An online forensic psychology degree teaches students the social, psychological, and economic factors that lead criminals to break the law. Degree candidates study ethical considerations in law enforcement, abnormal psychology, criminology, and research methods. Specializations such as forensic science allow students to work as experts in niche areas of law enforcement.
The degree also offers career flexibility, with graduates enjoying several job options across the criminal justice system, including in social work, law enforcement, insurance, and legal representation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects significant job growth in many of these sectors. For example, the BLS expects 16% growth in the need for social workers between 2016 and 2026, twice the national average. Paralegals and legal assistants may experience similar growth in that same period.
Graduates also attend police academies to become officers and detectives. Online forensic psychology bachelor's degrees also allow learners to work as probation officers, who ensure that released criminals follow the terms of their probation.
Online Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the programs based on the quality of the program, the types of courses offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.
The Best Online Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology Programs
1. Arizona State University–ASU Online
With the sixth-largest undergraduate enrollment in the country, Arizona State University has recently expanded its distance learning offerings. Program coursework utilizes asynchronous learning, and each online course lasts seven and a half weeks. The school's bachelor of science degree in psychology includes a concentration in forensic psychology. The 120-credit curriculum in the online forensic psychology degree consists of 39 courses, including forensic-specific coursework in sex crimes, abnormal psychology, correctional psychology, and forensic mental health. The curriculum does not include a capstone, but students can intern to receive major credit.
ASU's transfer-friendly forensic psychology degree online enables students to complete 30 of their 120 undergraduate credits prior to transfer. Students must complete 24 credits of college coursework with a minimum GPA of 2.5 to transfer coursework. Freshman applicants must meet one of four requirements: top 25% placement in their high school class, a minimum high school GPA of 3.0, an ACT score of 24 (22 for AZ residents), or an SAT non-writing cumulative score of 1110 (1040 for AZ residents). In addition, online students who live outside of Arizona can pay in-state tuition rates.
Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
2. Eastern Kentucky University
A regional university based in Richmond, Eastern Kentucky University harbors some of the best online programs in the country, including a bachelor of science degree in psychology with a concentration in forensic psychology. The program's 120-credit curriculum has no in-person requirements, and all students pay the same tuition rate. In addition to 34 credits of standard psychology coursework, the curriculum includes a 12-credit concentration in forensic psychology that consists of four courses: forensic psychology, social psychology, psychology of personality, and adolescent and adult development. The curriculum does not include any capstone requirements.
Although students must complete at least 30 credits via EKU courses, transfer students may apply up to 90 credits toward their forensic psychology online degree. Transfer applicants must complete at least 24 college credits with a GPA of at least 2.0, and freshman applicants must earn a 2.5 high school GPA, a 20 on the ACT, or a combined score of 950 on the SAT math and verbal sections. The program generally delivers coursework asynchronously, and EKU offers an individualized and subject-specific Psychology Academic Support Services (PASS) virtual tutoring program through Blackboard.
Eastern Kentucky University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Colleges (SASC).
3. Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire
A regional university with experience in the distance education field, Southern New Hampshire University offers one of the best online forensic psychology degree programs in the nation. SNHU's bachelor of arts degree in psychology--which includes a concentration in forensic psychology--requires students to complete a total of 120 credits in classes like forensic psychology, criminal psychology, and research. Students must complete a senior capstone experience in psychology. Most students earn their online bachelor's in forensic psychology at SNHU within four years in curriculum that excludes in-person requirements.
SNHU's forensic psychology online program delivers coursework asynchronously, allowing busy students to access course material at any time. In addition, the school allows all online students to pay the same tuition rate as New Hampshire residents. SNHU automatically retrieves transcripts and conducts a credit review for students who fill out an online application. As such, there are no official undergraduate admissions requirements except for completing an application. Transfer students may apply up to 90 credits toward their SNHU forensic psychology degree.
Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE).
