If you want to apply psychological principles in courtrooms, correctional facilities, law enforcement departments, or community agencies, then you may consider earning a masters in forensic psychology online.
In forensic psychology graduate programs, you may learn how psychology and the law relate and explore ways to reduce crime and strengthen communities.
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With a forensic psychology masters degree, you may be ready for doctoral psychology studies, counseling licensure, or a professional role in a community or government agency.
Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology
Crime has a profound effect on individuals and communities. With your psychology training, you may contribute to turning the tide. By working with criminals, victims, or criminal justice professionals, your efforts may promote restoration and healing.
To prepare for a career in this specialized field, your program may begin with a course on the foundations of forensic psychology. Other courses may include courtroom psychology, social psychology, and trauma care.
There might be opportunities to study counseling and interviewing methods, civil rights for people with mental health issues, and personality theories. Many programs also include a research component that teaches you to engage with others’ psychology studies and prepares you to carry out research projects of your own.
These research classes might cover statistics, general research principles, and specific practices for conducting research in the social sciences.
Some online master’s in forensic psychology programs offer a licensure track. While a masters degree isn’t sufficient for becoming licensed as a clinical psychologist, select programs may contribute toward the requirements for licensure as a professional counselor.
It’s always helpful to confirm that an online forensic psychology or an online criminal psychology degree program meets the standards for your particular state. There may be practicum or internship components to your program. This is especially likely if you enroll in a licensure track.
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You may practice your psychology and counseling skills in a supervised setting and learn from the insights of seasoned professionals. The school may be able to connect you to potential internship sites in your local area.
After graduation, you could look for work with community agencies, law enforcement departments, correctional facilities, or court systems.
You may find opportunities to support victims, rehabilitate offenders, or help ensure that justice is served. Potential job titles include victim advocate, probation officer, prison supervisor, jury consultant, and expert witness.
If you become licensed as a counselor or a social worker, you may have additional job opportunities. Examples include forensic social worker, correctional counselor, or substance abuse counselor.
Online forensic psychology masters degrees can help prepare you for doctoral studies. With a doctorate, you might qualify for licensure as a professional psychologist. A growing number of universities even offer dual masters and PhD programs in psychology online.
Forensic Psychology Careers & Salaries
Forensic psychology students are often driven by a desire to pair psychological principles with the world of courts and criminal justice. In a forensic psychology career, you may work with offenders, victims, law enforcement officers, or another forensic population.
A master’s degree in forensic psychology online program can help equip you to serve in criminal justice roles with excellence. Your psychological insights may inform your work as a jail supervisor or a law enforcement officer with a local or federal agency.
You may also help offenders along the path to reform. Probation officers, parole officers, substance abuse counselors, and correctional counselors help criminals become contributing community members.
Another option is to work with victims as a caseworker, a counselor, an advocate, or a child protective services official. Forensic social work, a specialized branch of that field, may be an option if you have social work licensure.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following career paths may align well with a masters degree in psychology. Your state may require additional education or licensure for some of these jobs.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Postsecondary Psychology Teachers||$78,180|
|Social and Community Service Managers||$69,600|
|Police and Detectives||$67,290|
|Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists||$55,690|
|Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts||$49,300|
|Social Science Research Assistants||$49,210|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$47,660|
|Correctional Officers and Bailiffs||$47,410|
Some forensic psychology professionals perform consultation services. You could be a consultant for police departments investigating cases or attorneys selecting juries. With your knowledge of criminology, you might make an insightful investigative journalist. Your efforts could keep the public informed and also assist law enforcement officials.
You might also have opportunities to teach psychology or criminal justice at a community college. As another academic option, some masters graduates contribute to research in criminology, victimology, or psychology.
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Forensic psychologist is one of the top titles in this field. A doctorate is needed to become licensed. As a licensed forensic psychologist, you may find that more opportunities are opened to you and that your professional insights garner increased respect.
Forensic Psychology Master’s Curriculum & Courses
Online forensic psychology masters programs often include 30 to 45 credit hours’ worth of classes. There may be a thesis project or an internship included as part of those hours. Other coursework might include:
- Aggressive Behavior: This social psychology class will address factors that lead to aggressive behavior and also explore the public’s responses to aggression.
- Care and Intervention for Trauma Situations: You’ll learn how to make a difference for people experiencing crises and those who have previously endured trauma.
