Online master’s in forensic psychology programs teach students about the intersection between criminal justice and mental health. Learners study the foundations of modern psychology, including psychopathology, social psychology, personality disorders, and behavioral issues. They also learn to apply psychological concepts to legal and criminal justice environments.
Students explore the role of psychology in jury selection, crisis intervention, and eyewitness testimony. Graduates can find work as litigation consultants and expert witnesses who help lawyers build psychology-grounded arguments. They can also apply their skills to jobs as counselors and correctional treatment specialists, advising convicts and helping them successfully reenter society.
A master’s in forensic psychology can lead to many careers in a rapidly growing field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opportunities for community and social service workers are projected to increase by 14% from 2016 to 2026, adding around 372,000 new positions. The BLS also projects that employment of psychologists will also grow by 14% over the same period, leading to 23,000 additional jobs. The demand for psychologists and other mental health professionals continues to increase as people seek more professional help for depression, anxiety, and other psychological issues.
Online Master’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 Master’s in Forensic Psychology Programs
1. University of California – Irvine
Founded in 1965, the University of California, Irvine offers an online master’s degree in legal and forensic psychology in collaboration with its Department of Criminology, Law, and Society. The program boasts an interdisciplinary approach that combines fields of study such as psychology, forensics, and the law; contains 52 credits within a quarter system; and extends over 12 online courses. In addition to mandatory courses, the program’s elective classes include race and law, clinical interviewing and treatment, violence and psychopathology, and eyewitness testimony.
UCI offers its MLFP program entirely online. However, the school requires students to complete an accelerated course over five days prior to the beginning of the program at the Irvine, California campus. In place of a thesis, students complete a capstone course during the winter quarter of their second year of study. This includes a term paper on a chosen topic related to legal and forensic psychology. Graduates often pursue career opportunities in various public and private sector positions including academic settings, government agencies, and research and policy institutes.
University of California- Irvine is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
2. Oklahoma State University
Founded in Stillwater, Oklahoma on Christmas day in 1890, Oklahoma State University is a land grant college initially developed under the Morrill Act. U.S. News & World Report ranks the university among the organization’s top 100 public schools nationally, and over 24,000 students currently attend the school’s main campus in Stillwater.
OSU’s master of science in forensic sciences offers a specialization in forensic psychology and offers unique opportunities for those looking for careers in investigative agencies, crime laboratories, and various teaching positions. The forensic psychology online master’s program requires 39 graduate credit hours and students must maintain a 3.0 or better grade point average. Full-time students enroll in nine credit hours per semester and will graduate within two to three years. Learners dedicate six credits to a master’s thesis and students publish, present, and defend their findings. The school delivers program courses in a synchronous format and topics include ethics in forensic leadership, forensic victimology, and advanced forensic psychology. Exploration into gender differences in the criminal justice system as well as researching correlations between types of victims allows student to fully engage forensic science in an online classroom setting.
Oklahoma State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
3. Liberty University Online
Liberty University is a private Christian institution located in Lynchburg, Virginia. One of the largest colleges in Virginia and founded in 1971, the school currently admits over 100,000 students regionally and internationally. Liberty offers more than 60 accredited degree granting programs.
LU is one of the oldest online colleges in the United States and has provided accessible courses since 1985. The school presents students with virtual classroom environments that offer flexible schedules and an eight week format and accepts a large amount of program hour transfers from varying accredited institutions.
LU conducts its master of science in criminal justice – forensic psychology program completely online and provides college credit for learners with military backgrounds. Students can expect to enroll in courses such as fundamentals of forensic psychology, crisis intervention in law enforcement, and criminal justice program evaluation. LU’s master’s in forensic psychology online requires 18 hours of core courses, 12 hours of forensic psychology cognate, and six hours dedicated to a thesis or elective courses. The program trains current and potential criminal justice professionals in the application and administration of various psychological techniques. Potential career options include criminal justice education, forensic science technician, and intelligence analyst for students studying in this field.
Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
4. Arizona State University – ASU Online
A public research university located in Tempe, Arizona and established in 1885, Arizona State University boasts one of the largest student populations in the nation with over 80,000 students enrolled. The school embraces a new American university concept of inclusion and assuming responsibility for the health of the community it serves. A 2018 U.S. News & World Report recently ranked ASU as the nation’s most innovative schools for the third year in a row.