4. Northwest Christian University
Affiliated with the Disciples of Christ, Northwest Christian University focuses on the liberal arts and providing a Christian education to its students. NCU offers several excellent distance learning programs, including a bachelor of science in psychology program with a concentration in forensic psychology. Students choose between asynchronous online course delivery or a blended learning option that requires once-a-week campus visits. Students generally complete the degree within four years.
Lasting eight weeks each, courses in the program include studies in theories of personality, psychometrics, psychology of trauma, and forensic psychology. Students complete a senior capstone seminar at the end of their studies. Upon graduating, students work in victim advocacy, the court system, or any number of law enforcement positions. Students with work experience in law enforcement or the military often receive credits for that experience.
While NCU does not list minimum GPA requirements, applicants must submit standardized test scores. Transfer students participate in case-by-case credit evaluations. All students must complete at least 30 credits of coursework via NCU, which allows transfer students to apply up to 90 credits toward standard 120-credit degree programs at NCU.
NCU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
5. Union Institute and University
As a product of a 1960 educational cooperative to improve higher education, Union Institute and University is a modern leader in distance education. Union's bachelor of arts degree in psychology -- which includes a concentration in forensic psychology -- counts itself among the nation's best forensic psychology programs online.
The program requires students to complete a total of 120 credits, with at least 48 of those deriving from major courses in the psychology department. Coursework in the forensic psychology concentration includes studies in social psychology, counseling, and criminal behavior. For the capstone project, students create a portfolio and write a “process paper” about that portfolio and learning goals. The program delivers coursework asynchronously via the CampusWeb platform.
The school allows transfer students to apply up to 90 previously earned credits toward their degree. As such, while most Union students earn their forensic psychology degree in four years, transfer students can complete the program in as little as one year. Union also allows students pay the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of their place of residence.
Union is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
6. Florida Institute of Technology
Though Florida Institute of Technology's focuses primarily on STEM, the school also offers excellent social science and liberal arts programs online. FIT's 121-credit bachelor of arts degree in applied psychology with a concentration in forensic psychology deserves a place among the nation's best forensic psychology schools online. The online program does not require its students to set foot on FIT's Melbourne, Florida campus and includes studies in forensic clinical psychology, law and psychology, and integrated theories of crime. Each course lasts eight weeks, and the curriculum excludes a capstone requirement. Most students complete the 41-course curriculum in four years.
All of FIT's online programs utilize asynchronous learning, allowing students maximum flexibility. FIT's online programs do not list minimum GPA or standardized test admissions requirements. In-state and out-of-state online students pay the same per-credit tuition rate, and the school automatically reviews transfer credits and transcripts on a case-by-case basis for students who submit online applications. Upon graduating from the forensic psychology program, students can opt for additional graduate study in a relevant field (i.e. psychology, sociology) or they can begin careers as criminologists or case managers.
Florida Institute of Technology is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
7. National Louis University
A small, private university operating campuses in and around Chicago, National Louis University boasts a storied history in educational innovation. The school helped found Kindergarten classes throughout the U.S. and played a role in founding the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). The school also participates in innovation in higher education, offering numerous distance learning programs including the university's bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice with a major in forensic social justice.
Most forensic psychology online degrees provide a general psychological background with a concentration in forensic psychology. However, NLU's program provides students with a general criminal justice background -- including coursework in law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and criminal investigations -- before delving into the forensic social justice/psychological element of the program. With these prerequisites in place, students adapt better to the curriculum in classes like crisis intervention, abnormal psychology, and theories of personality. NLU runs on the quarter system, and students must earn 180 quarter hours to graduate. The degree takes about four years. The curriculum excludes a capstone experience, and students may complete an optional concentration in entrepreneurship.
Applicants to the program need only complete the online application, send a transcript, and declare a major in either forensic social justice or criminal justice administration. All students in NLU's online programs pay the same tuition rate no matter where they live.