- Criminology: In this course, you will get to know the criminal mind and consider factors that increase the likelihood of criminal behavior.
- Law Enforcement Psychology: Taking this course can help prepare you to support law enforcement organizations through counseling, training, investigative assistance, and competency evaluations.
- Foundations of Forensic Psychology: You can start your degree program with an introductory class that establishes the foundations of practice in this field.
- Law and Ethics for Forensic Psychology: You’ll learn how to interact with suspects and witnesses and consider issues of competency.
- Psychological Assessments: Taking this course will teach you how to administer psychological tests for competency, intelligence, and personality and will also equip you to apply your findings.
- Psychopathology: You’ll become familiar with symptoms, assessments, and treatments for various mental health disorders related to personality and emotion.
- Research in Psychology: In one or more research courses, you’ll become familiar with research and statistical methods used in psychology and other social sciences.
- Trial Testimony: This course will help prepare you to serve as an expert witness and might also cover various syndromes and competency issues that affect defendants and witnesses.
In order to meet minimum standards for field experience, licensure tracks may require a higher number of credit hours than other forensic psychology graduate programs.
How to Become a Forensic Psychologist
Although many forensic psychology jobs are available to people with masters degrees, becoming a licensed forensic psychologist does require a doctorate. Your path to licensure may include the following steps:
- Bachelors degree. A psychology major would give you a good start, but you could also study a related field, such as social work or criminal justice.
- Internship. You can gain internship experience as part of your bachelors program or on your own time.
- Masters degree. You can pursue a masters degree in forensic psychology. If possible, you can seek a program designed as preparation for doctoral studies. As you select a focus for your graduate internship, thesis, or capstone project, you may consider ways that this experience could serve as a foundation for your future doctoral goals.
- Doctoral degree. Next, you can enroll in a PhD or professional doctorate program in forensic psychology. Some states may require your psychology program to be accredited by the American Psychological Association. You may complete your doctoral studies with a dissertation or another final project.
- Postdoctoral work experience. You can gain postdoctoral professional experience under a licensed supervisor. Each state determines how many internship or fellowship hours are required.
- State licensure. Once you have your doctorate, you can submit an application for licensure to your state board. You can then fulfill any other exam or qualification requirements set by your state.
- EPPP exam. Most states require a passing grade on the Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology.
After finishing these steps, you may become a licensed psychologist! Maintaining that status will require keeping your license current, so you may want to consult with your state board about approved ways to earn continuing education credits.
To get into a top forensic psychology program, it can help to submit a stellar application. Your materials might include:
- Letters of reference. The admissions personnel will appreciate learning about you from the perspective of two or three people who have worked with you in the past.
- Personal essay. You may write a brief paper outlining how your academic and career interests align with the program’s focus.
- Transcripts and GPA. Admissions committees will review official transcripts from any previous college work and will take your grades into consideration.
Although some schools do request GRE scores, it’s not a universal requirement, and waivers may be available.
Regional accreditation is the mark of a school’s excellent academic standing. To qualify, colleges must be approved by one of the country’s seven regional accrediting agencies.
Accreditors evaluate whether a school fulfills its mission to provide students a quality education. Those that meet the standards are granted the distinction of being regionally accredited.
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Regional accreditation is respected. Employers know they can count on accredited degrees. Other colleges are more likely to accept credits from approved schools. Transferring credits may be critical if you choose to transfer elsewhere or hope to enter a doctoral program.
American Psychological Association (APA) Accreditation
You may also look for programmatic accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA). To receive APA accreditation, college programs must demonstrate that they meet the organization’s rigorous standards for education in the field of psychology.
Some state’s require APA accredited degrees for licensure, so you may want to check your state’s requirements when choosing a forensic psychology program if you plan to apply for licensure.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
In order to achieve your academic goals, you can search for financial aid options that may help pay for the cost of school. For starters, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The federal government gives grants to low-income students who qualify. States sometimes distribute these cash gifts to qualifying residents as well.
State and federal loans can help you break up the cost of a degree over time. You would have to include interest when paying back the money, but the interest rates on a government loan may be manageable.
Scholarships and fellowships are another way to potentially reduce your tuition. The more scholarships you apply for, the more funds you may win. You can also ask whether your employer contributes toward college costs.
What Can You Do with a Masters in Forensic Psychology?
