Criminal psychologists, also known as forensic psychologists, show up on television and in films as calm, collected observers who ask questions of suspects that crack a case wide open, or who advise detectives on just what to do to catch and break a suspect. While criminal psychologists do get to play the hero on occasion, they typically are members of a team that focuses on the prevention of crime and the rehabilitation of criminals.
Criminal psychologists help prevent crime by providing guidance on programs that keep potential offenders away from crime before they have a chance to offend. The psychologists do this through offering insight into the criminal mind. Criminal psychologists consult on the criminal rehabilitation process and help with prisoner or parole cases. They evaluate suspects for mental fitness and testify in criminal cases about the competency of accused criminals. Criminal psychologists also offer profiles that can help law enforcement officers to identify and catch a suspect. Some also work with victims to secure information that helps law enforcement catch a suspect.
The National Careers Services suggests that, at 2013 salary levels, newly qualified practitioners can expect to make £20,000 in their first year. At the top of the profession, departmental heads and consultants can make £70,000 a year. Most people working in the profession earn between £30,000 and £45,000 per year.
Where a criminal psychologist works has an impact on the amount he makes. Her Majesty's Prison Service is by far the largest employer of forensic psychologists in the UK. If you decide to follow a freelance career you are likely to earn more money, but you will have less employment stability.
Geographical location also plays a role in how much a criminal psychologist makes. Criminal psychologists in large cities earn more than those in smaller cities earn, but often carry a heavier caseload. Specialist criminal psychology units and the larger prisons and psych wards tend to be in large urban areas. As with all careers prospects, salaries tend to be higher in London than in the rest of the UK, but so is the cost of living in the capitol.
If you are currently at school and would like to pursue a career as a criminal psychologist, you first need to make sure you get at least five GCSEs with grades between A and C. You next need to go through sixth form and come out with three A levels. These will get you onto a British Psychological Society-accredited degree in psychology, leading to Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership in the Society. You will then need a Health and Care Professions Council-approved programme of training to get registered as a forensic psychologist.