NLU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
8. New England College
Henniker, New Hampshire
A small, private college based in Henniker, New Hampshire, New England College originally served military members returning from World War II. Today, NEC serves a larger population via its distance learning programs. Its 120-credit bachelor of arts in psychology program, which includes a concentration in forensic psychology, focuses on victimology, criminal investigations, and forensic psychology. Courses last seven weeks, and students enrolled in the program never need to set foot in New England to earn their online forensic psychology degree. The program excludes a capstone experience, and instructors deliver coursework asynchronously using tools like chat rooms, podcasts, and recorded lectures.
The school lists no minimum GPA or standardized test requirements for admission and automatically collects previous transcripts for applicants. NEC allows students to transfer up to 90 credits toward their online bachelor's degree and generally accepts transfer credits in which students earned a grade of “C-” or better. The school does occasionally make exceptions for associate degrees. All online students at NEC pay the same per-credit tuition rate whether or not they live in New Hampshire. Upon graduating from the forensic psychology program, students often find work as crime scene investigators, detectives, and substance abuse counselors.
NEC is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE).
9. Faulkner University
Originally named Montgomery Bible School, Faulkner University still maintains an affiliation with the Churches of Christ. In addition to providing a Christ-centered education, the school offers online education, including a strong bachelor of science in forensic psychology program. This 121-credit online forensic psychology degree includes 50 core curriculum credits and 71 major credits. Unlike some comparable forensic psychology programs, coursework in the core curriculum incorporates a six-course Christian literacy requirement, including studies in understanding the Bible and marriage and family.
Major courses include studies in conflict management, criminology, and criminal behavior analysis. Students must also complete an internship, a capstone research project, and four one-credit seminars in psychological topics. The curriculum does not include any in-person requirements.
For entrance, applicants to the program must submit proof of high school graduation or a GED and score an 18 on the ACT or a 1290 on the SAT. Online students pay the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of their place of residency.
Faulkner University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SASC).
The Advantages of a Forensic Psychology Education
PayScale reports that professionals with associate degrees in psychology earn $48,000 per year on average. Meanwhile, graduates from forensic psychology online bachelor's degree programs earn an average of $53,000 annually. Bachelor's degrees also allow learners to continue to graduate programs in psychology or social work. Jurisdictions require candidates to hold master's and doctoral degrees for many higher-paying jobs, including clinical social workers and therapists. Candidates with master's degrees in psychology earn about $60,000 per year.
A candidate's level of education can determine what roles they fill. Professionals with associate degrees work as administrative assistants, customer service managers, and benefits managers. Meanwhile, professionals with bachelor's diplomas find employment in the social work and law enforcement sectors, including the positions highlighted below.
Forensic Psychology Degree Salary Information
Graduates who earn a forensic psychology degree online have a variety of career opportunities available to them. They work primarily with offenders during the rehabilitation process, but they also work at crime scenes aiding in investigations and analysis.
- Case Manager: These social work professionals help people find the resources they need, such as housing, counseling, and food assistance. Case managers with online forensic psychology degrees work with ex-convicts as they re-adjust to life outside of prison.
- Paralegal: These legal professionals work alongside lawyers in office settings. Paralegals conduct research, write legal filing papers, and prepare briefs for attorneys.
- Police Officer: These professionals enforce existing laws and investigate crimes. Candidates must graduate from police academies before they work as officers. Forensic psychology degree programs online can help applicants stand out in police academy tryouts.
- Claims Manager: Insurance companies hire claims managers to oversee customer cases. They must determine if foul play or insurance fraud plays a role in each case. Earning a forensic psychology bachelor's degrees online gives applicants the investigative and interpersonal skills they need.
- Probation Officer: These law enforcement officers work with convicts once they earn probation, or monitored release. They ensure that the convict follows the rules that judges set, stay out of legal trouble, and remain drug-free.
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Choosing an Online Forensic Psychology Degree Program
Each forensic psychology degree online has unique benefits and drawbacks. Learners should thoroughly investigate many schools before choosing their program. Each factor plays a different role in each student's decisions. For example, one learner may consider cost the most important factor, while another prioritizes program length. Learners can avoid wasting their time, money, and effort when they take their time thoroughly investigating each potential school before they apply.
