Students interested in pursuing a career where psychology and the legal system come together can pursue a graduate degree in juvenile forensic psychology. This is not a standard degree and thus is not available at many institutions. However, candidates interested in this specific field may take up a program in forensic psychology and specialize in or take courses related to juvenile psychology.
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Graduate Degrees in Forensic Psychology
Available as a Master of Arts or Master of Science degree, a forensic psychology program includes a study of criminal behavior, the reasons behind it and its effects on the justice system. Master's degree programs typically offer electives that align with the career goals of an aspiring juvenile forensic psychologist and may include a licensure track. About 36 credit hours are typically required for completion. Programs in forensic psychology or juvenile forensic psychology often include the following courses:
This course covers the area of overlap between the legal system and psychology. It mainly deals with the justice system pertaining to juveniles. During this course, students learn how the legal system decides if a youth with mental issues is able to stand trial. A deeper understanding of the usefulness and the liability of psychological study in legal proceedings will be gained through completing this course.
Understanding Criminal Misdeeds
This course deals with major offenses, often in relation to juveniles. A study of assumptions and theories pertaining to wrongdoing in youths is presented, with examples to bring clarity to the course. Behavioral patterns will also be dissected and studied.
This course teaches students to look for the root cause of a crime. How to deal with the crime, its cause and the criminal is discussed in the classroom. The part a psychologist plays in the legal system pertaining to these youths is more fully explained in this course.
This covers the effects and value of counseling in-depth in order to treat juveniles who have committed misdemeanors. It includes studying in detail the variety of treatments available through communication on a personal level and intervening before the wrongdoing itself.
Hands-on learning is required, and students work alongside licensed forensic psychologists in actual juvenile centers or rehabilitation centers in certain cases. During this training, students observe and sometimes even help by writing down the history behind the case. This helps the student improve in applying judgement and deciding on a treatment model for juveniles.
Juvenile Forensic Psychology Admission Requirements
It is preferred for students applying to these programs to have an academic background in psychology and/or forensics. A foundation in criminology is also considered to be a good fit for this field. Typically, a GPA of at least 2.75 from a bachelor's program is required for admission, as well as completion of the GRE, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Some schools also require a statement of purpose in pursuing the program.
Students with an interest in bettering the lives of juveniles caught up in the legal system, a desire to understand juvenile crime, and commitment towards giving juveniles another chance can consider a graduate degree in forensic psychology, with a focus or coursework on juvenile psychology. Interested candidates should hold a bachelor's degree, preferably in psychology, and should expect to take courses in counseling, psychology, and law.