An online master's in forensic psychology prepares students to work in the criminal justice field. Graduates use psychological methods to analyze criminal behavior and have the required knowledge to work in corrections, private consulting firms, the government, social services, and higher education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for psychologists will increase by 19% between 2014 and 2024, which is more than double the average growth rate projected for all U.S. professions over the same timeframe. By earning a master's in forensic psychology you'll stand out in the psychology and criminal justice fields. Many graduates of forensic psychology online master's programs continue their education to pursue doctorate studies and become licensed forensic psychologists in clinical practices.
Choosing a Program
WILL THIS PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
Online forensic psychology master's programs will give you the skills needed to advance your career. You'll learn how to identify, interpret, and understand criminal behavior. You'll also learn about techniques and recent breakthroughs in forensic psychology. Graduates often find work in the legal and criminal justice systems or continue their studies at the doctorate level.
DO I NEED PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE TO GET IN?
Most online master's in forensic psychology programs don't require that applicants have previous work experience. You will need a bachelor's degree, usually in a related field. If you do have previous relevant work experience, it will likely increase your chances of being accepted into the program.
HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT ONLINE PROGRAM FOR ME?
To find the right online master's degree in forensic psychology program you'll need to consider what factors are most important to you. Things to consider include tuition cost, program length, whether you can attend part-time or full-time, types of courses and concentrations available, prerequisites, faculty, and internship or practicum requirements. Figuring out what you need from a program will make it much easier to make a decision.
CAN I WORK WHILE I COMPLETE MY ONLINE MASTER'S IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY?
Being able to work while completing your degree is one of the advantages of completing your master's in forensic psychology online. Taking classes online means that you set your own schedule, logging on and reviewing course materials when it's most convenient for you. Completing your forensic psychology master's online also means that no matter where you live and work, you'll find a program that fits your lifestyle.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MASTER'S IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY PROGRAMS?
|1||University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 29%||
Located in the town of Grand Forks, the University of North Dakota offers a forensic psychology online master’s degree, the school's master of arts in forensic psychology. Administered and conducted fully online (other than one required on-campus visit that allows students to experience a two-week capstone at the end of their studies), UND's degree program requires students to complete 35 credits and generally takes learners about two years to complete. During the capstone, students meet local professionals involved in forensic issues and meet together to work with other students in preparation for a paper and a presentation. Not all forensic psychology online master’s programs include an experiential learning module the way UND does. The school administers courses asynchronously using the semester system and includes recorded lectures that mirror those provided to on-campus learners. Students pay in-state tuition regardless of where they live. Program faculty boast significant research experience in all the major areas of forensic psychology, including battered-woman syndrome, eyewitness memory, jury behavior, detecting deception, and child custody evaluations.
|2||Arizona State University-Tempe Tempe, AZ||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 47%||
Arizona State University master of science in forensic psychology helps students understand roles of psychologists in the legal system. The 33-credit, 11 course program includes coursework in criminal law, diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders, and criminal behavior. Each class lasts seven-and-a-half weeks and is delivered asynchronously. Unlike some other online master’s degree programs in forensic psychology, ASU's program is entirely online with no in-person requirements. Required core classes cover topics like psychopathology and applied data analysis, as well as three seminars. Students must also pass a zero-credit comprehensive written exam in order to graduate. Applicants to ASU’s forensic psychology program must hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field from a regionally-accredited institution with a 3.0 minimum GPA. Prospective students must also submit GRE scores, two letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and official transcripts. (The school exempts applicants with a 3.30 cumulative undergraduate from its GRE requirement.)
|3||Liberty University Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 85%||
Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Christian institution Liberty University’s Helms School of Government offers a forensic psychology online master’s, the school's master of science in criminal justice - forensic psychology program. 100% online and designed for current and prospective criminal justice professionals, the program helps students understand how psychological factors impact criminal behavior, rehabilitation, and reintegration of individuals in the criminal justice system. To graduate, students must complete 36 credit hours, including a mandatory thesis. The thesis requirements includes three credits of thesis proposal and research and a three-credit thesis defense course. Courses available at Liberty include crisis intervention in law enforcement, HR management in criminal justice organizations, and rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders. Transfer students can bring in up to 50% of the credits they need to graduate. Liberty's online tuition rate is not location-based.
