A day in the life of a prison service forensic psychologist can include both challenges and successes, as well as plenty of opportunities to develop your professional skills and knowledge.
In the morning, you may be interviewing somebody who has been convicted of serious violent offences, in order to assess whether or not they are suitable to take part in an offending behaviour intervention. In the afternoon, you may be delivering training to prison staff on the fact that the way in which somebody presents in a prison setting does not always reveal the type or level of risk that they might pose in the community. And then there is intervention delivery, conducting accredited risk assessments, developing risk formulations, contributing your forensic psychology knowledge to multi-disciplinary risk management meetings, and presenting your psychological risk assessment report in a Parole Board oral hearing.
Forensic psychology also plays a key role in informing the investigative aspects of the criminal justice system. Research by forensic psychologists has enabled the evolution of facial recognition technologies, investigative interviewing strategies, witness credibility assessments, the detection of deception, techniques for interviewing vulnerable witnesses, providing helpful and accurate evidence as a professional witness or expert witness, learning from wrongful conviction cases, and understanding why some people offend while others from a similar background do not.
In the UK, forensic psychologists are mostly employed by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, and by the Scottish Prison Service. You may work with adults, young offenders, or children, who may have a range of presentations and offending histories. You might also work in secure mental health settings, helping to unpick the sometimes complex interactions between mental health issues and harmful or anti-social behaviours.
The Programme Leader for Edinburgh Napier University’s MSc Applied Forensic Psychology, Marc Kozlowski, says “This programme has been designed to provide students with a chance to try out some of the practical skills that will be required of them as a practitioner, alongside learning to conduct and critique forensic psychology research, which is the bedrock of forensic psychology practice. Students will have opportunities to hear from, and engage in discussions with, experienced criminal justice professionals from a variety of agencies and professions. The idea behind the programme is that students will arrive in the workplace already aware of some aspects of what to expect.”
Edinburgh Napier’s MSc Applied Forensic Psychology is accredited by the British Psychological Society, which means that successful completion of the programme constitutes Stage One of your journey towards becoming a chartered psychologist. Once you have achieved Stage One, you are able to apply for jobs as a trainee forensic psychologist. The staff by whom you will be taught and guided on this programme, include published academic staff, as well as two experienced chartered forensic psychology practitioners.
“I’ve found the programme very interesting and engaging,” says Rosie Flanagan, one of the class of 2020. “I think it has been invaluable in setting me up for a career in forensic psychology. I’ve particularly enjoyed the practical modules, such as Assessments and Treatments, and Practical Forensic Psychology, although the more theoretical content has also been interesting. I really enjoyed an experienced Criminal Justice Social Worker’s guest lecture on managing high risk offenders in the community. Hearing her experiences and insights was very engaging.”
Another student, Katie McIntyre, says “For me, one of the highlights has been the variation in assessments. With a range of both practical and written assessments the course has been very engaging. Assessments have included SARA risk assessments, interview techniques, reflective diaries, and expert witness reports. These have allowed me to learn and practise skills which are essential within the role as a forensic psychologist.”
To qualify for this full-time one year Master’s, applicants must have achieved a minimum 2:2 on a BPS-accredited undergraduate degree, such as Edinburgh Napier’s BA or BSc Psychology, which provides them with the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) of the British Psychological Society.
Due to the competitive nature of the Master’s programme, we advise submitting an application as early as possible – you don’t need to wait to receive confirmation of your final undergraduate degree result – but before 31st July at the latest.
You may also be interested in our broader, non-accredited MSc in Applied Criminology and Forensic Psychology.