- Program Cost: Prospective students should know how much schools charge per credit and how many credits they need to graduate, then multiply these figures to discover their estimated tuition costs. Learners should also consider potential scholarships, book prices, and school-mandated fees when researching the total cost of programs.
- Transfer policies: Learners should be sure that their chosen university accepts as many of their previous credits as possible. Some community colleges maintain transfer agreements with universities that allow students to transfer all of their hours. If credits come from unaccredited or nationally accredited schools, learners may find it difficult to transfer.
- School Size and Type: Public schools typically offer lower tuition rates than their private counterparts. However, private institutions sometimes provide religious affiliations that some learners prefer. Some degree candidates thrive in small class sizes while others prefer large classes. Finally, learners should consider whether they prefer synchronous or asynchronous online courses.
- Program Length: Prospective learners should first decide how many courses they can fit into their lives at a given time. Once they choose, they can choose programs based on how long they take to complete at that pace. Some accelerated programs allow degree candidates to take one course at a time on eight-week schedules and graduate quickly.
- On-campus Requirements: While many online forensic psychology degrees never require learners to come to campuses, some do carry in-person requirements. For example, certain programs end in internships, which candidates must complete in offices. Hybrid programs require students to attend in-person lectures up to once per week, sometimes on weekends or evenings.
Accreditation for Online Forensic Psychology Degrees
Accreditation is a key factor when choosing a school. Institutional accreditation applies to the entire school. The U.S. Department of Education grants the Council for Higher Education Accreditation the authority to deputize regional and national accreditation agencies. Those organizations then investigate schools within their jurisdiction to see if the institutions follow proper education policies. Those who meet the strict standards earn accreditation. Regional accreditation remains the gold standard. Some schools and credentialing organizations only accept credits from regionally accredited universities.
Schools with institutional accreditation pursue programmatic accreditation for specific degrees. Organizations that specialize in specific areas of study investigate the programs to ensure students learn through up-to-date theories and best practices. Programmatic accrediting institutions for undergraduate forensic psychology programs include the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission. While the American Psychological Association (APA) only accredits doctoral programs. However, the APA does recommend some bachelor's programs through its Office of Precollege and Undergraduate Education. Schools with forensic psychology degrees in medical or social work colleges may find programmatic accreditation through relevant organizations.
Forensic Psychology Concentrations
Students choose electives that tailor their degree to their interests. Elective options include social psychology, psychology of personality, cognitive psychology, counseling process and techniques, sociology of crime and violence, gender, social problems, the family, deviant behavior, or aging. Upon completion of the program graduates collect, organize, and analyze evidence using their psychological knowledge, evaluate the necessary and appropriate research methods, and describe their conclusions with research designs and statistical analyses.
This concentration helps learners understand how to use their knowledge of psychology to find and prosecute criminals. Courses cover criminal justice procedures, ethical considerations, and the roles of different actors within the justice system. Students who wish to work in law enforcement pursue this concentration.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Police officer, probation officer, detective
Graduates who work as probation officers, expert witnesses, parole officers, bounty hunters, or therapists may open their own businesses. The entrepreneurship concentration teaches students to efficiently operate such businesses. Classes cover business accounting, hiring practices, and management techniques. These skills also help graduates work up to management positions in large organizations.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Small business owner, manager
Crime Scene Investigation:
This specialization gives graduates the skills to properly collect and analyze evidence at crime scenes. Professionals combine their knowledge of forensic psychology and the physical evidence they collect to help solve the case. These professionals often work for law enforcement agencies including city, state, and federal police forces.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Crime scene investigator, police officer, detective
This concentration encompasses the study of criminal behavior. Learners discover what drives people to commit crimes, what they do after the crime, and how to interrogate suspects. Classes may cover such crimes as theft, domestic violence, and murder. Degree candidates also discover how white-collar criminals operate.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Social worker, probation officer, parole officer, police officer
The forensic science specialization teaches learners to collect physical evidence from crime scenes. Students then learn to perform laboratory tests on the evidence, which helps law enforcement officers find criminals. Some students further specialize in forensic sciences such as fingerprinting, blood splatter, or DNA evidence.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Forensic scientist, crime scene investigator
How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Forensic Psychology?
Traditionally full-time learners take about four years to earn bachelor's degrees. However, several important factors influence how long students take to earn online forensic psychology degrees, including the number of hours they transfer, whether candidates take full-time courses, and how many terms the schools offer per year. The traditional four-year schedule applies to students who complete two semesters per year. Learners who enroll in summer or winter semesters can reduce that time. Degree candidates with associate degrees take about two years to complete bachelor's programs on the traditional schedule. Some schools offer several eight-week terms per year. This setup allows part-time learners to complete their degrees in four years or fewer. Students who take full-time course loads on accelerated schedules earn bachelor's degrees in about two years.
Courses in an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology Program
The best online forensic psychology degree programs teach students to combine law and criminal investigation in order to solve crimes and understand the motives of criminals. Graduates who pursue a master's in forensic psychology serve as expert advisers and witnesses. Common courses in these programs include anatomy and physiology, psychology, statistics for psychology, scientific investigations, and criminal psychology. Programs equip graduates with the knowledge and skills to pursue careers as forensic psychologists, criminal profilers, counselors, and correctional treatment specialists, among others.
These courses explore how the presence of others affect a person's psychology. Students learn the many ways in which social pressures change the ways that people behave, both in terms of criminal behavior and daily life. This understanding builds the foundation for forensic psychology, and helps graduates in social work and law enforcement careers.
Degree candidates learn how psychological disorders occur, their symptoms, and diagnostic criteria. Students explore the social, physical, and environmental factors that cause people to display abnormal behaviors, including committing crimes. This knowledge helps law enforcement professionals understand, find, and rehabilitate criminals.
These classes give students broad overviews of the criminal justice system in the United States. Learners cover justice processes, the roles in bringing criminals to justice, and how things can go wrong. They also explore criminal justice theories, and current topics in law enforcement.
The criminal justice system treats minors differently than adults for many reasons. Students in these courses learn about the goals of the juvenile justice system, social factors that influence young people to commit crimes, and the ways adults help these children get back on track.
Law enforcement officers conduct investigations to discover who has committed crimes. These courses teach students to manage such inquiries from the moment the crimes become apparent to the sentencing of the convicted perpetrators. Police officers and detectives rely on these skills.
Forensic Psychology Membership Associations
Professional organizations offer people who work in the same field chances to connect with one another, create strong networks, and learn from their peers. Members also enjoy benefits such as certification opportunities and continuing education, which appeal to employers. Many professional associations also offer job boards, annual conferences, and legislative advocacy for their members.
- American Academy of Forensic Psychology: The AAFP welcomes members who earn doctoral degrees in forensic psychology and the relevant credentials in their states. Forensic psychologists who join enjoy access to continuing education opportunities, awards, and research grants. Members can sign up for the mentorship program as they work toward board certification.
- International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology: The IACFP welcomes students and professionals alike. Members gain access to the global organization's journal subscription, back catalogs of relevant research, discounts to the association's annual conference, and an online group in which members network.
- National Association of Legal Assistants: Graduates who find work as paralegals or legal assistants join this organization. Members earn access to certification opportunities, continuing education, NALA's career center, and industry publications. NALA also advocates in legislative bodies on behalf of its members.
- American Academy of Forensic Sciences: Forensic scientists and crime scene investigators join AAFS and receive benefits such as access to the organization's conferences, subscriptions to professional journals, and employment listings. The AAFS welcomes qualifying students to participate and apply for scholarships.
- National Association of Social Workers: Graduates who find employment as case managers or social workers join this organization. Members access continuing education, purchase liability protection, consult with ethics professionals as needed, and subscribe to social work journals. The NASW advocates for advantageous policies in state and national legislatures.