Overview

Forensic psychologists play an integral role in criminal investigations by identifying the motives behind crimes. Through the examination of evidence, interviews, and psychological evaluations, professionals also help determine if defendants are mentally fit to participate in trials. Add to that expertise in hostage negotiations, victim counseling, and even polygraph assessments and it becomes clear that forensic psychologists ensure the success of criminal justice systems.

Psychologists who want to work in the field of forensics often need to possess a master’s degree in forensic psychology. Advanced courses in psychometrics, developmental psychology, and the psychology of trauma gives students the core skills they’ll need as professionals making critical decisions. Add to that rigorous studies focused in criminal justice, and graduates become voices of expertise in a highly specialized and unique field. In other words, master’s programs are intellectually demanding, to ensure that students are prepared to uphold justice.

If you hope to have a career in forensic psychology, a master’s degree is worth it. Many positions often require a graduate level education.

Yes, online degrees are designed to fit flexible schedules. The key is to find an accredited program that matches your particular scheduling needs.

The most popular position is to simply become a forensic psychologist — these professional assist criminal investigations by examining evidence, interviewing suspects, and evaluating defendants as well as jury members.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a school and career counselor is around $77,000.

With such specialized expertise, it isn’t surprising to learn that forensic psychology is lucrative career path. According to the bureau of Labor Statistics, graduates earn a median salary of $77K and can faster than average job growth compared to other professions. But what the career stability truly reveals is that forensic psychologists play an important role in society that cannot be undervalued. With their psychological expertise, they can ensure the criminal justice system not only accomplishes what it is designed to do, but does so in a psychologically responsible way.

Best Online Masters in Forensic Psychology Programs

We took a deep-dive and analyzed every online Masters in Forensic Psychology program in the nation. Below are the results of our analysis and a list of the 10 best online Masters in Forensic Psychology programs.

Read about our methodology here.

Graduation Rate
86%
School Type
Public
Tuition
$4,658 per quarter
Best Value

The University of California-Irvine earns the Best Value award for its quality of education, tuition costs, flexible scheduling and professional faculty. Students who choose this university for their master's degree in forensic psychology will not only gain invaluable skills to use in the field but also build key relationships with peers and professionals for greater networking opportunities after college.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Departments of Psychological Science and Criminology, Law and Society
Program Name: Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology
Accrediting Body: WASC

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: B.A. or B.S. degree from a fully accredited academic institution
Credit Requirements: 52 credits

Program LengthProgram Options: Full-time, part-time
Program Length: 2 years
Program start dates: Fall, Winter, Spring

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Rolling
GPA: 3.0
Work Experience: Related field work encouraged, but not required

Address:

Irvine, CA 92697

949-824-4611

Graduation Rate
63%
School Type
Public
Tuition
$633 per credit
Best Advisory Support

Arizona State University offers the best advisory support for students who are enrolled in the online master's in forensic psychology program. Students have access to personal advisers who guide them on their journey through the program, providing counseling and support whether it's questions regarding financial aid or advice on how to balance school, work and family life.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Departments of Psychology
Program Name: Online Master of Science in Forensic Psychology
Accrediting Body: THLC

DeliveryFormat: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's Degree
Credit Requirements: 33 credits

Program LengthProgram Options: Full-time, part-time
Program start dates: Fall 2018: August 16; Spring 2019: January 7; Summer 2019: May 20

Admission RequirementsGPA: 3.0

Address:

Tempe, AZ 85281

866-277-6589

Graduation Rate
79%
School Type
Private Non-profit
Tuition
$1,710 per credit
Most Comprehensive

George Washington University's online master's in forensic psychology program is a comprehensive mixture of coursework and externship opportunities in the nation's capital. Students discover an immersive curriculum with courses ranging from terrorist agents to ethical issues regarding interrogation, giving them the skills to excel at their position after college.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: College of Arts and Sciences
Program Name: MA in Forensic Psychology
Accrediting Body: MSCHE

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsCredit Requirements: 37 credits

Program LengthProgram Options: Full-time, part-time
Program start dates: Summer, Spring, Fall

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Rolling
GPA: 3.0

Address:

2121 I St NW

Washington, DC 20052

703-299-0674

School Type
Private Non-profit
Tuition
$1,164 per credit
Best for Counselor Licensure

