Forensic Psychology in the UK is currently booming with a significant growth in the job market. Up-to date terms and conditions of employment may be obtained directly from employers. Pay rates start around £20,000 for those who are newly qualified, up to £60,000+ for senior psychologists.
At the moment, demand for Forensic Psychologists is greater than the numbers completing training.
Below is a list of typical starting salaries, working hours and working conditions:
- Range of typical starting salaries for trainee forensic psychologists in the prison and probation service: £17,285 - £19,581 (new entrants start at the bottom of the training scale). The typical starting salary for psychological assistants is £14,444. A local pay allowance of between £1,100 and £4,000 may be payable for some locations depending on category of prison (salary data collected July 08)
- Chartered forensic psychologists (higher grade) can expect to earn between £26,280 and £38,082 (salary data collected July 08)
- Range of typical salaries at senior and principal grades (experienced positions i.e. 10-15 years in the role): £29,184 - £63,535 (salary data collected July 08)
- Working hours are typically nine to five, with some flexibility required. Evening and weekend work (often for work on accredited group programmes) is becoming a more common requirement
- Job share and part-time working options are possible
- Office accommodation varies. In prisons, acclimatisation is needed to noise, smells and lock-up procedures. Category A institutions impose camera observation and entry searches
- Jobs are available across the UK. Some locations are difficult to access without your own transport
- Self-employment/freelance work is sometimes possible, e.g. opportunities to progress into consultancy
- More than 50% of prison psychologists are currently female
- Career breaks can be self-managed
- Travel for work and nights away are occasionally needed. Overseas work or travel is uncommon.
How Can I Find a Job in Forensic Psychology?
- In Psychologist Appointments, this is part of The Psychologist, which is the British Psychological Society's monthly publication
- In the National Press (e.g. The Times, The Guardian, The Independent)
- In specialist publications from the Home Office.
Forensic Psychologist Careers
To be a Forensic Psychologist you have to have the ability to bring together principles of psychology, especially in criminal settings for example, trials, hearings, etc. Once a crime has been carried out and the police have understood how the crime was carried out, it would be the forensic psychologist’s job to know why the criminal had committed the crime. Other job titles for a forensic psychologist would be a clinical psychologist or behavioural psychologist. A forensic psychologist may also mediate whilst child custody cases are proceeding or parental rights are being terminated.
A person who has mental health issues and have committed a crime because of the issues will need the help of a forensic psychologist, as part of your job you will need to give the criminal some sort of counseling. You would also have to research what the criminal is thinking and feeling to find out what sort of mental issue the criminal has. You must have the ability to be patient as a criminal can go for months without saying anything. They need to feel they have trust in you for them to open up and explain their feelings. You will be a scientist that will study the human mind and human behaviour. A forensic psychologist’s expertise will lie in areas such as legal psychology, police psychology, correctional psychology, the psychology of crime, and victimology.
To have a career in this you may have to work alongside:
- A prison
- A hospital (NHS Centre)
- Probation services
- Police services
- Social services.
Your tasks would be to:
- Running treatment programmes
- Keep a close eye on the behaviour of the offender
- Respond to the needs of staff and prisoners
- Reduce stress for both staff and prisoners
- Research evidence to support other people working on the same case as you
- Giving professional evidence in court
- Investigate crimes working with the police.
Whilst in a court case a forensic psychologist may be asked questions that they will need to make a serious, professional decision. Things such as which parent should have custody of a child, what sentence a criminal should serve or what medical treatment a criminal should receive. They have the safety of criminals and others in their hands when the judge asks for their help in making a decision. A large percentage of a forensic psychologists work will be researching the case they have and the person they are working with. If you already know what issues the person has then it is in your favor to research the mental issue and make a decision of what treatment the criminal should receive.
Being a forensic psychologist can lead to lots of different career paths such as:
- Divorce and child custody cases
- Criminal responsibility
- Jury selection and case strategy
- Assessment of dangerousness
- Teaching forensic psychology
- Preparing the profile of an offender.
Is this for you?
A day’s work would consist of something like this:
Starting at 9am you will be working alongside with your local community service, you will help to assess ex-offenders and decide a rightful treatment for their needs. In your risk assessment – you have demonstrated that the criminal is likely to re-offend, you then have to come up with a suitable plan to work out what is best for the safety of the criminal and others around. Setting behavioural goals may also help the criminal. You will work mostly in a team, even though colleagues may be challenging, you need to enjoy the help you are giving and put in positive input. You will be a good listener and be patient.
- Do you have a strong stomach?
- Could you work around photos of dead people?
- Are you emotionally stable?
- Could you work with evidence like bullets, knives and other murderous weapons?
- Can you figure out the time of someone’s death by analysing the amount of fungi on the deceased body?
- Talk with witnesses about what happened.
You have to take all these things into account before becoming a forensic psychologist. If you would still love the job but don’t think you would like these things – keep thinking how many people you are helping. You can go home from work every day knowing you have made a difference to someone’s life! This is what makes the job amazing! Why not take a look at our Psychology Careers Test and find out which area of employment best suits you.