ASU has offered online courses since the early 2000s and the school administers an enrollment of over 27,000 students. The school’s online master’s degree in forensic psychology offers professionals an understanding of mental health issues and behavior and how they relate to crime and the legal system. The program consists of 33 credit hours, which divide into 21 for core requirements and 12 hours for electives and research. Classes include seminars in criminal justice, advanced legal psychology, psychopathology, and quantitative research methodology and statistics. Graduates commonly pursue occupations in policy analysis, mental health administration, and law enforcement.
The school estimates expected tuition costs at around $11,000 per semester. Applicants must hold a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be considered for admission.
Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
5. University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
The state’s oldest university, the University of North Dakota is located in Grand Forks, right where North Dakota and Minnesota meet. The Dakota Territorial Assembly founded this public research university in 1883, six years before North Dakota received statehood. Today the university offers students affordable tuition at a rate significantly lower than the current national average. The school charges for online courses at the North Dakota resident tuition rate regardless of where students live or how many credits learners have signed up for. UND was also named one of the 25 most innovative schools by a U.S. News & World Report.
The university offers an online master of arts in forensic psychology program with semester based courses and a one week on-campus capstone experience. UND’s online master’s degree in forensic psychology consists of 35 credits and generally takes learners around two years to complete. Courses emphasize relations between psychological evaluations and the criminal justice and social services systems. Areas of research include jury behavior, eyewitness memory, sexual assault prevention, and child custody evaluations. The school also makes opportunities for supervised fieldwork and independent study under faculty supervision available. UND’s student services include online tutoring, tech support, one on one interactions with instructors, and advising services.
University of North Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
6. Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Located in Davie, Florida, Nova Southeastern University is a private nonprofit university established in 1964. The school utilizes a trimester-based academic calendar and offers over 150 degree programs that learners can complete entirely online.
NSU’s master of science in forensic psychology is a 36-credit online program that focuses on the intersection of psychology and legal issues. The program requires learners to complete 24 core credits coupled with a nine credit specialization track and a three credit capstone course. Examples of core classes include ethical concerns and multicultural issues in forensic psychology; psychopathology, personality disorders, and behavioral interventions in forensic settings; and evaluation, methodology, and psychological research. The program’s conducts courses in a synchronous format and varies its degree plans based on a student’s enrollment date and pace of study. This forensic psychology online master’s program offers students the professional training necessary for occupations including criminal justice, law enforcement, social service agencies, and national security officers. Webinars are conducted and recorded by the programs faculty to provide an overview of the program. The school offers tuition at $730 per credit hour and requires payment immediately upon registration.
Nova Southeastern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
7. University of Louisiana at Monroe
The University of Louisiana at Monroe is a public university established in 1931 as the Ouachita Parish Junior College. Located in Monroe, Louisiana, ULM offers its student body over 30 programs entirely online, including its master’s in forensic psychology online.
The school offers its master of science in psychology program online, and learners must complete 36 credit hours through the program’s general track to graduate. Students must hold a minimum GPA of 2.75 for admission along with a total score of at least 800 on graduate records examinations general tests. Learners focus both on psychometric and forensic aspects in the classroom and enroll in courses focused on topics such as theories of learning, counseling in criminal justice, basic psychotherapy, and advanced theories of crime and delinquency. The school does not require learners to complete a thesis to graduate (but ULM recommends that learners who may pursue a doctorate complete one).
The University of Louisiana at Monroe is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
8. University of Houston – Victoria
Located Texas, the University of Houston-Victoria is one of the most affordable colleges in Texas, the school enrolls over 18,000 students in its online programs, and UHV’s online master’s degree in forensic psychology is just one example of its many concentrations. The school designs its online forensic psychology curriculum to mirror what students receive on campus.
UHV’s master of arts in forensic psychology program provides learners with a degree plan and a synchronous schedule. The program’s curriculum exceeds the necessary academic requirements listed for the Texas Licensed Psychological Associate (LPA) credential. Learners receive the degree after successfully completing 63 credit hours and nine hours of psychology practicum field experience. The program trains mental health professionals to work in public and private sectors of society. Students take courses including techniques of psychotherapy, personality assessment, and crisis counseling. All students complete a forensic psychology comprehensive exam and obtain a minimum of a 70% score to pass. Students must also maintain a 3.0 grade average to meet the academic standards.
