Forensic psychologists examine clues to help solve crimes.
Forensic psychologists are expert witnesses who offer their opinions in both civil and criminal court matters. Qualifications include a doctorate in psychology - that takes an educational investment of about seven years - a license to practice psychology and relevant work experience. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is one employer of forensic psychologists, employing them in a number of ways.
The FBI hires pretrial investigators who engage in a variety of tasks including listening to defendant testimonies, commenting on any signs of deception such as failure to maintain eye contact, advising in matters such as jury selection - either picking out the best jurors or excluding the worst - or examining witness statements for incongruities. The FBI works on criminal and civil cases, and hires forensic psychologists to prepare pretrial evaluations, assessing factors such as ability to stand trial and mental competency. Salary is commensurate with experience.
Crime Scene Consultant
The Behavioral Science division of the FBI employs psychologists as crime scene consultants. These professionals work with a multidisciplinary team to examine a crime scene to see what the physical clues suggest about the behaviors that occurred during the crime. The psychologist speculates as to what these behaviors say about the psychological makeup of the offender and what they tell him about the victim, as both were at the crime scene. Based on the extent of mutilation of a corpse, for example, a crime scene consultant might make statements about the offender's arousal to sadism. He would then testify in court as to his findings. Anthony Pinnozotto, Ph.D., chief psychologist of the behavioral science unit overseeing crime consultation, explains that crime scene consultants are equal parts psychologist and criminal investigator, examining different aspects of a crime scene to tell the story of what happened there. The FBI lists the salary of crime scene consultants as commensurate with experience.
Related Reading: Difference Between Criminal Psychology & Forensic Psychology
Many psychology researchers work in the FBI behavioral science laboratory behind the scenes. Original research projects involve statistical analysis of large data sets, quality control of current processes and writing and obtaining grant money. Other duties typically include conducting teaching seminars for agents and publishing original research or editing colleagues' submissions in FBI specific or public peer-review journals. A researcher's salary in the FBI is $60, 000 to $75, 000 annually.
A criminal profiler reviews solved crimes, looking for similarities and patterns, to construct a profile of a "typical" offender. FBI investigators use these profiles, which contain statements about the probable age, gender, interests, ethnic background and personality of the perpetrator, to solve the crime. Forensic criminal profilers testify in court about their findings, backing up what they say with relevant research. One of the FBI's most famous criminal profilers, John E. Douglas, gained fame by interviewing such infamous criminals as David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz and Charles Manson. His profiling efforts led to the apprehension of Wayne Williams for the string of murders of children in Atlanta from 1979-1981. Salary for a criminal profiler is not published by the FBI.