Career Center

During the day, Anthony Pinizzotto, PhD, is a forensic psychologist in the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit. In the evening, he returns to a Catholic parish and his duties as a Roman Catholic priest.

Career path: Pinizzotto became a priest in 1978 and currently serves at St. William of York Catholic Church in Stafford, Va. Before becoming a priest, he aspired to become a counselor or chaplain in a prison. To that end, he worked as an intern counselor and investigator in the correctional system in Pennsylvania. While pursuing a master's degree in the administration of justice, he joined the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., as a uniformed reserve.

"From that point on, I realized just how interesting and exciting a career in law enforcement could be," Pinizzotto says. "I never lost my interest in counseling, and I thought I would bring together psychology and law." He holds a master's degree in forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and a PhD in forensic psychology from Georgetown University. In 1988, he began working at the FBI while continuing to serve as a priest.

Work schedule: Pinizzotto carries on limited ministerial duties at the parish during the week and works full time as a senior scientist and clinical forensic psychologist at the FBI. He teaches a class in behavioral sciences at the FBI's Training Academy in Quantico, Va.

He also conducts research, such as investigating why people kill and assault police officers. In the FBI study, "Killed in the Line of Duty," he and a team of researchers interviewed 50 people who had killed law enforcement officers, investigated physical evidence from crime scenes and spoke to investigators involved to determine if certain officers were more at risk than others of being killed on duty. In particular, police officers most at risk for being killed in the line of duty were those who tended to help others, be hardworking and respected by officers and the community, Pinizzotto notes. He says these officers may be more likely to let down their guard when arresting individuals or when stopping vehicles.

Best part of his job: Pinizzotto says it's being able to integrate being a priest with his forensic psychology career. "I'm looking at the human person from various perspectives--the psychological, emotional, environmental and spiritual--in an attempt to understand why we do the things that we do," he says.

Pinizzotto says understanding the biological components of behavior is key to his jobs. Many of the FBI cases he works on involve individuals abusing alcohol or drugs. "It's better if we understand the biological components of behavior and assist law enforcement by explaining why [criminals] act the way they do," Pinizzotto says.

The same goes for his job as a community priest. His psychology background allows him to better understand the choices people make in life, he says; it also provides a spiritual outlet to cope with the effects of evil he sees in his day job.

Salary range: $57,000 to $85,000 for psychologists in the FBI; $85,000 to $125,000 for chief scientists.

How you can get his jobs: Pinizzotto encourages students to gain a variety of experiences working with supervisors of differing theoretical orientations to learn how to view problems in various ways. By gaining multiple perspectives, he says, students then can view problems more objectively--free of biases from just one orientation--when coming up with solutions. Also, he encourages students to gain exposure to law enforcement--such as by working part-time as a law enforcement officer--to be able to better relate to law enforcement officers' experiences.

"Forensic psychology gives me the opportunity to look at issues clinically as well as experimentally in order to test the hypotheses that psychologists have developed over the years," Pinizzotto says. "I see psychology as a helping profession, which is consistent with the ministry. Plus, I always liked the mystery story."