Earning an online master’s degree in forensic psychology is a great pathway to a career within the criminal justice or civil legal systems. Focusing on problem solving and critical thinking skills, online learners study the psychology of criminality and learn how to apply psychological principles within criminal justice contexts.
These demand for these skills is growing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that probation officers and correctional treatment specialists can expect a job growth of 6% by 2026, while substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors can expect a job growth of 20%.
Choosing a Program
Forensic psychology is the study of the connection between mental health, human behavior, and the criminal justice system. A master’s in forensic psychology online is a great option for those who are interested in the biological nature of crime. With this degree, students are prepared for careers within the mental health field as well as within the court system, victim services, juvenile facilities, child care agencies, or department of corrections.
Coursework provides students a deep understanding of psychological development, psychotherapeutic techniques, and personality assessment. Core classes in forensic psychology online master’s programs include maladaptive behavior, psychopathology, 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. In order to graduate, students complete a final written comprehensive exam, research project, or thesis. Some programs require a minimum number of internship hours in a psychological setting under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional.
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Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
The Best Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Programs
1University 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 Liberty University
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).
3University 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).
4Nova 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).
5Oklahoma 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).
6 Arizona State University–Tempe
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 70,000 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).
7 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 Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE).
8University 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).
9University 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).
10 Adler University
Established in 1952 in downtown Chicago, Adler University provides education for students across the globe. The university offers seven masters programs in an online format.
AU’s master’s in forensic psychology online program unites students into a cohort setting where students work together to complete coursework and conduct study sessions. The curriculum includes a strong focus on mental health issues in forensic populations and guides full time students toward graduation within two years. AU’s program provides learners with an immersive educational experience that highlights the various social factors of forensic psychology.
The school’s master of arts in counseling degree features a specialization in forensic psychology and prepares students for occupations in law enforcement, private law firms, sexual trauma centers, and substance abuse treatment centers. Courses include topics such as counseling in forensic populations, group counseling, and field training seminars focused on presenting students with hands on experiences. The school prefers a 3.0 grade point average for admissions. Program faculty interviews candidates during the admissions process.
Adler University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Careers
Graduates of forensic psychology online master’s programs go on to pursue careers as mental health and substance abuse social workers, correctional officers, social and community service managers, and trauma and crisis interventionists. People who work in forensic psychology help those who suffer from mental or behavioral problems. Some possible job opportunities include:
- Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehabilitation counselors help individuals who suffer from physical, mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities. Working with students, adults, geriatric patients, or veterans, rehabilitation counselors provide counseling, arrange for social services, locate resources, evaluate abilities, and develop treatment plans. They develop strategies that help their clients live more independently and manage the personal, social, and psychological effects of their disabilities.
- Median Annual Salary: $34,670
- Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Mental Health Counselors: Mental health counselors support families, adults, children, and couples with behavioral, mental, and emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, grief, stress, and psychopathy. In addition to working with psychologists, psychiatrists, and nurses to evaluate and assess their clients’ mental health, these counselors help recommend and review treatment plans. They also work closely with clients’ families to teach them about mental health disorders and develop strategies for coping.
- Median Annual Salary: $42,150
- Projected Growth Rate: 20%
- Correctional Treatment Specialist: Correctional treatment specialists are also known as case managers or correctional counselors. In addition to screening offenders for drugs and other substances, correctional treatment specialists evaluate prisoners, probationers, and parolees for rehabilitation programs. They administer job and vocational training and ensure probationers and parolees are provided social service.
- Median Annual Salary: $50,160
- Projected Growth Rate: 6%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics