Criminal psychology in other words can also be called criminological psychology. It is the study of views, actions, thought processes, intentions, and reactions of criminals and of those who show the same behavior as them. This field of science is also linked with criminal anthropology.

Criminal psychology can also derive some sort of pattern which can be seen in crime-driven people to help the police department to apprehend criminals or take care of them during court hearings.

It answers the question “What is the thinking behind all the criminals committing a certain type of crime?”

Criminal psychology, this field has been glorified a lot of times in shows and movies such as Criminal Minds and CSI. But the reality is often disappointing from what we see in television or in pop culture things.

What is a criminal psychologist?

Psychology serves science in a variety of ways like working with the police and law to profile which type of person is likely to commit a crime but understanding a person’s behavior and reasonings. They sometimes give opinions during court cases about the mental state of the criminals as to why they commit the crime by working directly with the criminal himself.

Psychologists are trained individuals who study human behavior and criminal psychologists are just one of them. He or she studies the nature of human beings by conversing with them and assessing their mental and psychological well-being.

Criminal psychology vs Forensic psychology

Criminal psychology vs Forensic psychology
Criminal psychology vs Forensic psychology

While primetime TV shows have highly glamorized these two fields of psychology, however real life can often be disappointing. But those who hope to change society by opting for these careers can very much do so!

Some people really get confused at times between the fields of criminal psychology and forensic psychology. Well, there are some similarities between them but they are really different in various ways.

This includes their part in law enforcement, the education path needed, and their possible career opportunities. Both of these fields despite having similarities work differently for the law enforcement and judiciary system or legal stuff.

Similarities –

  • Strongly connected to law and its enforcement.
  • Each field supports investigation be it crime-related or civil.
  • Both of them work with the law and understand the thought-process of criminals as to why they commit a certain crime.
  • Both of these fields help to solve a crime.
  • Both of these fields grow through academic studies as well as experience through solving crimes.

Read about Forensic Psychology: Forensic Psychology | Definition, Education, Jobs and more

Dissimilarities –

Educational requirements 

A UG degree in forensic psychology helps the student through the mixture of psychology, social justice, and criminal justice which helps them understand the modern scape of forensic psychology.

Whereas a UG degree in the field of criminal psychology gives the student a thorough understanding of the psychology behind a criminal’s mind. This includes abnormal behavior, past trauma, substance abuse, adolescent behavior, etc.

Career and scope

Forensic psychologists assess a variety of people like the victims of the crime, crime witnesses as well as attorneys and that is how they work with the law enforcement. Careers here include jury consultants, juvenile offender counselors, expert eyewitnesses, etc.

Criminal psychology graduates work directly with the criminals as opposed to the juries and victims. Career-wise people can find themselves doing corrections, criminal profiling, and understanding the criminal’s psychology.

What does a criminal psychologist do?

What does a criminal psychologist do?
What does a criminal psychologist do?

Though profiling is not the only thing criminal psychologists do, there is a wide variety of highly specialized skill set which is expected from a criminal psychologist. These are –

  • Understanding the psychology principals
  • Understanding the criminal justice system
  • Preparing a sound, reasonable argument in the court
  • Assessing the evidence and drawing understandable conclusions about the mental state of the criminal at hand.
  • A strong sense of ethics and logic is always expected.

Careers of criminal psychology in the Legal system

Careers of criminal psychology in the Legal system

The role of criminal psychologists in the legal system is very much of value. Their duties primarily fall into the four categories –


Clinically examining, the offender’s mental health and his or her psychological state, ability to go through the prosecution, recognizing if the criminal is mentally challenged, etc. Psychologists take various tests and use various tools to get hold of the situation.


The criminal psychologist can also experiment with subjects by testing them to understand if the person at hand is capable of committing a crime or not.


Criminal psychologists can also provide evidence and make recommendations as to if the person in charge is capable of committing such a crime again. This is also called recidivism.


The psychologist in charge is expected to answer a few questions related to the juries and legal systems –

  1. What was the intent behind the crime?
  2. Was the offender in his right state of mind while he committed the deed?
  3. How likely is the offender seem to repeat the crime again?
  4. Is the persona a regular sex offender?
  5. If the offender hasn’t been caught yet, how can he or she be identified?
  6. Can the criminal receive therapy?

There are more things in detail as well.

Criminal psychology – Salary and Employment outlook

Bureau of Labor Statistics states that psychologists in the field of crimes have a basic salary of $98,230 as of May 2019.

And if you’re working for the federal or the state governments then your salary would be around  $94,670 and $104,280, respectively.

Jobs and Job description

A criminal psychologist’s day to day job can have a variety of work which includes –

  • Responding to a short-term notice when a crime is committed.
  • Conversing with the witnesses before the trial commences.
  • Understanding the risk as to if the offender will commit the crime again.
  • Informed of the newer laws and cases.
  • Testing and administering psychology-related examinations.

Degree and Education

To become a criminal psychologist, you first need an undergraduate degree in psychology and then a master’s degree in psychology as well. This helps to earn the basic title of a psychologist to start working with patients in general.

Now, when it comes to criminal psychology, what you have to do is have a doctorate or a Ph.D. in the field of criminal psychology after completing a master’s. During this time you’ll gain a lot of experience by having a hands-on understanding of how a criminal’s mind works.

Top universities you should know:


Crimes are always happening. There is no shortage of the bad guys in the game. So ensuring justice is served accurately has never been this crucial. Through their hard work, criminal psychologists help us to further educate ourselves about a criminal’s mental state.

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. What is the average annual salary of a criminal psychologist?

Criminal psychologists can make up to make an average annual salary of $58,590, though those who work with the federal and state governments can make as much as $98,000 per year. This is according to the statistics given by the salary-reporting website Payscale.

  1. How much is the future prospect for criminal psychologists?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is said that jobs related to criminal psychology are estimated to increase by 8% by 2030.

  1. What are some careers related to criminal psychology?

Police psychology careers, a neuropathology-related career, and child and developmental psychology-related careers are a few careers that are related to the above-mentioned field.

  1. Where can I study criminal psychology?

In accordance with the National Center of Education Statistics, it is seen that around 40 universities give a Ph.D. or a doctorate degree in the field of criminal psychology. But wherever you study, make sure the center of education is verified by American Psychological Association (APA).


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