What is Investigative Psychology?

Investigative psychology is a newer branch of applied psychology that focuses on understanding and profiling criminals. The ultimate goal is to assist with solving crimes and provide empirical evidence for court cases. Below explains what this new type of applied psychology is and why more and more students prefer to study it.

What is Investigative Based-Psychology?

This newer branch of psychology is often associated with criminal profiling, but confused with forensic psychology. Forensic psychologists draw on the fields of law and psychology and work within the legal system. They work as expert witnesses, trial consultants, academic researchers and law enforcement consultants. They typically evaluate witnesses to judge their credibility, competency and even sanity. On the other hand, criminal profiling is a set of tools that helps law enforcement professionals profile offenders and predict criminal behavior. This type of behavioral profiling has been popularized by well-known criminal investigation TV shows. However, investigative psychologists focus on examining all forms of crime in order to facilitate the legal and law enforcement process.

What Do Investigative Psychologists Do?

Investigative psychologists perform both hands-on and abstract scientifically-based research and analysis. They often examine criminal styles and patterns in order to understand the offender’s thought processes and psychological characteristics. As an example, they perform offender profiling that will hopefully assist with apprehending a target criminal. They also perform comprehensive analyses of the legal and investigative decisions and process. For instance, they may interview victims, predict violent behavior and review the involved detective’s decision making process.

What is Criminal Profiling?

As promoted by popular TV shows, criminal profiling is an investigative tool that investigative psychologists use to understand criminals. The goals are to provide law enforcement officials with interview strategies and a social and psychological assessment. Criminal profiling is accomplished through one of the four standard strategies: clinical, investigative, typological and geographical profiling. Clinical profiling involves psychiatrists and clinical psychologists assessing mentally ill criminals. Investigative profiling examines the style and personality of the criminal. Typological profiling utilizes categorized criminal types to understand the criminal. Finally, geographical profiling analyzes the crime scene to understand the criminal.

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What is the Curriculum for an Investigative Based-Psychology Degree?

Most programs offer psychology degree programs with a specialization in forensic psychology. These programs teach the student about legal, police and abnormal psychology. They also study the legal, corrections and criminal justice system.

Related: Top 10 Online Forensic Psychology Degree Programs

Many students go on to obtain a master’s in forensic psychology, which teaches interviewing techniques, court psychology, forensic assessments and the psychology of criminal behavior. Students who wish to learn more can explore the International Academy for Investigative Psychology’s website.

What Jobs are Available?

A law enforcement criminal profiler is a well-recognized job for an investigative based-psychologist. They typically work for local, state or federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI. While they are portrayed in television as spearheading investigations, they actually spend more time working with data and spreadsheets in order to statistically analyze the criminal’s behavior. Next police detectives are responsible to investigate and solve criminal investigations. They must have excellent interpersonal, organizational and analytical skills. Finally, forensic psychologists are licensed professionals that conduct tests, interview and psychological assessments.

Overall, investigative based-psychology takes both a hands-on and analytical approach to assessing people, crime scenes and data. Investigative psychology plays a critical role in law enforcement, the legal system and public safety.