Written by Aimee Foster
“Wow you must be super smart!”
If there’s one thing that you should be prepared for when studying any kind of dual degree at university, it’s to expect to hear that exact phrase almost every time you tell someone what you are studying. Choosing to study a dual degree of Behavioural Science (Psychology) and Justice has not made me an exception to that rule. But it has proven to be a fantastic decision.
Before I had even started my degree, I already had people telling me to “drop out now,” that “no one makes it through the first year of psychology,” and you may have people telling you the same thing.
Unnerving, isn’t it?
I started questioning my decision and worrying that I had made the wrong choice, even though I had been wanting to study these two courses for as long as I could remember. But I hadn’t been wrong in wanting to study psychology or justice (or both!), and neither have you. So here is an insight into what you can expect should you choose to study this dual degree.
On the justice side of things, I’ve had the opportunity to study subjects such as forensic psychology, deviance, criminology and policing. In the future, I also get to choose from of a range of electives such as youth justice, death investigation, cybercrime and crime prevention. For justice studies, you focus a lot on real world examples of where justice has prevailed, and where it has well and truly failed.
As for psychology, I’ve studied things such as developmental psychology, social and organisational psychology, counselling techniques and understanding human behaviours. I will also have the chance to study the psychology of addiction, driving behaviours, human sexuality and health psychology. You will have a range of different units thrown at you, from looking at what makes people the way they are, and why they behave the way they do, to what parts of the brain control what. And, yes, you will have to study statistics.
The fact that psychology does have a mathematical element to it is something that caught me and a lot of other students off-guard. But don’t be alarmed, or turned off! I myself wasn’t too great at mathematics in high school, but I found that as long as I attended the tutorials and workshops for those units, and asked as many questions as was needed to fully understand the content, it was possible to survive the statistics hell. But then again, if you aced mathematics in high school and absolutely loved it – you’ll have a great time!
This leads me to my ultimate piece of advice which I am sure is applicable to all university degrees – go to the tutorials/workshops/practicals! Universities do not create these classes just to waste your time, I promise. Not only does attendance in these classes sometimes count towards your final grade (seriously, it can be an easy 20% for just showing up), but you can gain so much from being there in person. These classes are where you find the answers to those burning questions you’ve got, where you can really get a grasp on the subject content if you’re struggling to understand what on earth is going on. Plus, you might even get a few sneaky tips on assessments. I cannot stress enough the benefits that can come from attending these classes, especially for psychology.
Something that I did find a bit of a letdown in doing this dual degree (at least through the Queensland University of Technology), is that you’re unable to start tailoring the degree to suit your interests until third year. But even though this means that you must battle your way for two years through some subjects for which you have a grand total of 0% interest in, it does have one benefit: it makes you take those subjects that you never would have considered taking, but end up thoroughly enjoying. And yes, I am talking from personal experience here.
What I also found unexpectedly enjoyable is how frequently the content of these two different courses come together and support each other. Quite often I will be in a justice class, and the lecturer will begin talking about the psychology of the offender. I found that I had an edge in these situations, as my psychology classes had provided me with a foundation for understanding some of the content in my justice subjects.
Another insight for this dual degree is regarding textbooks. Be prepared – textbooks are expensive, especially for psychology. Something that I wish I had realised much earlier on in my degree is the beauty of purchasing second hand textbooks instead of buying them brand new. There are websites dedicated to providing a place for people to buy and sell second hand textbooks, and most universities have their own second hand textbook Facebook pages. So, hunt around for the $30 second hand version before spending $180 on that one textbook that you will only end up opening twice.
Overall, the combination of psychology and justice into the one degree is not only interesting, but useful for when you graduate and are finally thrown into the real world. The psychology field is extremely competitive, so having that justice counterpart as a kind of safety-net is very reassuring. So good luck, study hard, and enjoy!