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers a full-time, M.A. in Forensic Psychology with a Professional Counselor Licensure track for those interested in providing forensic mental health counseling in a clinical setting. The program is also offered in a flexible, non-licensure track for those that prefer to work in non-clincal professions.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: The Chicago School of Professional Psycology
Program Name: M.A. in Forensic Psychology
Accrediting Body: WSCUC

DeliveryFormat: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Credit Requirements: 36 credit hours

Program LengthProgram Options: Full-Time, Part-Time
Program Length: 2 - 4 years
Program start dates: Fall, Spring

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Rolling
GPA: 3.0

Address:

325 N Wells St

Chicago, IL 60654

800-721-8072

Graduation Rate
55%
School Type
Public
Tuition
$343 per credit
Best Residency

The University of North Dakota's online master's in forensic psychology program comes with a required one-week residency on campus. This residency gives students who live close to the Grand Forks campus a chance to present their capstone project and to network with peers, faculty members and professionals in the field.


Program OverviewProgram Name: Forensic Psychology (M.A.)
Accrediting Body: HLC

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university
Credit Requirements: 30 credits

Program LengthProgram Options: Full-time, part-time
Program Length: 2 years

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Fall: April 1; Sprimg: October 1
GPA: 3.5

Address:

Grand Forks, ND 58202

800-225-5863

Graduation Rate
17.1%
School Type
Public
Tuition
$485 per credit
Best Faculty

Capella University's online master's in forensic psychology program is taught by doctoral educators who are still active in their professions. The faculty not only instills important skills and knowledge in the students but also provides full support on their path to career advancement.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Harold Abel School of Psychology
Program Name: Master of Science in Clinical Psychology
Available Concentrations: Forensic Psychology
Accrediting Body: HLC

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's degree from an institution
Credit Requirements: 55 credits

Program LengthProgram start dates: December 3rd

Admission RequirementsGPA: 2.3

Address:

225 South 6th St

Minneapolis, MN 55402

866-808-4080

Graduation Rate
33%
School Type
Private
Tuition
$535 per credit
Most Accelerated

Walden University's online master's in forensic psychology program gives students the opportunity to earn their degree in less than two years. Most students finish the entire program within 24 months and earn credits toward their Ph.D. in psychology.


Program OverviewProgram Name: MS in Forensic Psychology
Available Concentrations: General Program, Criminal Justice Self Designed, Cybercrimes, Family Violence, LegalIssues in Forensic Psychology, Military, Police Psychology, Self Designed, Sex Offender Behavior, Terrorism, Victimology
Accrediting Body: HLC

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Credit Requirements: 48 creduts

Program LengthProgram Length: 24 months
Program start dates: November 26, 2018

Address:

100 Washington Avenue South, Suite 900

Minneapolis, MN 55401

844-675-1662

Graduation Rate
50%
School Type
Private Non-profit
Tuition
$627 per credit
Best Online Delivery Program

Southern New Hampshire University specializes in delivering quality online programs to distance learners through state-of-the-art technologies. Students have access to everything that they need at the click of a button, from a virtual library and mentoring services to live, interactive videos and 24/7 technical support.


Program OverviewProgram Name: MS in Psychology Forensic Psychology
Accrediting Body: NEASC

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Credit Requirements: 36 credits

Program LengthProgram Options: Full-time, part-time
Program Length: 15 months
Program start dates: Fall, Spring

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Rolling
GPA: 2.75

Address:

2500 North River Road

Manchester, NH 3106

888-387-0861

Graduation Rate
28%
School Type
Private
Tuition
$515 per credit
Best Individualized Experience

Grand Canyon University keeps its class sizes small in the online master's in forensic psychology program. Fewer students in the classes means a better individualized experience and more one-on-one time with professors.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Program Name: Master Of Science In Psychology
Available Concentrations: Forensic Psychology
Accrediting Body: HLC

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Credit Requirements: 36 credits

Program LengthProgram Options: Full-time, part-time

Admission RequirementsGPA: 3.5

Contact:

Christel Mosby

Admissions Contact

Address:

3300 W Camelback Rd

Phoenix, AZ 85017

855-428-5673

Graduation Rate
39.3%
School Type
Private
Tuition
$2,502 per course
Most Flexible

Northcentral University is designed to meet the needs of working professionals who can't commit to a full-time curriculum. With flexible scheduling available, students can complete the lessons at their own pace and have the freedom to continue working their full-time jobs.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Department of Psychology
Program Name: Master of Science in Forensic Psychology
Accrediting Body: WSCUC, CHEA

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Credit Requirements: 30 credits

Program LengthProgram Length: 20 months
Program start dates: Fall 2018: August 27; Spring 2019: January 7

Admission RequirementsGPA: 3.0

Address:

8667 E Hartford Drive

Scottsdale, AZ 85255

866-776-0331

What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s Forensic Psychology Program?

