Professionals interested in applied psychology may choose a variety of specialties, including one important career path in psychology in the area of crime prevention. Professionals working in applied psychology in the crime prevention field fulfill an important role in society by assisting in the understanding and development of programs that help to treat offenders, establishing intervention programs aimed at preventing teens from taking up a life of crime, and helping families cope and support family members making important changes.
For students and career changers pursuing psychology, there are many points of entry to the field of crime prevention. Many volunteer opportunities exist through national organizations like the National Crime Prevention Council. Through participation in a group with a variety of activities, students and career changes can network with other professionals with similar interests and engage in established programs that support crime prevention, while at the same time completing their studies.
Many students utilize online programs in order to earn a psychology degree while still working and maintaining a family life. Student internships, part-time jobs, professional mentoring, and networking in the field are all common activities to pursue while in school in order to gain the competitive edge when the degree is completed. Through experiencing a variety of settings, students typically find a niche and begin taking more specialized coursework.
Most advanced professionals in this field hold Master’s or Doctorate level degree that is acquired over time. Most entry level governmental positions require a four year degree, some entry level and assistant level jobs exist for two year degree holders with a strong portfolio of experiences. Tuition assistantship programs vary with employer and with governmental agency, but do exist so it is worth looking into when the time comes.
Psychologists who work in crime prevention often have court experience through clinical experiences or other internship work. Often the professional will specialize in one of the three main court settings: family court, civil court, or criminal court. In family court settings, the psychologist will work with children or families struggling to resolve an ongoing issue such as custody, divorce, or abuse. In civil court, the work is mainly centered on mental competency, assessing incurred mental damage done as a result of another’s choices, and offering expert opinions. In criminal court, psychologists will work with victims, prepare children for giving testimony, and also assess mental competency of persons on trial.
Having a strong understanding of the court system helps professionals interested in crime prevention better understand what changes need to be made to help people on the boundary between change and crime make the best decisions. Preventing crime takes community-based initiative, so while a psychologist may meet one on one with clients and with families committed to changing patterns in behavior, s/he is often also active in larger initiatives. With a research background and a wider understanding of the socio-economic, gender, ethnic, and other cultural nuances that all play a role in crime, the psychologist brings a heightened perspective to the discussions and to the development of programs and services aimed at preventing crime.
Strong communication skills and an active commitment to ongoing education is a vital component of long term professional development in this field. Successful professionals must be able to work effectively alone, managing an independent schedule and handling a wide variety of communication, but also must be able to work synergistically within a group often made up of other treatment professionals, educators, law enforcement officials, and community members.
The practice of applied psychology in crime prevention is an important career path with numerous opportunities for highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals willing to commit to ongoing education. The most coveted jobs require a solid educational foundation. Seeking coursework through highly ranked and fully accredited programs is one important way to build a strong core of knowledge and set yourself apart from the competition on this potentially rewarding and extremely important career path.
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