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The Best Colleges for a Majoring in Criminal Psychology

by Laura Leddy Turner, studioD

Criminal psychologists assist law enforcement in areas such as profiling and forensics and are called as expert witnesses in criminal trials. Since there is no specific degree for criminal psychology, students typically study forensic or clinical psychology -- usually up to the master's level, at a minimum -- while interning or working with law enforcement agencies to gain experience within the justice system. The top schools for students who intend to pursue a career in criminal psychology offer programs that include course work in criminology and forensic, clinical or developmental psychology.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The criminology program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City was ranked tenth by the 2009 edition of "U.S. News & World Report's" Best Graduate Schools. Campus Explorer ranked the school first in the nation for its forensic psychology program. John Jay College's Bachelor of Arts in forensic psychology was the first forensic psychology degree program in the country. The master's program in forensic psychology trains students to act as practitioners to and within the criminal justice system. The school also offers a master's in forensic mental health counseling, a combined master's and J.D. program in forensic psychology and law, and a doctoral program in psychology with post-graduate certification in forensic psychology.

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is a nationally-accredited graduate school, and its forensic psychology program was ranked fourth by Campus Explorer. The school offers a master's in forensic science with a sex offender concentration. The doctorate program in forensic psychology, law enforcement concentration and neuropsychology concentration within the clinical forensic Psy.D. program teaches students to diagnose and treat criminals. Students gain real-world experience through work with adult offenders and abusive parents. Through mock trials, students learn how to provide expert witness testimony in front of practicing judges and attorneys. Graduates are prepared to sit for the national licensing exam in clinical psychology and are trained to conduct criminal competency and criminal responsibility evaluations.

University of Denver

The Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver in Colorado offers an M.A. in forensic psychology. The program was ranked sixth by "Campus Explorer," and the school is ranked 91st among national universities by "U.S. News & World Report" Best Colleges. The master's degree in forensic psychology supports fundamental clinical psychology and emphasizes direct engagement in relevant experience. Field placements allow students to assist in death investigations, counsel substance abuse patients and work with prosecutors on domestic violence cases. Students are trained to act as mental health professionals in the legal system's clinical settings, where they apply their skills to victim assistance, police consultation and trial consulting.

University of California, Irvine

The Center for Psychology and Law at the University of California in Irvine was ranked fifth for its criminology program by "U.S. News & World Report." This publication also ranked the school 14th among the nation's top public schools. The university offers a Ph.D. in psychology and social behavior with a concentration in psychology and law (forensic psychology). Also offered is a Master of Applied Science and a Ph.D. in criminology, law and society. The school's Criminology Outreach Program, established in 1999, educates youth in neighboring communities on the legal system and involves participants in policy debates on criminology issues.

About the Author

Laura Leddy Turner began her writing career in 1976. She has worked in the newspaper industry as an illustrator, columnist, staff writer and copy editor, including with Gannett and the Asbury Park Press. Turner holds a B.A. in literature and English from Ramapo College of New Jersey, with postgraduate coursework in business law.

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