With the popularity of TV shows like “CSI” and “The X-Files,” more students are pursuing careers in forensics. If you like the idea of rehabilitating victims, interviewing witnesses and understanding the criminal mind, an online master’s degree in forensic psychology can prepare you for doctoral studies or launch your career in law enforcement. Students may choose from online-only and blended programs that combine internet learning with hands-on clinical fellowships. Compared to traditional on-campus classes, online degrees can better fit your busy schedule and your budget. No matter where you live, you can learn from industry-leading professors and earn a degree from a nationally recognized college or university.

Degrees Offered for an Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology

CONCENTRATIONDESCRIPTIONCAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Forensic Mental Health CounselingBuilt around the fundamentals of clinical psychology, this concentration prepares students to pursue a doctoral degree or to enter the workforce as a licensed counselor. Courses emphasize clinical skills needed to understand, assess and treat victims and offenders.Licensed mental health counselor
Forensic Psychology and LawThis specialization is intended for students who are pursuing a career in law or criminal justice. Courses focus on clinical assessments, psychopathology, treatment planning, intervention, statistical analysis and research design. Courses are sometimes woven into a juris doctor dual degree.Forensic researcher, law enforcement professional

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology students start by learning fundamental scientific skills, such as research methods, data analysis and psychopathology. Although study plans vary depending on the school and the specialization, your curriculum may include the following core courses and electives.

  • Human growth and cognitive development

  • Violence, substance abuse and criminal behavior

  • Clinical skills, including interviewing and counseling

  • Psychological testing and cognitive assessment methods

  • Legal concepts, such as witness identification, interviewing and evidence presentation

  • Crisis intervention, offender rehabilitation and behavior modification theories

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology?

Forensic psychology is one of the more involved master’s degrees. Programs typically require a minimum of 36 credit hours and up to 60 credit hours for curricula that will prepare students to become licensed mental health counselors. A general forensic psychology program may require at least 40 credit hours plus a thesis, research project or externship. Clinical experience is a critical part of most psychology degrees. To fulfill this requirement, you may have to complete a short-term residency. Students can expect the entire process to take two years of full-time studies.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Prepares For

CONCENTRATIONCERTIFICATION
Licensed Mental Health CounselorMental health counseling specializations prepare graduates to work with victims and offenders in and outside the criminal justice system. Qualifications vary by state, but most jurisdictions require counselors to hold a master’s degree, pass exams and have one to two years of clinical experience.
Psychological Associate/AssistantIn some states, you can become a psychological assistant or associate with a master’s degree as long as you’re supervised by a licensed psychologist. To practice independently, you must have a doctorate, complete a residency and pass an exam. Additional information about these requirements is available through the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Degrees

The American Psychological Association is the chief accrediting body for university psychology departments. However, the organization only accredits doctoral and postdoctoral programs as well as internships and clinical residencies. Due to the absence of an industry-wide accreditation system, graduate students should look for schools that are regionally accredited through one of the six associations recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education. Membership in one of these organizations ensures that your credits will transfer to other higher learning institutions nationally and internationally.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Forensic Psychology Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Very few organizations in this field hire candidates who have a bachelor’s degree, and many prefer licensed psychologists who have earned doctoral degrees. In most institutions and law enforcement agencies, a master’s degree is the minimum level of education required for forensic psychology positions.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that demand for psychologists, including clinical professionals and counselors, is projected to increase by 14 percent between 2016 and 2026. Additionally, it projects that professionals in applied specialties, such as forensic psychology, will have the best job prospects

Expected Salary

An online master’s degree in forensic psychology can prepare you for a career as a clinician, data analyst or senior-level manager. Average earnings for a master of forensic psychology typically fall into the mid to upper range of the pay scale. Professionals who have a doctoral degree can earn even more. Here are a few of the careers that are available to those with a graduate degree in this discipline.

