Best Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Programs

Forensic psychology is a very specific field where psychology meets the legal and criminal justice systems.
20 min read

Share this Article

Master's in Forensic Psychology Online Program Overview

Anyone who takes a casual interest in true crime documentaries or podcasts may find forensic psychology interesting. But professionals who work within the field go beyond pop culture; they dedicate their careers to understanding the psychological conditions associated with criminal behavior.

A master's degree in forensic psychology can prepare students to earn their doctorates and become licensed forensic psychologists. A master's degree can also prepare graduates for careers within the field that don't require further education. Possible positions for these graduates include police detectives, mental health counselors, correctional treatment specialists, and jury consultants.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

Master's in forensic psychology programs typically last two years for full-time students. However, attending an online college can offer more flexible program options for learners who prefer a more nontraditional pathway.

In addition to listing the best online master's in forensic psychology programs, this guide also answers essential questions about what to expect from these degrees and salary and career potential.

Top Career Paths

  • 1. Substance Misuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
  • 2. Jury Consultants
  • 3. Police Detective
  • 4. Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
  • 5. Forensic Psychologists
  • Popular Online Master's in Forensic Psychology Programs

    Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Forensic Psychology Programs

    Is a master's in forensic psychology worth it?

    If you want to pursue a career as a forensic psychologist, a master's in forensic psychology is certainly worth it. The degree is a helpful step toward earning a doctorate, which you need to become a practicing forensic psychologist.

    If your career goals follow a different path that doesn't necessarily require a master's —for instance, a police detective or mental health counselor — then you should evaluate whether the degree is worth it. Earning a master's can lead to higher salary potential and more job opportunities. Still, a higher degree is a hefty investment of time and money. Ultimately, only you can determine whether an online degree is worth it for you.

    What can I do with a master's in forensic psychology?

    A master's in forensic psychology alone does not prepare you to become a forensic psychologist. You need to earn your doctorate in psychology in addition to a master's to follow that career path. However, a master's can lead to higher-level positions in several industries, including criminal justice, law enforcement, government, or mental health care.

    If you want to work as a police detective or FBI agent, forensic psychology can give you valuable insight into the minds of people who break the law. The same is true for jury consultants and correctional treatment specialists. Although a master's may not be necessary for some of these roles, a graduate program can train you to become an expert in your field.

    Are forensic psychology graduates in demand?

    The BLS projects that the number of psychologists as a whole will increase by 8% from 2020 to 2030. This indicates that psychology graduates are in demand in the next decade.

    More specifically, individuals who want to use their forensic psychology degrees to work in the criminal justice or mental health fields can also look forward to growing opportunities. The BLS projects that the number of substance misuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors may increase by 23% from 2020 to 2030. The correctional treatment specialist field may also grow by 4% in that time period, according to BLS projections.

    How much money can I make with a master's in forensic psychology?

    Salaries depend on several factors in addition to education level, including location and years of experience. Police detectives, for instance, earned an annual median salary of $83,640 in May 2021, according to BLS figures. However, detectives in places like Alaska or Washington, D.C. are better paid, earning mean salaries of over $120,000 during the same period. Detectives in states like New Mexico earn lower salaries, with a mean salary in that state of about $75,000.

    You can also increase your salary potential by earning a doctorate in forensic psychology. This opens up roles like licensed forensic psychologist or university professor.

    What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in forensic psychology?

    Police detectives and jury consultants have the highest earning potential. Detectives made median annual wages of $83,640 in May 2021, BLS figures show. Jury consultants earned annual mean salaries of $102,017 in December 2021, according to data compiled by Glassdoor.

    If you go on to earn your doctorate in forensic psychology, you may qualify for other high-paying jobs as well. Forensic psychologists make mean salaries of $72,285, according to Payscale. Forensic psychologists with many years of experience can see higher earnings potential, with average salaries of $92,840 in August 2021.

