Best Online Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology: 2016

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Careers, Salaries & Advanced Programs in Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology lends itself to numerous jobs in the legal and law enforcement fields, particularly where the two intersect. A master’s degree helps open the doors to these varied positions, and graduates can look forward to working in a multitude of places, including courtrooms, private practice, consulting firms, legal offices and many more. A master’s also sets the stage for further education at the doctoral level, but many find that moving directly into the workplace is an ideal way to put their master’s degree to immediate use.

Timeline of an Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology

Getting in: The Application Process

Choosing the ‘short list’ of impressive schools is the first step; getting into one of those schools is the next hurdle. In most cases, the application process is straightforward, and is simply a matter of making certain that every item requested is included, in full and on time. The following checklist can give students a clearer picture of what schools typically request, allowing them to get a jump-start on collecting important documents.

  • Transcripts.

    Graduate students must have completed from a bachelor’s degree program with a minimum GPA; transcripts serve to provide this record of adequate undergraduate work. Some programs require a bachelor’s in a related field, such as psychology. Be sure to check details of the programs you’re interested in.

  • GRE scores.

    Scores from the Graduate Record Examination are often required to get into grad school; students might also want to take the subject test in psychology, as well. Though most schools do not require the subject test, taking it can help show how serious a student is about getting into the program.

  • Resume.

    Some schools want to see evidence of prior work in the psychology or law enforcement fields; in some cases it’s possible for applicants to have certain courses or requirements waived if they can demonstrate a sufficient amount of experience.

  • Letters of recommendation.

    Most schools look for at least two, and sometimes three letters of recommendation. These must be written by people who have first-hand knowledge of a student’s aptitude for graduate school; former professors and work colleagues are good choices, especially in subjects related to the field of forensic psychology.

  • Statement of purpose.

    This essay is typically 500-1000 words and focuses on why students want to enter the program, what they can bring to the field, career goals in forensic psychology, and what makes them stand out in a competitive field of applicants. Tailor this personal statement to be as specific about the field of forensic psychology as possible instead of taking a more general approach.

  • Required courses.

    Students must usually complete several prerequisite courses with a minimum grade. Students who do not complete those courses in a timely manner – usually within the first semester – may risk having their admission into the forensic psychology program revoked.

Once a student has caught the attention of the admissions board and is under consideration, an interview may follow. Interviews might be conducted via Skype, phone or similar means.

Year 1

The first year in online forensic psychology program focuses on foundational courses. Students immerse themselves in subjects such as statistics, research methods, introduction to law enforcement, mental illness, applied methodology, and psychology. Because of the specialized nature of the degree, these courses are tailored to teach students about the justice system and the role of a forensic psychologist within that system. Students are usually expected to actively engage in the field, including field placements and working in a number of possible settings. If an internship will be required, now is the time that students should begin the process of finding one.

Year 2

The second year focuses on concentration courses, as well as the completion of the degree requirements. This might include completing an internship or other supervised work experience; taking research courses in preparation for the capstone project; or delving into the process of gathering information for a master’s thesis. There is typically a clinical competency examination during the spring of the second year, which can be oral.

Most online forensic psychology master’s programs take two years of full-time study to complete, and students meet with advisers regularly to ensure they are on track to graduate in a timely fashion. However, since it is understood that working professionals may require additional time, programs usually allow a three- or four-year time frame for those studying part-time. On the other hand, students who want to finish the program faster can opt for accelerated courses, which could allow them to finish in about eighteen months.

Testing & Graduation Requirements

In addition to satisfactory completion of the coursework, students must also fulfill other requirements to be awarded a master’s degree. Though these requirements vary from one school to another, most expect at least one of the following:

  • Comprehensive exam.

    Taken at the end of the second year, this examination is usually multiple-choice and encompasses everything that a student should have learned during the degree pursuit. Some forensic psychology programs may only require the final exam if a student did not complete a thesis.

  • Master’s thesis.

    The master’s thesis project involves substantial investigation and research, culminating in a paper and sometimes a presentation before a thesis committee.

  • Capstone/research project.

    This project calls for original research, and is designed to demonstrate the student’s competency in forensic psychology in general, as well as the particular concentration.

  • Intensive internship.

    For students who don’t have previous law enforcement or psychology experience, programs might require an internship of a certain number of hours, supervised by a seasoned professional.

Search Online Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology

What’s important? Different people value different criteria, so prospective students seeking the right fit in a program can take the critical first step by using the following search tool. Refine your search results by filtering according to degree level, location, school type, tuition costs, and student population.

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The Return on a Master’s in Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology offers several different careers in the criminal justice system. In school, students can choose a concentration that best fits their particular interests and then leverage it into a job to match. Here’s an overview of what graduates can expect to do with several concentrations offered through the degree:

Concentrations
Mental Health.

Students in this concentration emerge as experts at assessment and observation, as well as in the laws that surround mental health issues as they pertain to the justice system. They are prepared to work as victims’ advocates, and to participate in the debates concerning insanity pleas and related legal issues arising from questions of mental health.

Career:
Victim Advocate.
Victim Advocate.

These advocates work within the legal system on behalf of crime victims. They assist with mental health evaluations and counseling, and may ensure a victim has an opportunity to speak in court.

Rehabilitation Counselor.
Rehabilitation Counselor.

After being released from incarceration, criminals work with rehabilitation counselors who serve as liaisons with parole and probation officers, provide counseling services, and assess the likelihood of recidivism.

