Forensic psychology can be defined as anything that involves the intersection of psychology and the legal system, and Florida Tech is one of only a handful of schools in the nation to offer a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology. The degree in forensic psychology will provide a knowledge base in the law and legal psychology, clinical practice in a forensic arena, criminal justice procedures, in addition to a foundation in social and experimental science based psychology courses.
Careers in forensic psychology are diverse. Some forensic psychologists have a background in clinical psychology and focus on things like assessing people charged with crimes to determine competency to stand trial or whether or not the individual was legally insane at the time of the incident. Clinical forensic psychologists also do evaluations of sexually violent predators, assess and provide therapy for individuals convicted of crimes, or may work in the civil area looking at things like child custody decisions.
Other forensic psychologists may focus on research applied to the justice system, studying such topics as eyewitness identification procedures (and errors), police interrogation procedures, police selection and assessment, confessions and false confessions, and jury decision-making, to name a few. Some of this research can be used by trial consultants to aid in jury selection and case organization or by expert witnesses testifying before the court.
Students graduating with a degree in forensic psychology go on to graduate school in forensic clinical psychology, experimental psychology, or law school; pursue careers in criminal justice at local, state, and federal levels; and work in social service agencies or with victim advocacy centers. Students pursuing the degree in forensic psychology will also have the opportunity to participate in faculty-directed research, and can pursue internship opportunities with local law enforcement, advocacy agencies, state attorneys, and the court systems.
The clinical program
Forensic Psychology careers focus on the interface of clinical psychology and the law. A forensic psychologist brings their clinical skills to assist the courts and triers of fact to render decisions about the mental state of a defendant at the time of a crime, mental competency, jury selection, child custody decisions, criminal sentencing, probation issues, and assessing questions of future dangerousness, among others. Forensic psychology careers open opportunities within a wide range of fields to include legal, correctional, academic, mediation, and research positions. The forensic psychologist draws on both sound clinical training and sound investigative skills enabling them to examine both psychological and legal data from which they examine competing scientifically based hypotheses to develop written and oral reports for presentation to the courts and other members of the legal system. A successful career in forensic psychology blends broad clinical training in psychology with a solid understanding of the law and scientific methodology so that the forensic psychologist can present his or her conclusions to withstand vigorous examination by peers and the adversarial system. Forensic psychology careers bring forensic psychologists to the forefront of social, scientific, and legal issues confronting us today.
Some popular areas of study for forensic psychology careers include:
- Expert Witnessing
- Jury Selection
- Evaluating for Competency to Stand Trial
- Evaluating for Mental Status at the Time of a Crime
- Working with Juvenile Defendants
- Working with Sex Offenders
- Evaluating Sexually Violent Predators
- Child Custody Evaluations
Forensic Psychology Experience
If you are interested in pursuing a forensic psychology career, FIT’s Psy.D Clinical Psychology program offers a forensic experience to help you in your endeavor. Dr. Costopoulos coordinates and teaches courses in the experience.
Courses in the experience include:
- Fundamentals of Forensic Psychology
- Clinical Forensic Assessment
- Forensic Psychology (Psychology & the Law)
- Multiple options for Forensic Seminars
- Multiple Forensic Practicum placements
Forensic Psychology Research
Additionally, Dr. Costopoulos leads a forensic research team to help students in the program who have an interest in forensic psychology careers to gain experience in empirical study related to the topic. Current research topics include
- Psychopathology, Memory, and Cognition
- Math Anxiety
- Mental Health Court
- Inmate Attachment
- Jail Re-entry
If you have any questions related to the Forensic experience within the Clinical Psychology Psy.D. program, or questions about forensic psychology careers, please feel free to contact Dr. Costopoulos.