    Best Accredited Online Master's in Forensic Psychology Programs

    Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

    How We Rank Schools

    At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

    Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

    #1 Best Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Programs

    University of North Dakota

    • Grand Forks, ND
    • 4 years
    • Online + Campus

     100% Online | Scheduled Classes

    Avg. Cost per Credit
    In State | $589
    Out of State | $589

    Credits to Graduate
    30

    Program Information
    Program Accreditation |  American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation

    Working professionals can complete UND's online MA in forensic psychology in about two years. Enrollees explore fundamental topics such as behavior pathology and social psychology. All students complete a course on forensic psychology research methods.

    Master's in forensic psychology candidates can pursue specialized training in areas such as eyewitness testimony. Participants may also perform supervised fieldwork. Applicants need a bachelor's degree in a social or behavioral science major and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

    Average Tuition
    In-state
    $8,212
    Out-of-state
    $14,371
    Retention Rate
    78%
    Admission Rate
    81%
    Students Enrolled
    13,581
    Institution Type
    Public
    Percent Online Enrollment
    45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
    Accreditation
    Yes Higher Learning Commission
    #2 Best Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Programs

    Saint Leo University

    • Saint Leo, FL
    • 4 years
    • Online + Campus

     100% Online | Scheduled Classes

    Avg. Cost per Credit
    In State | $610
    Out of State | $610

    Credits to Graduate
    36

    Saint Leo offers an online MS in criminal justice with a behavioral studies specialization. Core courses introduce students to field-specific legal and ethical issues. Enrollees learn how to apply organizational leadership theories in criminal justice roles. The specialization delves into how behavioral issues interact with the criminal justice system. 

    Master's candidates learn tools for behavioral assessment and interview analysis. The program culminates with an applied project in criminal justice administration. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and official transcripts.

    Average Tuition
    In-state
    $23,100
    Out-of-state
    $23,100
    Retention Rate
    69%
    Admission Rate
    72%
    Students Enrolled
    10,912
    Institution Type
    Private
    Percent Online Enrollment
    72% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
    Accreditation
    Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
    #3 Best Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Programs

    Southern New Hampshire University

    • Manchester, NH
    • 4 years
    • Online + Campus

     100% Online | Scheduled Classes

    Avg. Cost per Credit
    In State | $627
    Out of State | $627

    Credits to Graduate
    36

    SNHU's MS in psychology offers a concentration in forensic psychology. Students explore key concepts in psychology such as cognitive processes and theories of personality. Two courses focus on research methods.

    The forensic psychology concentration explores the relationship between law and psychology and examines psychology's role in the courtroom. Students can apply up to 12 transfer credits toward this online master's in forensic psychology. Applicants do not need GRE/GMAT scores. Prospective learners without a psychology background must take three foundation courses. 

    Average Tuition
    In-state
    $30,756
    Out-of-state
    $30,756
    Retention Rate
    65%
    Admission Rate
    88%
    Students Enrolled
    113,514
    Institution Type
    Private
    Percent Online Enrollment
    94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
    Accreditation
    Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
    #4 Best Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Programs

    Northcentral University

    • La Jolla, CA
    • 4 years
    • Online

     100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

    Avg. Cost per Credit
    In State | $872
    Out of State | $872

    Credits to Graduate
    30

    NCU's MS in forensic psychology teaches participants how to use forensic diagnostic and assessment tools. The curriculum emphasizes problem-solving, creative thinking, and ethics. Participants learn how to conduct research in forensic settings. They receive on-on-one mentorship from professors. 

    Master's candidates can complete an optional non-clinical internship. Enrollees can complete the degree in 16 months. Admission to the master's in forensic psychology requires a bachelor's degree. Applicants do not need to submit GRE/GMAT scores.

    Average Tuition
    In-state
    $11,064
    Out-of-state
    $11,064
    Retention Rate
    Not provided
    Admission Rate
    Not provided
    Students Enrolled
    11,223
    Institution Type
    Private
    Percent Online Enrollment
    Not provided
    Accreditation
    Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
    #5 Best Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Programs

    Arizona State University-Skysong

    • Scottsdale, AZ
    • 4 years
    • Online + Campus

     100% Online | Scheduled Classes

    Avg. Cost per Credit
    In State | $543
    Out of State | $543

    Credits to Graduate
    33

    ASU Online's MS in forensic psychology explores how human behavior and mental health influence criminality. The curriculum covers topics such as psychopathology, correctional psychology, and the psychology of criminal investigation. Learners also study forensic psychology research methods. 