Expert Witness.
Expert Witness.

Testifying at jury trials, mediations, arbitrations and the like, these professionals offer insights into certain psychological issues, such as whether a person is mentally fit to stand trial.

Law Enforcement.

Those who choose to focus on law enforcement can expect to take courses that focus on human resources, organizational psychology, police psychology, and the effects of stress on family and work performance. Forensic psychologists who work in law enforcement may help with interventions, substance abuse issues, family counseling and other similar issues.

Career:
Training and Development Specialist.
Training and Development Specialist.

Working with law enforcement agencies, these professionals enhance the training of officers, develop programs that help officers cope with difficult situations, and strive to improve working conditions in the office and in the field.

Rehabilitation Counselor.
Rehabilitation Counselor.

After being released from incarceration, criminals work with rehabilitation counselors who serve as liaisons with parole and probation officers, provide counseling services, and assess the likelihood of recidivism.

Jury Consultant.
Jury Consultant.

Attorneys and law firms engage the services of consultants to assess potential jury pools and help determine which jurors are most suitable, as well as to observe and assess the behavior of jurors during a trial.

Child and Family.

Child protection, family services, guardianship and the rules of adoption are some of the legal issues handled by graduates with this concentration. They can expect their jobs to include testifying in court, counseling juveniles in the justice system, and assisting with orders to be executed by child and family services.

Career:
Juvenile Corrections.
Juvenile Corrections.

This position requires working with juveniles who are in the corrections system, including those in group homes, halfway houses and juvenile facilities. The spectrum of duties may include general supervision of juveniles as well as working with them to understand the legal process.

Education Security Expert.
Education Security Expert.

These experts work with schools, colleges and other institutions to ensure the safety of students. They help establish protocols for safety and educate students and administrators on spotting the warning signs for dangerous situations.

Victim Advocate.
Victim Advocate.

These advocates work within the legal system on behalf of crime victims. They assist with mental health evaluations and counseling, and may ensure a victim has an opportunity to speak in court.

Sex Offenders.

These forensic psychologists work with those who have committed sex offenses; they look for patterns of behavior, try to understand behavioral triggers, and assess the likelihood of repeat offenses. Courses include behavioral psychology, assessment practices, the psychology of crime, sexuality, victimology, and child maltreatment.

Career:
Expert Witness
Expert Witness

Testifying at jury trials, mediations, arbitrations and the like, these professionals offer insights into certain psychological issues, such as whether a person is mentally fit to stand trial.

Rehabilitation Counselor
Rehabilitation Counselor

After being released from incarceration, criminals work with rehabilitation counselors who serve as liaisons with parole and probation officers, provide counseling services, and assess the likelihood of recidivism.

Jury Consultant
Jury Consultant

Attorneys and law firms engage the services of consultants to assess potential jury pools and help determine which jurors are most suitable, as well as to observe and assess the behavior of jurors during a trial.

Criminal Behavior

This concentration focuses on understanding the behaviors of criminals—including those who have yet to be apprehended—as a means of determining how, where, when and why they might commit their next crimes, as well as who their potential victims could be. Courses focus strongly on assessment, abnormal behavior, cognitive processes and more.

Career:
Traffic Psychologist
Traffic Psychologist

A growing incidence of road rage has created the need for individuals who specifically study the ways that drivers obey or disobey traffic laws, respond to stress, and otherwise interact with other vehicles or pedestrians on the road.

Corrections Researcher
Corrections Researcher

These individuals conduct research in an attempt to find new ways of understanding and addressing criminal activity, incarceration, criminal punishment and rehabilitation.

Behavioral Analysis Specialist
Behavioral Analysis Specialist

When a criminal suspect is at-large, a behavioral analysis team evaluates a wide variety of information in order to understand and predict the individual’s possible actions.

Potential Salary Increases with a Master’s Degree

Those who graduate from the online master’s in forensic psychology program will find numerous positions available to them; however, their work will likely be done under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. Since working in the forensic psychology field requires a master’s degree at minimum, there is very little salary information available about those who have earned only a bachelor’s degree. The salary for those with entry-level jobs – those who might be able to find provisional work with a bachelor’s degree as they pursue the doctorate – was an average of $60,000, according to PayScale.com, while those who have worked in the field for five to ten years can see a jump in pay to $78,000.

Those who have earned the master’s degree in forensic psychology reported an income of between $40,712 and $125,000. Location matters a great deal: The high end of that pay scale was reported from New York, while the lower end was in Colorado.

Because graduates with a master’s in forensic psychology can go into several different careers, the numbers below reflect job growth and average salary for just one: rehabilitation counselors.

Growth Potential 20%
Average Salary $34,380

Additional Resources & Links

Current and prospective students—as well as recent graduates who are seeking a job—may find the following resources helpful for professional support.

Best Online Masters in Forensic Psychology Degrees

Interest in forensic psychology has skyrocketed over the last few years, especially as television shows have showcased what psychologists in law enforcement can do. This popularity has driven many aspiring students to look for forensic psychology degree programs, and online schools have responded with a wide variety of options. To sift through the choices, students can find help with our ranking of the Best Online Masters in Forensic Psychology Degrees for 2015-2016.

To learn how we evaluated the programs, check out our methodology.

RANK COLLEGE SCORE TEACHER/STUDENT RATIO COST GRADUATION RATE
1 University of North Dakota 100.00 19:1 55%
2 Saint Leo University 99.75 15:1 45%