|4||Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 96%||
Southern New Hampshire University’s online master’s degree in forensic psychology prepares graduates to help victims and understand the minds of offenders while working in the criminal justice system. SNHU, located in the town of Manchester, is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The school's master’s of science in psychology - forensic psychology program allows students to specialize in forensic psychology while earning their master’s in psychology. Students may complete the degree in as little as 15 months by taking two courses each ten-week term and each year features five terms. Admission requirements do not include the GRE or GMAT, and the school accepts applications on a rolling basis throughout the year. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related discipline, and must have completed undergraduate coursework in social science statistics, introductory psychology, and social science research methods. Tuition remains the same regardless of residency status, and SNHU offers a 25% reduced tuition rate for U.S. service members and spouses of active duty military.
What to Expect From an Online Master's in Forensic Psychology Program?
Some forensic psychology online master's programs focus on psychological theory, while others spend more time on the criminal justice system and legal theory. Program details vary depending on which school and program you choose. Most programs will require students to complete a capstone project, which could be a research paper or field work.
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY
Online master's in forensic psychology programs teach students skills that can be used in the field. Courses cover topics like research methods in psychology, ethics, and psychological techniques in the courtroom and prisons. Below you'll find a sample curriculum for an online master's degree in forensic psychology program. Actual courses will vary by school.
- Techniques of Forensic Practice: This course introduces students to different methods used to perform forensic activities, including forensic evaluation to determine competency to stand trial, child custody, and insanity defense. Training in methodology is included in the course.
- Psychology and the Law: This course provides an overview of the legal and criminal justice system from a psychological perspective. It introduces the main theories and methodologies of forensic psychology and provides the skills needed for advanced study. Forensic psychology is explored through the context of civil, criminal, and family law.
- Current Issues in Forensic Psychology: Students will study current issues in the field of forensic psychology. Topics covered may include eyewitness identification, profiling, risk assessment, jury selection, and other issues currently being debated in the legal and psychology fields. This course is useful for future post-secondary instructors in forensic psychology.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY?
Several factors affect how long it will take you to complete an online master's in forensic psychology, including transfer credits, whether or not you have completed prerequisites, and whether you attend part-time or full-time. Other things to consider include the number of credits required to graduate, the number of courses offered each term, if courses are offered year-round, and if an internship is required.
Programs are usually offered in individual or cohort formats. Individually-paced programs let students take as many credits as they can handle, allowing them to graduate sooner. Cohort programs require students to synchronously move through the curriculum with a group of peers, which provides a more traditional, on-campus feel, but takes longer to complete. Each type of learning has advantages and disadvantages. On average, it takes two years of full-time study and 33 to 36 credits to graduate from an online master's in forensic psychology program.
CERTIFICATIONS AND LICENSES A MASTER'S IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY PREPARES FOR
Depending on what career you pursue, it may be required that you pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling examination. By passing this exam, you'll be licensed to pursue a career as a mental health counselor or marriage and family therapist.
Accreditation for Online Master's in Forensic Psychology Programs
When you're looking for online master's degree programs in forensic psychology, it's essential to select a program at an accredited school. When a school is accredited, it means that it meets certain standards. Choosing an accredited school is one way to ensure that the program you attend is of quality. Schools can be accredited regionally or nationally. Both types of accreditation are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Schools with regional accreditation tend to be non-profit, degree-granting institutions, whereas schools with national accreditation are usually non-degree-granting institutions such as vocational schools. Many schools will only accept transfer credit from regionally-accredited institutions.
Generally, regional accreditation is more prestigious than national accreditation. A few of the regional accrediting agencies to look for when choosing an online school are the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. There are no field-specific accrediting agencies for master's programs in forensic psychology.