    The master's in forensic psychology requires several practicum courses, including a class on courts and sentencing. Students produce actionable research and policy recommendations in a capstone course. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of the bachelor's degree. 

    Average Tuition
    In-state
    $8,867
    Out-of-state
    $19,282
    Retention Rate
    74%
    Admission Rate
    64%
    Students Enrolled
    45,073
    Institution Type
    Public
    Percent Online Enrollment
    98% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
    Accreditation
    Yes Higher Learning Commission

    What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Forensic Psychology Program?

    Online master's in forensic psychology programs prepare students for careers in mental healthcare, criminal justice, and the intersection between the two industries. Students learn about psychology as it relates to social interactions, law enforcement, and criminal behavior. As part of the degree, learners hone their problem-solving and analytical skills. They also learn how to approach the field with self-awareness and a non-judgmental and nondiscriminatory mindset.

    These degrees typically last two years, with required credits ranging from 30-36. These programs don't always offer concentrations, but students can choose to take specific elective courses based on their interests or career goals. Sometimes psychology graduate programs offer forensic psychology as a concentration.

    Like many graduate programs, this degree requires critical thinking and communication skills. Master's degrees usually require a fair amount of research and writing. They often incorporate a final project that allows students to carry out their own original research or participate in a supervised work experience.

    Online programs also demand self-motivation and time-management skills, especially if students enroll in asynchronous or self-paced options. Individuals who prefer full-time, synchronous programs should make sure they can dedicate enough time to their studies.

    Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

    What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Forensic Psychology Program?

    Advanced Social Psychology

    Graduate programs require advanced-level psychology courses, including this one. This course explores social psychology concepts such as interpersonal relationships, group behavior, stereotyping, and social cognition.

    Criminal Behavior

    This course explores the major theories of criminal behavior, including cognitive, behavioral, and social theory. Students learn about the current classification systems associated with criminal behavior and how to apply this within the criminal justice system.

    Eyewitness Testimony and Memory

    Plenty of research has been carried out about eyewitness testimony and how memory is not necessarily a reliable source of information. The course explores psychological factors that may impact eyewitness testimony, including identification procedures and interviewing.

    Forensic Assessment

    Forensic assessment involves the process of evaluating certain people in a criminal trial. Students learn about how to assess whether a person is fit to stand trial, and they study various topics like criminal insanity defenses and criminal hypotheses.

    Mental Health Issues in Policing

    Some universities may offer this course as an elective. Students learn about issues like police stress and suicide. They also explore counseling techniques for forensic psychologists aiming to work with the police force.

    Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

    What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Forensic Psychology Program?

    Each graduate program comes with its unique application requirements. For instance, some universities require candidates to meet minimum undergraduate GPAs or GRE scores, while others do not. Some schools may also require students to possess an undergraduate degree in psychology, or at least to have completed foundational psychology courses.

    Still, many graduate programs follow the same basic framework for application requirements for both online and on-campus programs. You can find a list of common requirements below.

    Application

    Almost all schools allow you to fill out their application form online. These forms ask for your basic information, as well as information about your academic and career history. You may need to upload the documents listed below as part of the application. Many online forms allow applicants to save their information, so they don't need to fill it out at once.

    Test Scores

    Graduate schools often ask for an applicant's GMAT or GRE scores. For forensic psychology programs, the application process typically requires GRE scores. Although not every graduate program sets a minimum score to apply, candidates can aim for a combined GRE score of about 300. You can find many GRE prep resources online.

    Letters of Recommendation

    You may need to submit 1-3 letters of recommendation. The school may require either academic or career references or both. Make sure you give your references plenty of time to write these letters. If you're not sure how to ask for a letter of recommendation, online resources offer strategies and tips.

