We're building a new service – your feedback will help us to improve it.

Forensic psychologist Criminal psychologist, investigative psychologist, legal psychologist

Forensic psychologists explore what makes people commit crimes.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £20,000 to £70,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll need:

If you're a graduate in a subject other than psychology, you may be able to become eligible for GBC with an accredited conversion course.

Once you have an accredited degree, you'll need a postgraduate qualification in forensic psychology. You'll also need to register with the HCPC . You can do this by completing one of the following:

  • a BPS accredited Master's in Forensic Psychology, followed by a BPS Qualification in Forensic Psychology Stage 2
  • a Doctorate in Forensic Psychology

You'll need to be able to show strong research skills and relevant work experience, like in a prison or within mental health services.

You could also start your career as an interventions facilitator or trainee forensic psychologist in HM Prison Service (HMPS), then go on to work towards becoming a qualified psychologist.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • resilience, with the ability to deal with the risk of physical or verbal assault
  • excellent communication and listening skills
  • good problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • excellent research skills, with the ability to analyse and present clinical and statistical data

3. What you'll do

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. Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • 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

You'll work closely with a wide range of people, including prison officers, psychiatrists, violent or sexual offenders, young people and high-risk offenders with severe personality disorders.

4. Salary

Starter: £24,000 to £27,000

Experienced: £33,000 to £45,000

Highly Experienced: £70,000 and over

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

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.

6. Career path and progression

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.

Related careers

You may be interested in:

Last updated: 11 April 2017