What is the Best Way to Become a Police Psychologist?

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A police psychologist is trained in psychology, public safety and law enforcement. They do everything from participating in criminal investigations to performing psychological autopsies to interviewing suspects. Below explains how to become a police psychologist.

What are the Basic Academic Requirements?

According to the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), all psychology specializations require both basic and advanced requirements. First, the basic requirement for a psychology specialization is graduation from an American Psychological Association (APA) accredited doctoral degree program. Next, an internship and one to two years of training or supervised work is required. Finally, the appropriate state licensure must be obtained. However, there are complex requirements for specialization in Police and Public Safety Psychology.

What are the Advanced Academic Requirements?

According to the ABPP, the student must complete at least 100 hours of education in Police and Public Safety Psychology. This includes continuing education courses, graduate courses, supervised work and even peer-reviewed publications. However, at least 50 of these hours must include classes regarding police and public safety psychology. This could include threat assessments, hostage negotiations and CBT therapy for law enforcement officers. Any student that is either directly supervised by a psychologist or formally consults with one can claim this work as credits. 10 credit hours are given to every formal publication regarding police and public safety psychology in a peer-reviewed journal. Finally, the student must have at least 3,000 hours of direct work experience.

What Degree Should I Pursue?

Since most schools don’t offer degrees in policy psychology, students can simply get a bachelor’s degree related to law enforcement and then a master’s degree related to psychology. Students with a master’s degree will be able to work as a police psychology, but only students with a doctoral degree in clinical psychology will be able to provide licensed psychology services. However, many students obtain a master’s in forensic psychology because it is readily available in many schools. A degree in forensic psychology will teach the student about many essential police psychology topics. These include the legal system, psychopathy, psych assessments, victimology, court testimonies and theories of criminal behavior.

Where Can I learn More?

The Society for Police and Criminal Psychology is the elite professional organization dedicated to the scientific study of police psychology. They training, conferences and a bi-annual journal publication. They explain the process of becoming a forensic psychologist here. On the other hand, the APA offers an overview of being a police and public safety psychologist here.

What Skills are Needed?

A psychologist employed by the police must have key skills and qualities. For example, they must have excellent analytical, observational and communication skills. This is because they must often interview clients, prepare reports and work with a diverse array of people. They must be very mature and patient because they will be dealing with clients who struggle with mental problems or commit serious crimes. Finally, they must be very ethical and professional because they will be dealing with sensitive and confidential information every day.

In the end, becoming a psychologist with the police will require an academic background in both psychology and law enforcement. A police psychologist is similar to other practicing psychologists because they must also obtain and maintain state certification.

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