Law

Forensic psychologist

Forensic psychologists explore what makes people commit crimes.

Annual Salary

£20,000 to £70,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

37 to 40

5%
Future employment

There will be 5% more Forensic psychologist jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

You'll use your specialist knowledge of psychological theory and criminal behaviour to:

  • support police investigations through criminal profiling
  • rehabilitate and treat offenders or patients in prisons, high security hospitals and specialist mental health residential units
  • support prison staff and other professionals within the welfare or criminal and civil justice systems
  • carry out research to improve and develop professional practice

You'll work with offenders to help them understand and overcome their problems and behaviour patterns. In this role you could be:

  • preparing specialist risk assessments for offenders
  • advising on the best location for prisoners
  • developing treatment and rehabilitation programmes
  • providing psychological therapy
  • offering expert advice to parole boards, mental health review tribunals or court cases
  • producing formal written reports
  • helping to write policies and strategies
  • training and mentoring new and trainee psychologists
  • finding ways to reduce stress and improve life inside prisons

University

You'll need to complete:

You may be able to study for an approved postgraduate conversion course, if you're a graduate in a subject other than psychology or your psychology degree is not accredited by the BPS.

Some universities offer a doctorate programme in forensic psychology, which is the equivalent of both an accredited master's and supervised practice.

Competition for postgraduate training is strong. You'll need an upper second class degree or higher, and evidence of excellent research skills to apply. You'll also need relevant work experience, for example in a prison or with a mental health service.

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C)
  • 3 A levels or equivalent

£20,000 to £70,000

Starter salary: £24,000 to £27,000

Experienced salary: £33,000 to £45,000

These figures are a guide.

37 to 40

You'll usually work 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

You could be based in one location, or work across a number of sites like secure hospitals, prisons, rehabilitation units, secure and open residential units and police stations. You may also visit courts and tribunals to give expert witness testimony.

This work can be challenging and distressing and you may face physical and verbal abuse at times.

You may be able to start your career in HM Prison Service as an interventions facilitator.

You could study for a psychology degree part time, while you work. Once complete, you could apply for trainee forensic psychologist roles.

You'll need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council

You can join the The British Psychological Society for professional recognition and training opportunities.

You could go on to run a prison psychology department, move into a policy and strategy-based role or a management post focusing on specific issues.

You could also move into freelance and consultancy work, for example as an expert witness.

You'll find more details about careers in forensic psychology from The British Psychological Society and Health Careers.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • knowledge of psychology
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • knowledge of English language
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • active listening skills
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

You'll need to:

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