Forensic psychologist

criminal psychologist investigative psychologist legal psychologist
Healthcare
Care

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it like?

You would try to find out why people commit crimes and help them to make positive changes in their behaviour.

You would rehabilitate and treat offenders or mental health patients in prisons, high security hospitals and specialist mental health residential units.

You could be working with violent or sexual offenders, young people and high-risk offenders with severe personality disorders. You’d help each person to understand why they act as they do, and find ways they can overcome their problems and behaviour patterns.

This can be a challenging job: you may have to deal with people acting aggressively, including possibly verbal or even physical assault. You’d need to have patience, empathy and a genuine desire to help people.

You would:

  • Assess an offender and their behaviour
  • Advise on the best location for prisoners
  • Develop treatment and rehabilitation programmes for offenders
  • Provide psychological therapy to help offenders make positive changes
  • Offer expert advice to parole boards, mental health review tribunals or court cases
  • Produce formal written reports

You would also help to write policies and strategies for helping offenders, safely and effectively, and train and mentor trainee psychologists.

You would look for ways to reduce stress and improve life inside prisons for staff and prisoners. For example, you could advise on managing offenders or lead workshops on issues such as coping with bullying.

You might use techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to challenge the way people view themselves and the world.

You could also support police investigations by doing criminal profiling.

You’d do research into the cause and effect of criminal behaviour to improve and develop professional practice.

Working conditions

Hours

Your working hours would typically be 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Part-time hours and job-sharing opportunities may also be available.

Environment

You could be based in one setting, or work across a number of sites such as 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. You may also face physical and verbal abuse at times.

Travel

In some jobs you would travel from site to site. You may also appear in court or at tribunals as a witness.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Resilience
  • Ethical
  • Making decisions
  • Understanding
  • Listening
  • Verbal communication
  • Written communication
  • Cooperating
  • Observation
  • Problem Solving

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Qualifications

Becoming a forensic psychologist involves taking a postgraduate training route. 

You'll need the following qualifications: 

  • A psychology degree (SCQF Level 10) accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS)
  • Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) of the BPS. You're accredited degree will qualify you for membership. If you don't have a BPS accredited degree you can gain membership by completing an accredited conversion course

Once you've gained GBC membership, you can start your postgraduate training. This includes: 

  • A BPS accredited Master's in Forensic Psychology (SCQF Level 11)
  • A BPS qualification in Forensic Psychology Stage 2. This involves two years of supervised practice

Some universities offer a Doctorate (SCQF Level 12) which combines a Master's and the Stage 2 qualification. 

Your postgraduate training will qualify you for Chartered Membership of the BPS. 

To start work as a forensic psychologist you'll need to register with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC). 

To enter an Honours degree (SCQF level 10) in psychology usually requires National 5 qualifications and four to five Highers, often in one sitting.

Useful subjects

  • English
  • Maths
  • Psychology
  • Biology

You will also need

  •  To register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to practice as psychologist
  •  To pass a Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Disclosure check

Helpful to have

Qualifications that show understanding of counselling, health and wellbeing such as: 

  • Skills for Work Health Sector (SCQF 6)
  • Health and Social Care (SCQF 4/5)
  • SQA Wellbeing Award