If you are the one always resolving disputes among your friends and family members, a job as a forensic psychologist may be a perfect fit for you. A forensic psychologist helps resolve disputes by offering her expert psychological opinions on civil and criminal court matters. Earning a doctoral degree puts you at the top of this field, but it takes at least seven hard years of hitting the books.
One part detective and one part psychology major, a pretrial investigator digs up the dirt before the court process even begins. In civil matters, she might investigate "sneaky suicides," where the victim's suicide attempt was staged to look like an accident. In criminal matters, she might listen to a defendant's testimony, looking for cues of deception, such as inconsistencies or lack of eye contact with the interviewer. Salary varies by the state in which you work, years of experience, level of education and specific job duties required. As of 2012, the State of California advertised for pretrial investigators, offering an annual salary of $65,104.
Most probation officers are required to have a bachelor's degree, and many choose to specialize in the area of forensic psychology to better understand the science behind analyzing criminal behaviors. Probation officers typically sift through psychological evaluations and correctional progress reports to make prudent recommendations to the court as to the offender's amenability for treatment and risk to the community. They supervise a caseload of parolees, meeting regularly with each. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics, probation officers made an annual salary of $47,200 in 2010.
Correctional Treatment Specialist
A bachelor's degree with a background in forensic psychology is helpful, and often required, for a correctional treatment specialist. These professionals interpret technical psychological assessments, assess risk and develop concrete treatment plans for their clients. They use their knowledge of psychology to provide fact-based statements in case reports and apply objective criteria to interpret parolees' behaviors. Correctional treatment specialists are grouped with probation officers by the BLS, earning a median annual income of $47,200 in 2010.
If you get your doctorate and a license to practice psychology, you can work as a forensic psychologist, evaluating issues such as competency to stand trial and mental capacity. For those working on criminal cases, the job typically involves completing a comprehensive psychological assessment of a defendant, which contains diagnoses, treatment recommendations and assessment of risk to the community. Many forensic psychologists also hang up their own shingle and go into private practice, seeing exclusively clients referred by the court. While the BLS does not report specifically on forensic psychologists' salaries, they are included in the "other" category, earning an average salary of $89,900 in 2010.
Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.