How and Why to Become a Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychologists analyze the minds of criminals and victims, understanding their motives and behaviors in order to create detailed profiles. What the field is like today, what it will become tomorrow, and how you can get started are all discussed here.

Forensic psychologists are professionals who work with law enforcement and private investigators to help them solve crimes. They gather evidence and perform psychological evaluations in order to determine the mental state of a criminal or victim. Forensic psychologists also use their knowledge of psychology to help those involved in legal proceedings, such as victims and defendants.

Dr Eric Mart forensic psychologist's potrait.

When Dr. Wong appears on Law & Order SVU to provide his judgment on whether or not a suspect is insane, you know you’re in for a treat. He’s a forensic psychologist, so he knows what he’s talking about. That isn’t all they do, however. Dr. Eric Mart gives us the lowdown on what it’s like to work as a forensic psychologist in today’s episode of “So You Want My Job.” Check out Dr. Mart’s book, Getting Started in Forensic Psychology Practice, for additional information on this field.

1. Tell us about yourself (where did he come from? What school did you attend? What is your age? Describe your job, including how long you’ve been doing it, and so on)?


I’m 53 years old and am from Beachwood, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb. In 1973, I graduated from New College of Florida with a bachelor’s degree. In 1982, I received my master’s degree in educational psychology and my doctorate in school psychology from Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology in New York City. I began my career as a school psychologist in New York City schools, as well as schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and New Hampshire. In the mid-1980s, I retrained in adult clinical psychology at Cincinnati’s Pauline Warfield Lewis Center. In 1986, I opened a private practice in Manchester, New Hampshire, and have been there ever since. I was able to seek for board certification in forensic psychology via the American Board of Forensic Psychology after five years of supervised forensic practice. This included submitting work examples as well as an oral assessment. Since 2002, I’ve been board-certified.

Although I continue to give school consultations and individual psychotherapy to children and adults, my practice is virtually totally devoted to forensic psychology. The field of forensic psychology is a subset of applied psychology. Forensic psychologists operate at the crossroads of clinical and legal psychology. They give expert evidence and evaluations in a wide range of issues, and some also conduct court-ordered therapy in clinics and jails. I work in a variety of forensic fields, but much of my work involves determining whether or not people accused of criminal offenses are competent to stand trial, determining whether or not defendants are legally insane (not guilty by reason of insanity), and determining whether or not convicted sexual offenders are eligible for commitment as sexually violent predators. Personal injury, child custody, and fitness for duty examinations are among the services I provide.

I’m not sure I’ve ever had an ordinary day. I may spend days in my office completing assessments or traveling across New England evaluating inmates in different jails and prisons over the course of a week. I often testify in district, superior, and federal courts as part of my job. I sometimes spend full days evaluating files, and I’m constantly writing reports. I squeeze in a few psychotherapy patients in between all of this. In addition, I’ve written three books and several journal papers.


2. What inspired you to pursue a career as a forensic psychologist? When did you realize it was something you wanted to do?

Surprisingly, I don’t think I even realized there was such a thing as forensic psychology when I began my psychology degree. I liked school psychology but wanted to broaden my horizons, so I went back to school for adult clinical practice. In New Hampshire, I met Dr. Wilfrid Derby, a clinical and forensic psychologist who was board certified. He was interested in my professional path and introduced me to forensic psychology, as well as providing me with references and supervision. My journey to become a forensic psychologist differs from that of many others in that I was trained nearly as an apprentice rather than attending a postgraduate degree. I was initially drawn to the subject of forensic psychology because it appeared fascinating and demanding, as well as playing to some of my talents.

3. What is the best way for a guy to prepare for a career as a forensic psychologist? What is the greatest way to get this job?


A doctorate in applied psychology (clinical, counseling, or school) is required to work as a forensic psychologist, while numerous good institutions providing doctorates in forensic psychology have recently opened for business. Many psychologists seek post-doctoral degrees with a specialization in forensic psychology after completing internships and supervised experiences to get licensed. Self-study, supervision, and ongoing education may help those who are currently working in many practical sectors develop experience and skill. It’s worth noting that becoming a forensic mental health practitioner does not need being a doctoral-level psychologist. To undertake forensic mental health tasks, social workers and licensed masters level counselors might get training.

4. You are a private practice forensic psychologist. How does working in private practice differ from working in government?


