Is Forensic Psychology a Growing Field?

Perhaps because of the surge of psychologists appearing on crime shows, a recurring question asks, “Is Forensic Psychology a growing field?” There are many indicators available to answer this inquiry. For one thing, the overall crime rate can give a clue as to demand for these professionals. Breaking the crime statistics down, in addition, further clarifies where forensic psychologists are needed. Those offenses more violent or larger in collateral damage give cause to getting inside the head of a perpetrator more than, say, petty theft or simple assault. In short, the expansion of this field is largely determined by the occurrence of crimes—or any act under judicial scrutiny—where identifiable behavioral patterns are essential for resolution.

What Is Forensic Psychology?

Forensic psychology is the intersection where law meets mental health. It may be practiced by a clinical, counseling or school psychologist with specialized training in diagnosis and testing; forensic ethics and response techniques; and knowledge of law and judicial procedures. Though criminal and delinquency cases are commonplace, these specialists are also involved in civil matters like personal injury and child custody. If there is a contract dispute, for example, a forensic psychologist may be called in to evaluate the competence of one or more signatories at the time of execution. Obviously, mental state is a crucial factor in criminal cases where sanity comes into question.

Is There a Standard of Practice?

To recognize forensic specialists, the American Psychological Association maintains guidelines to which practitioners must conform. In so doing, the APA sets parameters for competencies, diligence, methods, assessment and fees, to name a few categories. Accordingly, practitioners must be well-trained, not only through higher educational institutions and post-doctoral internships, but also through continuing education and regular consultation with a broad set of peers. Ethical norms as to how psychologists conduct relationships, maintain confidentiality and resolve conflicts are also set by the organization. Because of these rigorous requirements, growth in the supply of practitioners is certain to be gradual and incremental.

How Great is the Demand for Forensic Psychologists?

Forensic psychologists are found in private practice, government, non-profits, colleges and universities. Psychology Today reports that many clinical psychologists are entering the forensic specialty to avoid the bureaucracy of managed care. Are they needed? Apparently so. The legal systems at federal, state and local levels are seeking more experts to give testimony and buttress the efforts of prosecutors, police, defenders and judges alike. From the selection of juries and focus groups to the evaluation of personal injury plaintiffs and possible parolees, the work is piling up and psychologists are lining up.

What Does the Future Hold?

The demand is ahead of supply for forensic psychologists, and promises to remain that way. Depending on the source consulted, crime is rising and the volume of civil litigation continues unabated. As courts and agencies feed their appetites for psychological expertise, the answer to “Is Forensic Psychology a growing field?” must be a resounding yes.

Related resource:

Top 20 Graduate Degree Programs in Forensic Psychology