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

In an online master’s in forensic psychology program, you can expect the same academic quality of an on-campus program in a much more flexible format. By attending lectures and taking tests remotely from your home rather than commuting to campus, online students have more time available for their work and family commitments. This also allows you to save on gas, parking fees, and other expenses. Just keep in mind that no two online master’s in forensic psychology programs are exactly alike, so you should thoroughly research each of your options in order to determine which program is the best fit for your specific needs.

Available concentrations

Some programs allow you to focus your studies on a particular aspect of forensic psychology. The most common concentration options include:

  • Forensic Mental Health Counseling: This concentration prepares students to pursue a doctoral degree or enter the workforce as a licensed counselor. Courses emphasize clinical skills needed to understand, assess, and treat victims and offenders.
  • Forensic Psychology and Law: This specialization is for students pursuing a law or criminal justice career. Courses focus on clinical assessments, psychopathology, treatment planning, intervention, statistical analysis, and research design.

Common degree curriculum

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 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

Certification and license preparation

In addition to earning your master’s degree, you may need professional certification or licensure for some occupations in this field.

  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor: Qualifications vary by state, but most jurisdictions require counselors to hold a master’s degree, have one to two years of clinical experience, and pass a certification exam.
  • Psychological Associate/Assistant: In some states, you can become a psychological assistant or associate with a master’s degree if 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.

Program accreditation

The American Psychological Association is the chief accrediting body for university psychology departments. However, the organization only accredits doctoral and postdoctoral programs, internships, and clinical residencies.

While there is no industry-wide accreditation system, master’s in forensic psychology students should still confirm their school is 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 the faculty and curriculum of postsecondary education institutions to ensure they offer students a high-quality academic experience. If your school doesn’t have regional accreditation, you may also be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

Program completion timeframe

Forensic psychology is one of the more involved master’s degree majors. Programs typically require a minimum of 36 credit hours and up to 60 credit hours for curricula that 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 study.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Forensic Psychology Graduates

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.

Pay varies depending on the type of work, location, and other factors. You will likely make at least $45,000, and advancing to management positions will allow you to access much higher pay.

Job growth expectations also vary, though most psychology occupations are expected to grow at an average rate (3%) or better over the next decade. Some psychology occupations, such as social service manager and mental health counselor, are expected to grow quickly, making it easier to find work and negotiate pay raises.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate (2022 – 2032)
Social Service Manager Government agencies and community-based nonprofits both employ social service managers 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. $74,240 9%
Correctional Treatment Specialist In jails and parole offices, correctional treatment specialists function as case managers. They evaluate inmates, develop rehabilitation plans, and prepare progress reports submitted to decision-making boards. Correctional treatment specialists also counsel family members and refer individuals to community-based organizations. $59,860 3%
Social Worker Licensed 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 welfare agencies, mental health facilities, hospitals, or private practices. $55,350 7%
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor These professionals are responsible for evaluating clients and developing treatment plans for modifying behavior and improving mental health. They may also engage in community outreach. $49,710 18%

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 with 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 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 71 other countries. 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 Forensic Psychology Degree

Online psychology programs are usually less expensive than on-campus options. However, the cost of online tuition and direct educational expenses, such as textbooks and materials, are considerable. Students 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 government agencies, private companies, and industry groups like the American Psychological Association.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

After filling out the FAFSA, you’ll need to research all the financial aid opportunities that may be available to you. The following resources can help you significantly reduce the cost of your master’s in forensic psychology degree:

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Interested in a degree?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.