Although I have solely worked as a private forensic psychologist, many of my colleagues work for penal institutions or the government. Working in private practice has many benefits for me, including the ability to do a broad range of activities, travel, and greater income than most forensic psychologists in the public sector. In addition, my wife Kay manages the financial side of my firm, and I am able to work with my dogs. The downsides include not having a regular income, a limited number of non-taxable perks, and having to pay for my own health insurance.

5. You said that your employment involves some risk. Tell us more about it.


Being a forensic psychologist isn’t as perilous as being a cop or a firefighter, but it comes with its own set of dangers. Some of the persons I assess are impulsive and capable of committing acts of extreme violence. In the course of my profession, I’ve been threatened and physically assaulted, and I’ve learnt to be careful when dealing with potentially dangerous people. When examining people in jail, you’re often trapped in an attorney-client room with them. If they got hostile, it may take some time for aid to arrive. In my job, there have been instances when I’ve peeked into the room and seen the prisoner and not liked what I saw. I’ve decided not to examine them one-on-one on many occasions. “If there’s any uncertainty, there’s no doubt,” says Robert DeNiro’s character in the film Ronin. Bulletproof glass is installed in the windows of some of my coworkers’ workplaces, and they can start their automobiles remotely.


6. Is it difficult to get a work as a forensic psychologist?


Need for forensic psychology is one of the few fields of mental health where supply regularly exceeds demand. This might be due to the unique skill set necessary to do the job. Many clinical psychologists, for example, are just as competent about psychological testing and diagnosis as I am, but many just do not want to be cross-examined publicly by good lawyers. It should not be difficult to obtain work or create a successful private practice provided you have the necessary skills and training and are ready to move.

7. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?


I like giving witness the most, believe it or not. While being cross-examined in public may be difficult, there is also a competitive, even confrontational component to that portion of the work. Wrestling, judo, and fencing have always been my favorite fighting sports, and testifying in court is similar to verbal warfare; I find it extremely fascinating.

8. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?


While I appreciate most elements of forensic psychology, I am also exposed to a significant lot of human sorrow and anguish. No kid wants to grow up to be a murderer or rapist, and no parent wants their marriage to fall apart and have to struggle for weekends with their child. Coming into touch with this much suffering may be taxing, and you may develop a low degree of trauma. As a consequence of my job, I try to avoid viewing movies or reading novels about interpersonal conflict or emotionally difficult circumstances.

10. What is the most common misunderstanding about the job?


That’s a simple one. The majority of people believe that forensic psychologists are engaged in crime scene investigation and profiling, as shown on television. While a small number of forensic psychologists operate in this field, it is far from the majority of what they do.

11. How do you strike a balance between job, family, and personal life?


That has never been a significant difficulty for me, but my circumstance is rather unusual. As I previously said, my wife works with me almost every day, which is a really good thing. Despite the fact that we all face financial challenges, I have a lot of freedom in terms of how many hours I work and have managed to avoid being a workaholic. One of the benefits of having a private practice is that you may take school vacations off and spend them with your wife and children if you can afford it. Some forensic psychologists, on the other hand, work long hours, much like attorneys and medics.

12. Do you have any other advice, ideas, or anecdotes to share?


I believe that forensic psychology is a fantastic field, but it is not for everyone. You do need a significant amount of education, which costs a lot of money these days. Furthermore, if you want to be successful and love this sort of employment, you must possess specific traits. Anyone with a PhD in psychology is likely brilliant, but a forensic psychologist must be able to think on their feet, withstand severe examination of their work, and feel at ease in an adversarial environment.


Certain basic advice: My practice is effective because the job is a good match for some of my personal attributes. I like to look into things, I’m fascinated by people and their thoughts, and I’m a bit of a performer. I’m also a little unorganized and, if I’m not careful, I can take on too many tasks. I also like to work alone rather than in a group, and I am not a natural team player. As a result, although forensic psychology was a wonderful fit for me, working as part of the sales team or as a project director was not. People, in my opinion, seldom consider their own talents and shortcomings and how these could influence the job path they should choose. Making a thorough appraisal of what you can provide to a job helps a lot in choosing whether or not it is right for you.



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Forensic psychologists are a type of psychologist who use their skills to investigate crimes. They help law enforcement agencies in the process. In order to become a forensic psychologist, you have to have a master’s degree and be licensed in your state. Reference: forensic psychology jobs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you want to be a forensic psychologist?

A: I am a forensic psychologist who loves to help people with all their problems.

What should I study to become a forensic psychologist?

A: In order for you to become a forensic psychologist, you will need to study towards becoming a clinical or counseling psychologist. This program is highly recommended as it will teach the skills needed in evaluating mental health and assisting individuals with their emotional needs.

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