The ED and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) have a hand in accreditation. The ED creates education policy and organizes federal financial aid programs offering low interest student loans and grants. The ED also publishes a list of trustworthy accrediting agencies. The CHEA is a group of degree-granting universities and colleges in the U.S. that set standards for the accrediting agencies themselves.
To see a list of all accredited schools in the U.S., check the ED's website.
Employment Outlook for Master's in Forensic Psychology Graduates
Enrollment in graduate programs related to forensic psychology has gone up as the demand for people to work in the criminal justice system from a psychological perspective has increased. Graduates of online master's in forensic psychology programs have found growing opportunities in the forensic psychology field, including work as forensic science technicians, intelligence analysts, consultants, researchers, and criminal justice teachers. A master's in forensic psychology also prepares students for their future goals, like going on to pursue a doctorate in the field and become practicing clinical forensic psychologists.
Geographic location will impact the hourly and annual wages of forensic psychologists. The next table presents data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicating the top five paying states in the U.S. for practicing psychologists.
Top Five Paying U.S. States for Psychologists
|State||Hourly mean wage||Annual mean wage|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Graduates of online master's in forensic psychology programs pursue careers in a range of fields, including family, civil, and criminal courts; law offices; corrections and law enforcement; social service agencies; treatment facilities and other healthcare settings; higher education; and the military. A master's in forensic psychology also prepares students to become a practicing clinical forensic psychologist, which requires additional training and education. Potential career opportunities for master's in forensic psychology online program graduates are diverse, below, we list a few of the most popular.
Forensic psychologists use their psychological training to help explain the behavior and cognitive and emotional processes of individuals in the legal and criminal justice system. They often work in the legal system in roles that involve establishing witness credibility, assessing the mental competence of defendants, or building psychological profiles of suspects. Psychologists usually need to complete an internship and earn a doctorate and a license in order to practice; a master's degree is acceptable for some related positions.
Median Annual Salary: $75,230
Projected Growth Rate: 19%
- Postsecondary Teacher
Postsecondary teachers provide instruction to students in a wide range of settings beyond the high school level. Research and publication is often required of postsecondary teachers. Most positions require a doctorate, but many community college teaching positions only require a master's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $75,430
Projected Growth Rate: 13%
- Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists
Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people understand and treat behavioral and emotional problems. These types of counselors and therapists need a master's degree and a license to practice.
Median Annual Salary: $44,170
Projected Growth Rate: 19%
- Forensic Science Technician
Forensic science technicians help criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence at crime scenes and in laboratories. Forensic science technicians usually need a bachelor's degree in a natural science and receive on-the-job training. Holding a master's degree in forensic psychology would make a job candidate more competitive and garner a higher salary.
Median Annual Salary: $56,750
Projected Growth Rate: 27%
- Police and Detectives
Police and detectives protect people and gather evidence about crimes. Some job duties include writing detailed reports, testifying in court, preparing cases, and observing suspects. Educational requirements vary considerably, but holding a master's in forensic psychology would make any candidate more competitive.
Median Annual Salary: $61,600
Projected Growth Rate: 4%
Professional organizations for forensic psychology offer numerous opportunities for current students and recent graduates of forensic psychology online master's programs. When you become a member, you'll gain networking opportunities that can lead to potential jobs, invitations to annual conferences, and the opportunity to take continuing education courses. Being a member of a professional organization will also keep you up to date on the latest issues in the field.
Financing Your Online Master's in Forensic Psychology Program
Paying for your online forensic psychology master's degree can seem daunting, but there are numerous financial resources available to online students. Scholarships, grants, student loans, and work studies are all options for funding your education. You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to be eligible for financial aid. If you commit to working for the government or a non-profit group for ten years after graduating, you might qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.
- Best Online Master's in Forensic Psychology of 2017
Rank School Location 1 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND 2 Arizona State University-Tempe Tempe, AZ 3 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA 4 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH