Forensic Psychology Jobs
We recently had the opportunity to conduct a series of interviews with a variety of people holding different forensic psychology jobs to gain an understanding of what they in fact do on a day-to-day basis. To begin this series, we interviewed a forensic psychologist specializing in the area of assessing offenders sentenced to prison for sexually violent crimes to determine whether or not they are safe to reenter society after completing their sentence. Depending on the opinions, report and testimony of these experts, these offenders could be released or civilly committed at the completion of their sentence.
We found the work of this expert witness to be particularly interesting. He starts off his day by reviewing a very, very large amount of what he referred to as discovery. These materials included various records concerning the offender’s criminal history, mental health records, past evaluations, medical records, military service records, prison records and the list goes on. The stack of documents was larger than a yellow pages phonebook.
After reviewing this material, the psychologist assembled his psychological testing that he planned to administer, which included general paper and pencil tests to assess the offender’s mental health as well as specific tests based on mathematical equations to help determine the offender’s risk for re-offending.
Subsequently, the psychologist administered the testing and then conducted an interview with the offender. The interview was cut and dry. We did not notice anything therapeutic about it. Rather the expert appeared to gather facts like we would expect from let us say a newspaper reporter. The psychologist said he would then score this testing and capture the factual findings of the interview in a report. At the end of that report would be an opinion section wherein the psychologist’s opinions can be found that are based on the facts that he gathered from the interview as well as the findings of the psychological testing and the risk prediction measure. These opinions are focused upon addressing specific legal questions that are the focus of the judicial process as it relates to the psychological elements to legally decide upon civil commitment.
A couple of weeks later, the expert indicated his report totaled approximately 22 pages and also included collateral information he gathered from prison staff and others. According to him, this routine is similar to what is required for most forensic psychology jobs on a day-to-day basis.
Frankly, it was not what I thought I would be doing as a forensic psychologist. He spent two hours interviewing, which was nothing like Silence of the Lambs followed by from what he said amounted to eight hours of research, fact gathering, and report writing. Things pick up again if required to testify and at that point it may resemble something that you have seen on TV with one lawyer shooting you easy questions followed by another lawyer doing his or her best to rile you and to make you look incompetent, with objections being thrown out and judges trying to control the whole rigmarole.
However, according to this psychologist, it is more profitable to spend his days conducting evaluations rather than providing testimony. If he conducts two interviews in a day, he can bill for at least 20 hours. If he spends a day in court testifying, he can bill eight hours at best.
Forensic psychology jobs in our opinion appear to look more like writing jobs than anything else we have seen on television.
This website is focused on the needs of undergraduate students interested in forensic psychology and the material here is produced by students under the mentorship of various forensic psychologists. Therefore, we do not expect the goal of the reader visiting this website to be to find forensic psychology jobs; though, if it is, you may want to consider looking at State Psychological Association websites and LinkedIn, or joining the listserv associated with the forensic division of various psychological associations at the state level.