What to Expect
Students of psychology and law learn about the human mind in a legal context.
If you're interested in the criminal mind or in other psychological elements
of our justice system, check out this major.
Mary Travers had always been interested in law. But the thought of studying
the human mind also appealed to her.
Psychology and law was the answer. "It just sort of 'clicked' in my mind
-- I knew this was what I had been working towards." Travers earned a BS in
psychology and went on to study psychology and law at John Jay College of
Criminal Justice, part of the City University of New York.
Michael Decaire specialized in forensic psychology because of past experience.
His parents, both nursing supervisors at a psychiatric hospital, used to bring
him along when they began teaching psychiatry classes.
When he began work, he found an opening at a psychiatric hospital.
"This taught me a great deal about the mentally ill and primarily served to
destroy misconceptions about these populations that were prevalent in television
shows, movies and other media."
Decaire knew he wanted to study mental health, but he wasn't sure where
to focus his studies. His solution was to achieve an honors BS in psychology,
because this would allow him to switch to psychiatry.
After reading various accounts of criminal behavior, he realized applying
his psychology background to the law would be of particular interest. His
work experience gave him a distinct advantage over his university classmates.
"As we learned about psychology and the mentally ill, everyone else was
seeing this stuff for the first time. For me, I was finally understanding
everything that I had seen over the past few years. I was able to apply all
of the new knowledge to my past experiences," says Decaire. "This made everything
so much clearer."
Decaire says you should keep in mind that forensic psychology is a highly
scientific field. In his opinion, students should choose a BS rather than
a BA psychology program for an undergrad degree. The BS will have more science
requirements, he explains.
"A lot of people have no science backgrounds, and once they are more into
the depths of their programs, they realize that they can't hack the scientific
classes," he says.
Decaire also says you shouldn't be afraid to approach a professor with
any problems you may have. "Getting to know your professors makes a big
difference when you're trying to improve."