Some forensic psychology graduates become probation officers or correctional treatment specialists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these positions usually pay between $36,990 and $98,510.
Other forensic psychology professionals join social work teams to protect children and families, and they may even run community programs.
In some cases, a master’s degree in forensic psychology can lead to a counseling career. Your program may include licensure preparation for professional counselors, or it may serve as the next step toward a psychology doctorate.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Masters in Forensic Psychology?
For full-time students, masters degrees often take 1 to 2 years to complete at schools that use traditional 2 semester calendars. For online programs with accelerated terms, many students are able to finish their degrees more quickly. Some colleges offer online programs that last just 15 to 18 months.
Various factors will increase the length of your program. The internship required for a licensure track may add about 1 year. Also, part-time studies generally take longer than full-time ones.
What Is the Difference Between Criminal Psychology vs. Forensic Psychology?
Criminal psychology deals specifically with criminal behavior and the criminal mind. Experts in this field may be called as expert witnesses for courtroom trials. They may also provide mental health assessments and counseling for offenders.
Forensic psychologists do many of the same things as criminal psychologists, but they can also branch out into different aspects of criminal justice. On the one hand, forensic psychology does address criminal behavior and reform. On the other hand, it also plays a role in civil cases, community improvement, and victim assistance.
What Is the Difference Between a Master of Science in Forensic Psychology vs. Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology?
If research and statistics are your strengths, then you may want to consider a forensic psychology Master of Science degree. It can provide the foundation you need for future doctoral studies or a career in academics and research.
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For an MA in Forensic Psychology, you may have more opportunities to study various social science topics, such as cognitive psychology, diversity and equity, behavioral science, and personality theory. Either program may include fieldwork. An MS in Forensic Psychology may be more likely to include a thesis component.
Are Online Masters Programs a Legitimate Option?
Yes, you may get an excellent education in forensic psychology through online classes. The most important factor is selecting a regionally accredited institution. You may also want to choose a program with APA accreditation.
At many colleges, you’ll receive nearly the same instruction—delivered by the same faculty—that you would if you were sitting in a classroom. Online students complete similar assignments and are even given opportunities to engage with classmates.
Is a Masters in Forensic Psychology Worth It?
Yes, a master’s degree in forensic psychology is worth it for many professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 5% job growth in life, physical, and social science occupations over the next 10 years.
Common forensic psychology careers in this field include psychologist, probation officer, community service manager, correctional treatment specialist, and substance abuse counselor.
In social service programs, law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities, and court systems, forensic psychology professionals may assist victims, criminals, and criminal justice professionals.
If you decide to earn your doctorate, you may pursue a career as a licensed psychologist. This field is projected to grow 3% through the next decade.
Universities Offering Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Arizona State University’s forensic science masters program is a 33 credit program that includes 11 classes lasting 7 and a half weeks each.
It prepares students for doctoral studies or career advancement by providing them with advanced courses in courts and sentencing, psychopathology, criminal justice, and legal, correctional, and forensic psychology.
Arizona State University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Capella University’s online Master of Science in Clinical Psychology program puts students on a direct path to doctoral study. The school offers multiple discounts to students, including military, employer, and association discounts. Up to 15 transfer credits are also accepted. The program requires 53 total quarter credits for completion.
Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Students enrolled in Florida International University’s Master of Science in Forensic Science program generally earn their degrees in about 2 years. The science-heavy curriculum combines a lot of research, casework examinations, and hands-on learning in an effort to prepare students for careers in local, state, and regional forensic science labs.
Florida International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The forensic science masters at Florida National University is a 36 credit program. It prepares students to work in various forensics settings within courts, social service agencies, child welfare departments, law enforcement agencies, and other criminal justice-related fields.
Core courses include victimology, criminal psychology, stress and mental health, psychopathology, and clinical psychological assessment.
Florida National University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The Master of Science in Psychology program from Grand Canyon University features an emphasis in forensic psychology.
Students study the sociological, cognitive, genetic, biological, and neurochemical factors associated with criminal behavior. Special emphasis is given to female offenders, drug offenders, sex offenders, juvenile offenders, and those suffering from mental illness.
Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Students interested in forensic psychology can enroll in Liberty University’s Master of Science in Criminal Justice program and select the forensic science concentration. It’s a 36 credit completely online forensic science degree. Students must complete six core courses, four forensics-specific courses, and a required thesis to graduate.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Northcentral University’s forensic psychology masters program consists of ten total courses. Students should gain the skills needed to synthesize forensic research, examine and understand issues of diversity in the field, use and explain the need for diagnostic and assessment tools, and analyze theories of psychology as they pertain to forensics.
Northcentral University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Nova Southeastern University’s Master of Science in Forensic Psychology program is open to students who live in the US or in several other countries. It can be completed entirely online and includes two areas of concentration: forensic psychology for mental health workers and forensic psychology in the legal system.
NSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The online forensic science masters program from Oklahoma State University includes several concentration tracks to help streamline students’ interests and career goals.
These include tracks in forensic investigative sciences, AEFTI (arson, explosives, firearm, and tool mark investigations), and forensic science administration. Professional employment verification may be required for certain tracks.
Oklahoma State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
There are five concentration options as part of Purdue University’s Master of Science in Psychology program, including one in forensic psychology.
This concentration includes courses in lifespan development, ethics of professional psychology, and advanced research methods. Students learn to apply psychological concepts and theories and to successfully advocate for diverse populations.
Purdue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Students applying to Southern New Hampshire University’s forensic psychology masters program aren’t required to pay any admissions fees or submit GRE or GMAT scores.
They can also transfer up to 12 graduate-level credits. The curriculum includes plenty of experiential learning opportunities and features courses focusing on the intersection of law and psychology.
Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers a non-licensure masters program in forensic psychology online.
It’s a comprehensive program that can be completed in 2 years by full-time students, but part-time students are also accepted. The program helps prepare students for careers in law enforcement, corrections, social services, or the military.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
At Touro University Worldwide, students can potentially earn their Master of Arts in Psychology degrees in as little as 1 year.
The forensic psychology concentration is flexible, affordable, and can be completed entirely online. Students gain advanced knowledge in forensics, criminal behavior, clinical assessment, psychology-related issues, and the legal system.
Touro University Worldwide is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
The Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology program at the University of California – Irvine is an interdisciplinary program that pulls courses from the school’s Department of Criminology, Law, and Society and Department of Psychological Science. Program-specific scholarships are awarded to select new students entering the program each year.
UCI is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
The University of Central Florida’s Master of Science in Forensic Science program is a good option for students pursuing careers in forensic computer analysis, forensic science, crime scene investigation, forensic biology or chemistry, digital evidence analysis, or forensic toxicology.
The school also offers programs in digital forensics and crime analysis.
The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Students in the University of Florida’s forensic science masters program complete seven core courses and at least four electives.
The elective options cover a wide variety of topics, including mammalian molecular biology, forensic anthropology, fingerprint detection and identification, blood distribution and splatter, and natural medicinal products.
The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The Master of Arts in Psychology program at the University of Louisiana – Monroe features a concentration in forensics.
The program includes courses like sociology of law, advanced theories of crime and delinquency, intelligence testing, and counseling in criminal justice. Completing a thesis isn’t required but is recommended for prospective doctoral candidates.
The University of Louisiana Monroe is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Students at the University of New Haven who are interested in forensic psychology can enroll in the school’s Master of Science in Investigations program. There are no GRE or GMAT scores required for admittance, and students can choose one of three concentrations in digital forensics, financial crimes, or criminal investigations.
The University of New Haven is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
The University of North Dakota’s Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology program is a 30 credit program that takes about 2 years to complete. It prepares students for various forensic careers or entry into the school’s doctoral program. Students must complete six core courses and four elective courses to graduate.
The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Walden University’s forensic psychology masters program includes 11 areas of concentration, including two that allow students to self-design their curricula to suit their career goals and the general program.
The other concentrations are victimology, terrorism, sex offender behavior, police psychology, family violence, cybercrimes, military, and legal issues in forensic psychology. In addition to online masters programs, Walden also offers online doctoral degrees in psychology.
The university also has a PhD in Forensic Science online program for students interested in this field.
Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Getting Your Masters in Forensic Psychology Online
With a masters in forensic psychology online, you may be equipped with the tools and knowledge to support and strengthen your community.
Through your work with offenders or victims, you might promote healing and restoration. You may work with law enforcement agencies, court systems, and correctional facilities. If you’re interested in a career in this rewarding field, you may begin exploring your options for accredited forensic psychology programs today. It may also be worth noting that some universities even offer accelerated psychology degree programs.