The University of Houston is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
9. Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire
Located in Hooksett, New Hampshire, Southern New Hampshire University is a nonprofit university that administers over 200 online programs. Since 1995, SNHU’s online courses have provided students with constant access to class materials and the use of online forums for discussion. Founded in 1932, the university continues to grow: the university currently boasts an enrollment of around 85,000 students.
SNHU’s online master’s specialization in forensic science program teaches professionals how to apply psychology research to real world situations. Instructors offer first-hand experience in the practice and application of leading methods in forensic psychology. Students earn their graduate degrees in 15 months by taking two courses per 10-week term. Course topics include theories of personality, assessment for forensic psychology, psychology in the courtroom, and intersections of law and psychology. Upon the completion of the forensic psychology online master’s program, graduates pursue work in fields including correctional facilities; family, civil or criminal courts; and federal agencies.
SNHU admission requires students to hold a bachelor of arts or science in psychology and learners must pay a $40 graduate application fee.
Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE).
What is a Master’s in Forensic Psychology Degree?
The field of forensic psychology covers the connection between mental health, human behavior, and the criminal justice system. Earning a master’s in forensic psychology online serves as a good option for professionals interested in the biological nature of crime. With this degree, students can pursue careers in the mental health field as well as many positions with the court system, victim services, juvenile facilities, childcare agencies, and corrections departments.
Coursework provides students with a deep understanding of psychological development, psychotherapeutic techniques, and personality assessment. Core classes in forensic psychology online master’s programs include maladaptive behavior, psychology of the victim, social psychology and aggression, crisis intervention, and ethical issues in forensic psychology. Popular concentrations include criminalistics, investigation, assessment and treatment, homeland security, and law enforcement.
Students typically take coursework in research methods to gain an understanding of data analysis and research design. To graduate, participants may need to complete a final written exam, research project, and/or thesis. Some programs also require a minimum number of internship hours in a psychological setting under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional.
Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Programs
Students looking to attend forensic psychology masters programs online can choose from two main learning formats. Some schools administer online programs in a synchronous format, while others deliver courses asynchronously. Synchronous programs require students to log on at specific times throughout the week for live lectures, discussions, and/or presentations. Synchronous programs often feature an instructor-paced curriculum, which means that students must progress through coursework and assignments at the same rate as their classmates.
Asynchronous programs, on the other hand, do not require any specific meeting times. Instead, students complete assignments and watch lectures on their own time. Asynchronous courses often incorporate discussion boards, where students can leave comments and chat with classmates. Students working toward their degree asynchronously still need to meet regular deadlines for homework assignments and readings.
Regardless of the learning format, online programs in forensic psychology feature the same course materials as their on-campus counterparts. Additionally, online students still need to take exams; participants may take timed exams online or they may need to report to a nearby testing center. Students who are self-motivated and possess great time-management skills often find success in online programs.
Related Master’s Degree Programs
Students interested in forensic psychology can also consider several related programs. Other master’s tracks include similar coursework to a master’s in forensic psychology, and prospective students should thoroughly research all their options before deciding. For instance, students might prefer to pursue a master’s in psychology or a master’s in organizational psychology.
The Advantages of a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
Earning a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology can lead to entry-level roles in the field. For example, bachelor’s degree holders can find jobs related to social and community services and correctional counseling and treatment. However, earning a master’s degree can greatly expand your job options.
A master’s in psychology opens the door to specialized and advanced roles, and most state certification boards require licensed mental health counselors to earn a master’s degree. A graduate degree also expands your overall knowledge of forensic psychology, leading to more respect in the field. With your advanced skill set, organizations may be more willing to hire you as a consultant or expert witness. Additionally, a master’s degree can serve as a steppingstone toward a Ph.D.—a required credential for clinical psychologists. The next section covers common career options and salaries for master’s in forensic psychology graduates.
What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology?
Graduates who earn a forensic psychology degree online can pursue a variety of career opportunities. These professionals primarily help individuals during the rehabilitation process, but they may also work at crime scenes aiding in investigations and analysis.
Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, mental, and emotional issues find employment and live independently. They arrange for social services; provide counseling; and consult with doctors, therapists, and psychologists.
Mental Health Counselor:
These counseling professionals treat individuals, families, couples, and groups suffering from a variety of mental conditions, including depression and anxiety. They may work with a specific group, such as the elderly, veterans, or the prison population.
Substance Abuse Counselor:
Substance abuse counselors—sometimes called addiction counselors — help people recover from addiction. In collaboration with clinicians, they work to improve the mental health of their patients, helping them rebuild personal relationships and reenter the workforce.
These licensed psychologists apply their skills in courts, prisons, mental health facilities, and law offices. Forensic psychologists usually need a doctorate, so a master’s degree typically serves as a step on the journey toward this career.
Correctional Treatment Specialist:
Correctional treatment specialists advise probationers and parolees. They assess inmates through psychological exams, suggest treatment, and develop rehabilitation plans. Correctional treatment specialists may need a master’s degree to advance in the field.
Salary by Experience for Forensic Psychology Careers
|Job Title||5–5 Years||1–10 Years||10–20 Years||20+ Years|
|Mental Health Counselor||$39,000||$43,000||$47,000||$49,000|
|Substance Abuse Counselor||$36,000||$40,000||$42,000||$46,000|
Choosing an Online Forensic Psychology Graduate Degree Program
As you begin your search for the right forensic psychology program, take your time to thoroughly research each school. If you dedicate enough time to your search, you will likely find an online institution that perfectly fits your needs and interests. Consider the fact that each program offers different classes, specializations, capstone projects, and in-person requirements. Tuition rates also vary between schools—public, in-state programs tend to be the most affordable option.
Below, you can explore some of the top factors to consider when choosing between online forensic psychology master’s programs.
Programs vary significantly in terms of cost, and it is crucial to pick a school you can afford. Look up each school’s tuition to find out which institutions fall within your budget. Fortunately, many schools offer scholarships to incoming students, which can considerably reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
Prospective students should consider that each school uses its own requirements and policies regarding transfer students. Some universities allow students to transfer in a majority of their credits, while others impose stricter rules. If there’s a good chance you might switch schools, look out for universities that maintain transfer agreements with other institutions.
School Size and Type:
Universities also differ in terms of size and type. Do you prefer a large, public institution or a smaller university? Larger schools may provide more extensive resources, while less populous institutions often boast smaller class sizes.
Forensic psychology students looking to earn their degrees quickly can look for accelerated, full-time programs. Alternatively, learners interested in earning a degree while working full time might consider a program with a part-time option. Some programs let students study at their own pace, while others enforce a stricter class schedule.
Many programs incorporate in-person components, such as mandatory lectures or group projects. While on-campus requirements may come with benefits, they may prove challenging for students who live far away. You can find nearby institutions by browsing this list of the top 50 online colleges and universities.
- Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements: Online master’s degree programs in forensic psychology typically include a capstone component. Research-focused programs may incorporate an extensive thesis project, while other programs might require students to complete several hours of supervised experience in the field. When choosing a program, think about what type of capstone requirement you prefer.
Accreditation for Online Forensic Psychology Master’s Degrees
As you search for online forensic psychology master’s programs, be sure to only consider degree tracks offered by accredited institutions. Accredited schools offer the best programs, and attending an accredited university makes it easier to find a job, transfer between schools, and/or apply to a doctoral program. Employers and graduate schools usually only recognize accredited on-campus or online master’s degrees in forensic psychology. In addition, state licensing boards typically require licensed counselors to have graduated from an accredited university.
Schools can hold regional or national accreditation at the institutional level. Regional accrediting bodies typically deal with traditional universities, while national accrediting organizations evaluate vocational and technical schools. Both types of accreditation may be acceptable, but regional accreditation generally functions as the more prestigious, preferred designation. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversee accreditation agencies, ensuring that they maintain reasonable standards. You can find a list of all accredited institutions on either organization’s website.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Degree Program?
While students can finish most programs in two years, several factors may affect the time it takes to earn a master’s in forensic psychology online. For example, program characteristics and a student’s own learning preferences can alter the length of a program.
Forensic psychology master’s curricula generally incorporate 33–36 credits from 10–12 courses, and the total time it takes to earn a degree depends on the number of credits a student takes each term. Learners with a full-time job or other responsibilities may enroll part time and finish their degree in more than two years. Alternatively, some learners double up on credits to complete the program at an accelerated pace. Some master’s programs also use a cohort format, requiring students to move through classes at the same rate with a group of their peers.
Forensic Psychology Concentrations
Many schools offer forensic psychology as a concentration within a master’s in psychology program. In addition, some forensic psychology programs feature specialization areas that let students focus on topics they care about the most. Learners looking to pursue a particular career after graduation might consider opting for a concentration.
