Dual Degree in Forensic Psychology & Law
Students interested in applying forensic psychology to the legal system may pursue a dual degree in forensic psychology and law. Explore program options, common courses, and some admission standards for these dual programs.
How to Earn a Dual Degree in Forensic Psychology and Law
There are at least a couple of dual degree programs in forensic psychology and law, including a dual Master of Arts (MA) in Forensic Psychology (non-licensure track)/Master of Legal Studies (MLS) and a dual MA in Forensic Psychology/Juris Doctor (JD). The MA/MLS program can be completed in an online and full- or part-time format in 2 to 4 years, while the MA/JD degree program is on-campus and can be completed in 4 years instead of the traditional 5 years it would take to earn the degrees separately. Depending on the program, students may need to complete requirements for each degree program, which may require a capstone, externship, thesis, and/or practicum experience in addition to courses in forensic psychology and law, some of which are discussed in more detail below.
Mental Health Law
Courses in mental health law generally cover the intersection of mental health issues with the law and allow students to explore landmark cases in the subject. Students also discuss aspects of mental health in the criminal justice system and the rights of patients with mental disabilities. These courses typically include foundational topics on relevant aspects of the legal system, including case law and constitutional law. Other topics for these courses may include civil and criminal competencies, professional liability, insanity defense, child custody issues, and violence risk assessment.
Students in clinical interviewing courses explore procedures and techniques for collecting life data, resolving conflicts, and identifying problems and/or diagnoses. These courses may also discuss practical and theoretical problems with clinic forensic interviewing. Students may further develop their interviewing, listening, and assessment skills for a variety of counseling situations, such as insanity and competency.
Human Growth and Development
Human growth and development courses provide students with an overview of the developmental process of humans, generally across the entire lifespan. Students in these courses may read an array of developmental literature and identify developmental milestones at each stage of life. Some of these courses may also explore factors like cultural differences and environments and how these can affect development. Students may also discuss developmental issues and how these issues are tied into forensics and the possibility of criminal behavior.
Courses in counseling may vary by program, with some courses focusing on social and cultural foundations in counseling and others examining counseling and psychotherapy methods. Courses that explore the social and cultural aspects of counseling aim to help prepare students for working in diverse communities and responding with appropriate and effective interventions and counseling strategies. Courses in methods may explore differences in individual and group counseling sessions, evidence-based methods, and counseling methods specific to various conditions, such as antisocial disorders.
Students may take one or more courses in criminal assessment or evaluation, with some courses breaking up evaluation and treatment into sections for adult offenders and juveniles. In general, these courses examine methods and issues in criminal evaluations. Some courses may focus on training students to administer and analyze various forensic assessment instruments and/or discuss available treatment and resource options available to criminals.
Admittance Requirements for a Dual Degree in Forensic Psychology and Law
Applicants to dual degree programs in forensic psychology and law generally need to have at least a bachelor's degree and need to meet the admissions requirements and/or apply to each degree program individually. Typically, students need to meet a minimum GPA requirement, usually around a 3.0 or higher, and some dual programs may require students to meet minimum test scores on the GRE exam, such as a combined score of 297 or higher. It is also fairly common for these dual degree programs to require varying amounts of prerequisite coursework, usually in subject areas like statistics, research methods, and/or psychology. Some MA in Forensic Psychology programs with the non-licensure track may require applicants to also have at least 3 years of relevant work experience. Applications for dual degree programs in forensic psychology and law typically require students to include their transcripts, letters of recommendation, and/or a personal statement.
There are a couple of different dual degree options in forensic psychology and law; many include some hands-on learning experiences. Students in these programs might need a minimum GPA, work experience and/or a qualifying exam score to be accepted into each degree program and can usually finish the program faster than earning each degree separately.