Amelia is a registered and chartered forensic psychologist, having qualified in September 2009. She is an interventions adviser within a National Offender Management Service (NOMS) regional team...
I completed a four-year thin-sandwich degree in psychology, which involved two work placements, both of which I undertook within prisons. I really enjoyed the challenge of working in a very different environment and I was attracted to the range of work undertaken by psychologists, which is broader than simply the assessment and therapy of prisoners.
After graduation, I travelled and worked in business for a number of years before deciding that I wanted to return to forensic psychology as a long-term career option. I was looking for a career that was interesting, had depth, was challenging and had a mix of academic and practical prospects.
I looked for opportunities in my region, contacted the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) regional psychologist and applied for a position as a psychological assistant within NOMS. After a year in the role, a trainee forensic psychologist position came up and I qualified four years later.
Although at the time, the regulations to become a qualified psychologist had recently changed and the route was extremely challenging at times, I feel that the process is comprehensive and has provided me with a solid foundation in all competencies as a practitioner.
On reflection, what I gained most from my undergraduate degree was the insight into the prison service and experience of working in this environment. My academic knowledge has come mostly from studying for exams and conducting research during my training period. Training required me to be responsible for my own learning and development with input from experienced forensic psychologists, which was a good combination.
My current job as a newly qualified psychologist is incredibly broad. It ranges from developing strategy for reducing re-offending at a regional level and providing advice on interventions to meet the needs of offenders, to working on an individual level conducting risk and personality assessments on prisoners and in the delivery and management of treatment.
My role involves supervising trainees, which I really enjoy and learn a lot from, and I also provide training, consultancy and research in a wide range of subjects. No two days are the same and, although there is opportunity to become more specialist, I particularly enjoy the variety and range of work that my current role offers.
Since becoming qualified, my role has developed primarily in becoming more strategic, having a greater responsibility for the development of others and involvement in more complex cases. The more challenging aspects are balancing the range of tasks and responsibilities and working to competing deadlines and priorities, which requires a constant flexible approach.
Advice I would give to someone interested in a career in forensic psychology is to gain some work experience to see if it's the kind of environment you will really enjoy working in as it takes time, commitment, resilience and flexibility to become qualified. However, the benefits are a fascinating, varied and challenging career with significant opportunities for training and development.
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