Psychology and law programs may also be called forensic psychology. Many
grads become forensic psychologists, but that's not the only career option
open to you.
These studies don't just involve the analysis of those who've committed
a crime. Often, psychologists work with victims as well, assessing the extent
of the emotional impact of injuries due to all sorts of events, such as automobile
accidents or even animal attacks.
Professionals in this field also provide treatment services to people involved
in the court system. They might counsel adults and children in the midst of
divorce or custody proceedings, for example.
These programs are generally offered as master's degrees, so you
need a minimum three or four-year undergraduate degree (usually in psychology)
"Prospective students need an honors degree, an A average, solid GREs [Graduate
Record Examinations], and either volunteer or paid experience in a forensic
setting -- victim services, police, domestic violence group, etc.," says psychology
professor Steve Porter.
Programs generally deal with topics such as psychological assumptions
in law, science versus law, research methodology, the jury process and competency
to stand trial.
In many cases, you can attain your undergrad degree and your master's or
PhD at the same school.
High school students should take as many psychology courses as they
can, says Heather Heitfield. She is the administrative assistant for the
master's progam in forensic psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice
at the City University of New York.
"Most preparation is conducted in college, but you can take some introductory
psychology classes in high school, and of course there are the general requirements
such as math and English," she says.
Porter says students should also study statistics, science and literature,
and should make certain they have a working knowledge of computer software
programs, especially word-processing, statistics analysis and graphics programs.
Students should also seek volunteer work in shelters and community organizations.
"Get involved," Heitfield says. "These activities will give you a feel for
what's ahead, and will prove to others as well as yourself that you have the
necessary dedication to succeed in this career."
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Psychologists
Psychology, Crime and Law
A journal of psychological approaches to crime
Pyschology, Law and Justice
A collection of papers and presentations by a university professor