Police psychology—a field closely related to forensic psychology — deals with psychological applications as they apply to law enforcement. Police psychology programs teach students about police organizations and common psychological issues among police personnel. Students learn about topics like operational policing, tactical and field psychology, and police administration.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Forensic psychologist, police psychologist
Legal Issues in Forensic Psychology:
This concentration prepares forensic psychology graduates to participate in the legal process. Students take courses that cover parole services and corrections. They also explore how psychology applies to jury selection, expert testimony, and eyewitness testimony. Students may learn to testify in court or to conduct cross examinations.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Jury consultant, forensic psychologist, expert witness
Forensic Psychology for Mental Health Workers:
Students who focus their studies on mental health learn to counsel criminal defendants and victims of crimes. They study psychological issues that commonly affect criminals, including suicidal ideations and substance abuse. Master’s students also learn to assess and treat victims of sexual and physical abuse.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Licensed mental health counselor, correctional treatment specialist
Learners pursuing a concentration in family violence discuss criminal acts, such as child abuse, filicide, and elderly abuse. Students examine how intrafamilial crimes differ from other transgressions. In addition, learners consider the juvenile justice system and childhood development theory. They explore ways to prevent juvenile delinquency in a community.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Forensic psychologist, mental health counselor, family therapist
Sex Offender Behavior:
This concentration outlines psychological concepts relating to sex offenders. Students explore the characteristics, symptoms, and behaviors of deviant and criminal sex offenders. They also study legal issues pertaining to both criminal and civil sex offense cases. Forensic psychology students examine proven assessment methods and treatment plans for sex offenders.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Forensic psychologist, mental health counselor, corrections counselor
Courses in an Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Program
Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders
This course covers the historical, philosophical, legislative, and societal aspects of rehabilitation and reintegration. Students learn about the challenges that convicted offenders face when reentering society. They also study current research and empirical studies related to the reintegration of inmates. Coursework in rehabilitation can prove useful for students going into counseling or correctional case management.
Psychology and the Legal System
In this course, students explore the relationship between psychology and the U.S. legal system. They study how psychological research applies to the judicial process, the corrections process, and law enforcement. The course discusses topics including eyewitness testimony, psychological evaluation, inmate counseling, and jury selection.
Online forensic psychology master’s degrees often include advanced coursework in social psychology, which is the area of psychology that deals with social interactions and behavior. In social psychology classes, master’s students analyze research on topics including stereotyping, prejudice, attitudes, group behavior, and interpersonal relationships.
Psychopathology courses teach students about various psychological disorders, their causes, and their effects on a person’s behavior. In addition, students learn about psychological approaches that can lessen the impact of certain illnesses. Forensic psychology students examine criminal and civil cases involving mental illness, along with psychological interventions commonly used in correctional settings.
Methods and Tools of Psychological and Violence Risk Assessment
This course provides an overview of techniques that psychologists use in a criminal justice environment. Learners study standardized psychological assessments, including neuropsychological exams, Wechsler scales, and personality tests. They figure out why and when psychologists choose certain assessments and how to interpret the results.
Forensic Psychology Membership Associations
Society for Police and Criminal Psychology:
This organization promotes scientific inquiry into police psychology, criminal justice, and criminal psychology. The society brings together a variety of professionals, including psychologists, social workers, lawyers, corrections workers, and police officers. Members gain access to an annual conference, an academic journal, and newsletters.
American Psychological Association:
APA represents over 118,000 psychology researchers, teachers, clinicians, consultants, and students. The association aims to advance psychological science in ways that benefit the public. Members receive many benefits, including access to journals, APA books, networking opportunities, and continuing education programs.
American Academy of Forensic Psychology:
Founded in 1978, AAFP helps psychologists obtain board certification from the American Board of Forensic Psychology. Members include practitioners, researchers, and educators working in hospitals, medical schools, and correctional facilities. The organization offers online and in-person workshops, mentorship opportunities, and grants.
International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology:
IACFP advances policies and practices that support correctional psychologists, forensic psychologists, and related professionals. Not all members practice psychology or counseling, but most hold advanced degrees in the field. Members receive a newsletter, a journal, and discounts on IACFP events.
American Mental Health Counselors Association:
AMHCA advances the licensed mental health counseling profession through advocacy, education, and collaboration. The association’s members work in settings like private practices, hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, and community agencies. AMHCA provides a job board, industry research, and continuing education resources.