Job TitleSalary Range
Criminal Psychologist$30,000-$99,000
Counseling Psychologist$33,000-$89,000
Clinical Therapist$35,000-$62,000
Licensed Mental Health Counselor$35,000-$64,000
Behavioral Analyst$39,000-$77,000
Forensic Psychologist$39,000-$102,000
Research Assistant$42,800
Criminal Profiler$45,000-$99,000
Data Analyst$48,000-$86,000
Assistant Professor$48,000-$101,000
Clinical Psychologist$51,000-$115,000
Clinical Services Director$59,000-$128,000
Data Scientist$67,000-$122,000

Source: PayScale.com

Experienced forensic psychologists enjoy ample room for advancement. Clinical professionals may move into managerial and executive positions where they oversee social workers. Some professionals work independently as expert witnesses and consultants who have the freedom to set their own rates and schedule. Reports from industry professionals show that average wages nearly double between the least and most experienced workers.

Median Salary for Experience Level

Source: PayScale.com

Career Opportunities

There are numerous career opportunities for graduates with a master’s degree in forensic psychology. You may work directly with individuals in a clinical setting, function as a program manager or analyze scientific data to identify sociological trends. The majority of forensic psychology graduates work in the following areas.

JOB TITLEJOB DESCRIPTIONMEDIAN SALARYPROJECTED GROWTH RATE
PsychologistForensic psychologists work primarily in the criminal justice and court systems. They study, interpret and assess the behavior of individuals. Psychologists in this specialty provide information that assists attorneys, judges and law enforcement agencies. They may also serve as expert witnesses who testify in family, civil or criminal cases.$77,300 per year14%
Social Service ManagerGovernment agencies and community-based nonprofits both employ social service managers who are responsible for coordinating the organization’s services and overseeing clinical social workers. These administrative professionals analyze the efficacy of existing programs, identify areas of need, coordinate outreach efforts and prepare proposals to secure funding.$64,100 per year18%
Correctional Treatment SpecialistIn jails and probation or parole offices, counselors function as case managers. They evaluate inmates, develop rehabilitation plans and prepare progress reports that are submitted to decision-making boards. Case managers also counsel family members and refer individuals to community-based organizations.$51,410 per year6%
Social WorkerLicensed social workers provide clinical services that help individuals manage day-to-day challenges and overcome mental, behavioral or emotional issues. They may work with victims and offenders in human service or child welfare agencies, mental health facilities, hospitals or private practices.$47,980 per year16%
Mental Health CounselorThese mental health professionals specialize in treating individuals who suffer from addiction, substance abuse and behavioral disorders. They’re responsible for evaluating clients, assessing their willingness to change and developing treatment goals. They may also engage in community outreach.$43,300 per year23%

Professional Organizations

Industry associations are a valuable resource for scientific professionals. Membership can connect you with new research, career advancement resources and continuing education opportunities. Here are several groups that serve forensic psychologists and allied professionals.

National Association of Forensic Counselors: Established in 1995, the NAFC develops industry standards, provides training and certifies forensic counselors. Professionals who have a master’s degree, state certification and at least two years of experience may qualify for a clinical membership through this association.

Society for Police and Criminal Psychology: This industry group welcomes students and professionals who are interested in criminal justice and related disciplines. Members include police officers, social workers and attorneys. It publishes an academic journal, offers certifications and sponsors an annual conference.

American Academy of Forensic Sciences: Founded in 1948, the AAFS represents 7,000 interdisciplinary members in the United States and 70 countries worldwide. The organization is dedicated to advancing forensic science and promoting professionalism and innovation across the industry. Members include psychologists, physicians, attorneys, expert witnesses and related professionals.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Organizational Leadership Degree

Online psychology courses typically have a lower cost per credit hour compared to on-campus options. However, the cost of tuition and direct educational costs, such as textbooks and materials, is considerable. Students who are interested in paying for college using a combination of grants, scholarships and loans can start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Numerous resources are available through state and federal agencies and industry groups, such as the American Psychological Association. The following organizations can connect you with financial assistance programs that are available in your area.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Psi Chi Graduate Scholarships

Award: $3,000

Deadline: July 15

Eligibility: This program is open to Psi Chi members who are currently enrolled or will be enrolled in a graduate-level psychology program. Recipients are selected based on their Psi Chi involvement, academic performance, personal qualities and financial need.

APF Graduate Student Scholarships

Award: Up to $5,000

Deadline: June 30

Eligibility: The American Psychological Foundation offers 21 general and specialized scholarships to graduate-level psychology students. Scholarships are intended to support student research and dissertations. The foundation reviews research proposals and considers applicants’ academic record, including publications, awards, letters of recommendation and grades.