Communication is critical to performing that role. Clinical forensic psychologists must interview patients, write reports, share data with colleagues or present testimony in court. They must be able to analyze people and share their findings in a way that persons without a psychology background can understand. This requires strong communication skills. Additionally, active listening, social perceptiveness and public speaking are all important competencies forensic psychologists should possess.
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data reported on by O*Net OnLine, the median salary for this position is $75,090. Even projected job growth for forensic psychologists is high at 10 percent to 14 percent as employers are looking for qualified candidates to fill approximately 12,000 positions or more by 2026.
Before pursuing this career, prospective professionals should consider how forensic psychology programs from an accredited university can help them develop skills needed for the field—such as communication.
Forensic psychology: clinical work
Despite what people may think, forensic psychology is not limited to analyzing criminals. The American Psychological Association defines forensic psychology as “the application of clinical specialties to the legal arena.” This can mean using clinical skills such as assessment, treatment and evaluation in any legal or forensic area. For example, Elizabeth Loftus’ studies on eyewitness identification, in which she examines how the wording of a question and certain visual imagery can influence a person’s testimony, fall in this category, even though criminals aren’t directly part of her research. In practice, forensic psychology can involve anyone dealing with the legal system such as jurors, witnesses, judges, and lawyers.
Because this field falls at the intersection of clinical and legal practice, communication could be considered a forensic psychologist’s most important skill. In this role, you may interact with a wide variety of people, including investigators, lawyers, suspects, victims and witnesses of all ages, judges, jurors, media and other psychologists. As such, the ability to interact with people of various professional backgrounds will be important to your success.
Forensic psychologists need strong verbal communication skills to interact with both individuals and groups. Over the course of your career, you may need to hold investigative or counseling sessions to determine a suspect’s mental health or a witness’s ability to stand in court. In these cases, you must be adept at gaining a person’s trust and influencing them to open up.
As a forensic psychologist, you may even be asked to testify during a case, either reporting your findings or commenting on general psychological knowledge. Despite the pressure or tension that can often be present in a courtroom, you’ll need the ability to communicate in front of an audience while keeping your statements neutral.
Written communication skills are just as important as you’ll also need to write assessments, evaluations and recommendations ordered by the courts. To do so, you’ll have to effectively describe the behaviors you witnessed in a report. Your statements must be objective and well written to provide the most accurate account possible.
Above all, your communication needs to be unbiased. As a forensic psychologist, your job isn’t to accuse or defend; it’s to use your clinical skill set to inform the pursuit of justice.