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Forensic psychology is a subfield that specializes in helping people involved in criminal and civil matters. A master’s degree in forensic psychology will prepare you for counseling, social work, mental health, and criminology careers.

The average graduate school tuition is $12,596 per year at public institutions and $28,017 per year at private institutions. A master’s in forensic psychology requires the completion of 32-36 credits of coursework, which should take a full-time student approximately two years to complete.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Program

Choose your area of study

As a forensic psychology student, you can choose a master of science (MS) degree or a master of arts (MA) degree. The main difference between these two pathways is that the MS degree will focus more on data analysis, conducting research, and consulting. The MA degree, on the other hand, will focus more on the counseling and profiling aspects of forensic psychology.

Another consideration when choosing your area of study is whether you’d like to work in private or public settings. Working in public settings like mental health facilities and hospitals is a great way to become familiar with the field. If, on the other hand, your goal is to open a private practice, you’ll likely need to continue your schooling and complete a Ph.D.

Some programs allow you to select a concentration and focus your studies on a particular aspect of this field, such as the legal system or counseling. If you already know what you would like to do once you graduate, you should look for programs that match these career goals.

Research schools and programs

You should only consider institutions that have been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate schools to ensure they provide students with a high-quality education. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

Also, be sure to ask the following questions in your research:

  • Is any clinical training or fieldwork necessary in the online program?
  • Are there any research opportunities available for online students?
  • Do students work with a single advisor, or are there opportunities to work with multiple faculty members?

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Application requirements vary by school and program. You’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in psychology, behavioral sciences, criminology, or a related field. Some programs require specific academic prerequisites or a certain number of courses taken in psychology or a related field.

Undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test scores may also be required. The best way to know precisely what you’ll need is to contact your program’s admissions office. The people there can connect you with a counselor who can guide you from start to finish.

Select your program

Selecting the program that’s right for you is a pivotal choice. In your research, you’ve likely come up with a list of important aspects. Decide your priorities, whether that’s faculty support, the online learning experience itself, flexibility, or networking opportunities, and try to choose a school and a program that aligns with those priorities.

If cost is a deciding factor, contact the financial aid office and discuss your options. Some schools offer to waive application fees and can help you access financial assistance in various ways.

Before making your final decision, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Do you want your program to be as online as possible, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a fair amount of in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer? Your school should accommodate your scheduling needs and learning preferences.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Determining payment options for your master’s program can feel overwhelming, but financial aid advisors at your school will assist you. They can help determine if you qualify for federal assistance and if any scholarships or grants are available to you. If you must apply for federal assistance, it’s never too early to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). And if you already work in the field, check with your employer to see if they offer tuition assistance benefits.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Programs

Best Master's in Forensic Psychology Programs 2023

Liberty University

University of North Dakota

Southern New Hampshire University

Arizona State University

National University

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles

Nova Southeastern University

University of California, Irvine

Saint Leo University

University of Louisiana at Monroe

Concordia University at St. Paul

Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

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How We Rank Schools

This list features some of the best online master’s in forensic psychology programs at top colleges nationwide. Each school featured is a nonprofit institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for postsecondary education. The programs on our list have been accredited by reputable organizations, such as the Higher Learning Commission and Middle States Commission on Higher Education, that assess colleges’ and universities’ objectives, quality, and overall effectiveness.

We evaluated each school’s program on admission, retention, and graduation rates as well as tuition costs, faculty, reputation, and the resources provided for online students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online master’s in forensic psychology programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

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

In an online program for a master’s in forensic psychology, you can expect to take a deeper dive into criminal behavior, forensic assessment, corrections, litigation, and consultation. Whether you choose an MA or an MS in forensic psychology, both pathways will prepare you to bring a psychological perspective to the justice system.

Some schools require fieldwork or a practicum, especially if students hope to become board-certified at some point in their academic careers. In addition, you’ll need to learn interviewing skills and how to design treatment plans and interventions, which all benefit from hands-on learning.

Most online programs for a master’s degree in forensic psychology are designed to be completed within two years for full-time students. The average coursework requirements are 32-36 credit hours, but some programs require up to 54.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in forensic psychology program

  • Legal and Investigative Psychology. Students examine the role of psychological research and knowledge within the legal and law enforcement systems. The course focuses on applying experimental areas of psychology to topics such as witness memory and identification, investigative interviewing, deception detection, false confessions, and juries.
  • Issues in the American Legal System. Students analyze the interaction between legal and psychological thinking. They will examine the structure of the American adversarial system, debate its strengths, and propose solutions to its weaknesses.
  • Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. Students look at issues in the development and implementation of public policy in the legal system, with particular emphasis on the role of psychological knowledge. The course will acquaint students with theoretical issues of policy development and the basics of the legislative process and provide an opportunity to work on a selected policy issue.
  • Forensic Assessment. Students will analyze the psychological assessments most frequently required in forensic settings. They will become familiar with test administration and interpretation as well as test design, methodology, and standardization.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology?

Career outlook

The field of forensic psychology offers a unique intersection of psychology and the legal system, and earning an online master’s degree in forensic psychology can open doors to a variety of rewarding career opportunities.

Indeed, an online master’s degree in forensic psychology equips you with specialized knowledge and skills in psychology, law, and criminal justice. Here are some of the promising career paths available to individuals with this advanced degree:

  • Psychologist — Research cognitive, emotional, and social processes as well as how people interact with each other and their environments.
    • Median annual salary: $85,330
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 6%
    • New job openings projected: 12,800 annually
  • Probation officer or correctional treatment specialist — Assist criminal offenders through the rehabilitation process while they are on probation or parole.
    • Median annual salary: $59,860
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New job openings projected: 7,400 annually
  • Police officer or detective — Respond to emergencies and investigate crimes, which may involve interviewing suspects, preparing written reports, and testifying in court.
    • Median annual salary: $69,160
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New job openings projected: 64,500 annually

Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in forensic psychology degree program?

Be sure to visit your school’s website and contact an admissions counselor to learn about applying to your chosen program. Pay attention to deadlines and due dates, as gathering all the materials you’ll need to submit with your application can take a while. Some of these might include:

How much does an online master’s in forensic psychology degree cost?

The per-credit cost of an online master’s in forensic psychology degree typically ranges from $335 to $750. Students can expect to pay between $11,000 to $27,000 in total tuition.

You can find any additional add-on fees in your course catalog, which can help you add up all the costs involved with your education. As always, take advantage of the help offered by your financial aid office. Doing as much research as possible ahead of time will give you the most accurate estimates.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in forensic psychology degree?

Several factors determine the time it will take to earn a master’s in forensic psychology online. Asynchronous or self-paced programs can sometimes be completed more quickly than synchronous programs. Since most students will have to take between 32 to 36 credit hours, it typically takes a full-time student about two years to finish the program. Many students remain employed full-time while they go to school, so it can take 3-5 years for those studying as part-time students to complete the program.

Is an online master's degree in forensic psychology worth it?

An online master’s degree in forensic psychology offers a versatile foundation for careers that involve the intersection of psychology and the legal system. Whether you aspire to work as a forensic psychologist, victim advocate, correctional counselor, or in some other role, this advanced degree equips you with the expertise to understand and address complex psychological and legal issues. Your career path will depend on your interests, goals, and the specific sector of the criminal justice field you choose to explore.

Earning your degree online can be a convenient way to gain the educational credentials necessary for this field. Online education is especially appropriate for adult learners who may have professional or personal commitments to manage along with their studies. These programs offer increased flexibility, as courses can often be accessed whenever it is convenient for you and in any location with an internet hookup.

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