    Resume and Work Experience

    A resume for graduate applications provides more information about your academic and career background. Most forensic psychology programs do not require individuals to possess work experience before applying, so recent graduates can enroll straight into master's programs. That said, some work experience can strengthen your application, especially if you've worked in the psychology or criminal justice fields.

    Essays

    Graduate schools typically require students to write application essays. These can come in the form of personal statements or career goal essays. Sometimes universities ask candidates to answer more specific prompts as well. Essays offer insight into applicants' writing abilities, but also their ultimate goals and reasons for applying to graduate school.

    Official Transcripts

    Master's programs require candidates to submit their undergraduate transcripts so they can evaluate students' previous academic performance. Some universities may also accept transfer credits from other master's programs. In these instances, you should submit your transcripts from your previous graduate coursework.

    Popular Online Master's in Forensic Psychology Programs

    Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

    Career Outlook With an Online Master's in Forensic Psychology Degree

    Many people go into this field with the intention of working as a licensed forensic psychologist. Forensic psychologists need doctoral degrees in order to practice. A master's degree can help them on their journey to earn this terminal degree.

    With that said, a master's in forensic psychology can also prepare graduates to start careers without taking their education further. For example, they may use their knowledge to work as jury consultants, mental health counselors within the criminal justice system, or police detectives.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of correctional treatment specialists could grow by 4% from 2020 to 2030. BLS data also indicates that the substance misuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling field could grow by 23% during the same period, which is much faster than average.

    See where a master's in forensic psychology degree can take you.

    Forensic Psychology Career PathsCareer Paths

    Substance Misuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

    These professionals work with individuals managing addiction and other mental health conditions. Forensic psychology graduates can use their knowledge of social psychology and substance misuse to evaluate and treat people. Although positions within this field require a bachelor's degree, others may require master's degrees; plus, counselors can leverage their graduate education for higher-level positions or salaries.

    Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $48,520

    Jury Consultants

    Jury consultants leverage their psychological profiling skills to evaluate jurors. They help attorneys by offering insight into the jury, which allow attorneys to develop strategies when addressing a criminal court. They may conduct pretrial research on jurors' backgrounds. They may also assess witness testimony and advise witnesses on the best way to provide evidence to the jury.

    Median Annual Salary (December 2021): $101,094

    Police Detective

    Detectives differ from other police officers as they gather evidence for criminal cases. This process includes examining records, inspecting crime scenes, and conducting interviews. They may investigate crimes like assaults or homicides. Some detectives use their expertise to work as special agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Forensic psychology graduates can use their degrees to psychologically evaluate suspects or others involved in the crime.

    Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $83,640

    Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

    These professionals offer social services to individuals who broke the law in some way. More specifically, they help these individuals with their rehabilitation plans as they embark on parole or probation. Correctional treatment specialists in particular often use psychological evaluation techniques to strategize about the best rehabilitation plans for probationers and parolees.

    Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $60,250

    Forensic Psychologists

    Forensic psychologists conduct psychological evaluations of individuals involved in trials. They may also develop psychological profiles of defendants or offer mental health services in the criminal justice setting. Forensic psychologists need doctoral degrees; however, a master's in forensic psychology serves as a necessary step in the educational pathway to this career.

    Median Annual Salary: $72,290

    Continuing Education

    Although many forensic psychology master's graduates join the workforce, some go on to pursue doctoral degrees. A Ph.D. or Psy.D. can enable individuals to home in on a specialty within their academic area of interest. It usually involves an ambitious research project that can take a few years to complete.

    Many forensic psychologists with a Ph.D. or Psy.D. leverage their terminal degrees to become licensed forensic psychologists. However, forensic psychology doctoral programs can also prepare Ph.D. candidates to work as professors or faculty members in their field. These professionals carry out ongoing research and teach at universities.

    Forensic Psychology Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

    Image Source: D-Keine, Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare Your School Options

View the most relevant schools for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to finding your college home.