctorate may take as much as 5 years. Some institutions offer specific criminal or forensic psychology programs, while others might have a clinical psychology program with a concentration or emphasis on forensic psychology. Either of these options are acceptable for certification and licensing, so long as the institution is accredited.
Step 4: Registrar program for endorsement.
The final step is to apply for an endorsement in the specific area of Forensic Psychology. This will involve completing supervised training under an endorsed practitioner. This training period will differ depending on your qualification; 1 year for an accredited doctorate or 2 if you have a master’s. Once this training is completed you will gain endorsement from the Psychology Board of Australia.
What does a Forensic Psychologist do?
Forensic Psychologists are mental health professionals who operate within the legal system. They analyse potential suspects or convicted criminals in order to assess their mental state. Many Forensic Psychologists are called upon to testify in court, giving their expert opinion on such things as a defendant’s fitness to stand trial, the state of a suspect’s mind when a crime was committed and the likelihood of repeat offences. A Forensic Psychologist researches and studies the minds of criminals in order to build profiles that aid police in narrowing suspect pools and anticipating the actions of a suspect. Many Forensic Psychologists will also work with incarcerated criminals in an effort to rehabilitate them and ready them for their re-entry into society.
- Providing testimony and expert opinions regarding the mental health of defendants in court.
- Analysing and diagnosing the mental health of suspects and defendants.
- Assisting in jury selection.
- Facilitating inmate’s rehabilitation.
- Offering therapy to victims of crime and abuse.
Skills for Success
As a Forensic Psychologist, you will require excellent communication skills in order to build trust and confidence with your patients. You need good analytical and detective abilities and a strong grounding in scientific theories and empirical research. Forensic Psychologists should be able to remain objective in all cases and exhibit critical thinking, attention to detail and confidence.
- Critical thinking.
- Strong understanding of the scientific method.
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
- Attention to detail.
What is the salary for Forensic Psychologists in Australia? In Australia, the average annual salary for a Forensic Psychologist is around $69,143. This number varies so this is an indicator only from Payscale 02/18