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How Do I Go into Criminal Psychology?

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  • Written By: L.K. Blackburn
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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Those interested in the field of criminal psychology can enter the field by earning a graduate degree in psychology, obtaining certification, and finding a job within the criminal psychology field. Job opportunities may include working for prisons, police departments, hospitals, and private practice. Depending on your region, there are multiple pathways to earn a degree in psychology that will allow you to specialize in psychology, including a traditional research oriented doctorate degree and a clinical based psychology doctorate. Most regions have criminal psychology based professional organizations that regulates and issues board certifications for the profession.

A criminal psychology career begins in undergraduate college where you can choose to major in a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts psychology program. Both degree programs share the same psychology classes, but they differ in the amount of math and science courses that are required to graduate. Psychology graduate schools may prefer you to have obtained a Bachelor of Science, as many research based programs prefer you to complete a higher level of science and math classes. At many undergraduate colleges and universities psychology is a competitive major. At these schools, you usually are required to demonstrate a certain grade point average in entry level coursework before you can begin formally working towards the degree.

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While it is necessary to earn an undergraduate degree before attending graduate school for criminal psychology, you do not necessarily need to major in psychology itself. Typically, it's important to be certain that your undergraduate program is academically rigorous and includes any requested prerequisite coursework. Additional qualifying items for acceptance into a psychology graduate program may include a graduate admissions test, participating in extracurricular activities, and submitting letters of recommendation with your application. Graduate school for psychology is either research or clinical based, with each type awarding a distinct doctorate, both of which will allow you to practice criminal psychology. While in graduate school, you should choose a program that focuses on the treatment and study of criminal behavior.

After earning your doctorate in psychology and completing your education, you will usually be ready to begin a criminal psychology career after earning board certification. Professional organizations certify psychologists through a exam process. Certification must be kept up through the lifetime of a career, and expires after a set amount of time. The criminal justice system employs psychologists to treat inmates, to help solve crimes by analyzing criminal behavior patterns, and to provide expert testimony in court cases. Many criminal psychologists get their start working with the court system through a private consulting practice where they also provide therapy to patients.

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