Forensic psychologists apply the principles and research findings of different branches of psychology to law and the criminal justice field. A master's degree in forensic psychology prepares graduates for positions including probation officers, victim advocates, forensic social workers, and police consultants. Students with a general psychology degree can specialize their field of study with a forensic psych master's.
Our guide helps degree-seekers choose the right program by providing a ranking of the top online forensic psychology degrees. We also outline career outlooks for forensic psychology degree jobs and highlight scholarships available to aspiring forensic psychologists.
Becoming a forensic psychologist typically requires a doctorate, which takes 4-5 years of study.
What can you do with a master's degree in forensic psychology?
A master's degree in forensic psychology qualifies graduates for jobs such as probation officer, crime analyst, victim advocate, and correctional counselor.
What's the difference between forensic psychology and criminal psychology?
Forensic psychology encompasses a broad field including civil law, counseling, and academic research. Criminal psychology focuses on criminal behavior.
Why Get a Degree in Forensic Psychology?
A master's degree in forensic psychology qualifies graduates to take on greater responsibilities in this challenging professional arena. Although a forensic psychology degree itself constitutes a specialized area of study, students can still concentrate on a specific subspecialty. Common subspecialities include police psychology, victimology and victim services, correctional psychology, and crime and delinquency.
Many colleges and universities offer a postgraduate online forensic psychology degree. Practitioners wanting a master's in the field can earn one without interrupting their current work. Online programs allow current and prospective forensic psychologists to pursue a subspecialty not available at in-state schools. They can enroll in out-of-state programs without needing to relocate.
How Much Does a Forensic Psychology Master's Cost?
National Center for Education Statistics data show that 2018-19 average graduate attendance costs at in-state public institutions came to $12,171. Graduate students at private nonprofit colleges and universities paid a considerably higher amount of $27,776. The cost of one year of enrollment for a master's degree in forensic psychology likely approximates these amounts.
Some colleges and universities allow out-of-state online forensic psychology degree-seekers to pay in-state tuition. The difference between resident and nonresident tuition can often significantly impact attendance costs. Students should find out whether a prospective online forensic psychology degree offers this opportunity, making their program more affordable.
At the master's level, colleges and universities often support students through fellowship and grant programs. Some of these programs include living stipends and come with teaching or research responsibilities.
Calculating the Cost of a College Degree
The calculation tool below can help learners compare schools' attendance costs. Students can usually find much of the required information by exploring a school's website. Online enrollees should note that some schools charge additional per-credit or per-course technology fees for off-campus students, impacting actual program costs.
Break down your current financial situation, and receive a college tuition estimate you can afford to pay.
How Much Do Forensic Psychology Majors Make?
The BLS reports a median salary of $105,780 for most psychologists. The median salary for all occupations of $41,950 makes a psychologist's salary more than three times the national median. The highest-paying industries include offices of health professionals; companies offering management, scientific, and technical consulting services; and elementary and secondary schools. These companies pay mean annual salaries of $133,660, $116,210, $104,360, respectively.
The state where a psychologist practices also impacts income potential. According to the BLS, the top-paying states for psychologists include California, Alaska, Illinois, Virginia, and Colorado. Psychologists in these states garner $124,910, $118,270, $115,340, $109,060, and $103,560, respectively.
Forensic psychology master's degree-holders can also teach at the postsecondary level, typically at small four-year institutions and community colleges. Similar to psychologists, postsecondary teachers earn salaries higher than the national median income, garnering $80,790 annually.
Courses in Forensic Psychology
An online forensic psychology degree typically comprises 36 credits, similar to most on-campus programs. Students enroll in clinical and nonclinical courses where they examine the biological, social, and psychological factors influencing different types of criminal behaviors. Most forensic psychology programs offer specializations in cybercrime, family violence, sex offender behavior, or victimology.
Each school offers a forensic science curriculum supporting their specific academic goals for students. Curricula often vary a great deal in terms of coursework, culminating experience requirements, and specializations. However, many master's in forensic psychology programs offer the courses described below.
Ethical and Multicultural Issues in Forensic PsychologyStudents explore topics such as the legal and ethical aspects of the corrections systems. Participants become familiar with the American Psychological Association Guidelines for Multicultural Psychology, and the American Bar Association Ethics. The course covers conflict areas that often arise between a psychologist's administrative code of practice and the rules of legal procedure.
Methods and Tools of Psychological Assessment in Forensic PsychologyStudents review a variety of assessment tools and techniques psychologists working in a forensic setting commonly use. The course familiarizes students with standardization properties so they can determine which assessment tool to use. Enrollees interpret results from neuropsychological tests, projective personality tests, and other types of measurement tools.
Psychopathology and Behavioral Interventions in Forensic SettingsThe course provides an overview of various tools used in legal and psychological research. Students examine legal issues involving mental illness that were part of landmark criminal and civil cases. Participants become familiar with the use and role of cognitive-behavioral interventions and group therapy in correctional settings.
Certifications and Licensure for Forensic Psychology
All states require psychologists to acquire licensure before they can practice independently. Licensure requirements vary, with most state boards mandating a doctorate as the minimum level of education. However, master's-trained psychologists can obtain a license in some states as long as they practice only in specific arenas.
Psychologists do not usually need a certificate to practice. However, they present the holder as a knowledgeable and well-trained professional committed to a specific field of practice. The certifications described below accept master's-trained applicants.
Forensic psychologists working with habitual sex offenders or individuals with drug addiciton problems may benefit from this American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders certification. Applicants must hold at least a master's degree in a mental health-related arena and show completion of 6,000 hours of supervised clinical work.
The National Advocate Credentialing Program administers four levels of CA certification: provisional, basic, intermediate, and advanced. Eligibility requirements vary with each level. Forensic psychologists working with victims and their families benefit from this credential, presenting them as knowledgeable practitioners skilled in providing a range of victim assistance services and resources.
The National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists reserves this credential for applicants with at least a master's degree in a mental health field. Applicants must show proof of at least six years of post-graduate experience providing cognitive-behavior therapy. The NACBT requires credentialed professionals to renew the certification every five years.
Scholarships for Forensic Psychology
Several colleges and universities support graduate enrollees through fellowship and grant programs. Many require recipients to take on research or teaching responsibilities. Some grant programs include a yearly stipend in addition to tuition assistance. Forensic psychology students can often find additional funding from professional organizations and nonprofits affiliated with the psychology field. Find three examples described below.
Lizette Peterson-Homer Grant Award
Who Can Apply: Forensic psychology graduate students focusing on protecting minors from injury due to abuse, accidents, suicide, or violence can apply to the program. Students must submit a research proposal with their application.
The Clara Mayo Grants
Who Can Apply: The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues administers this grant. Graduate students in psychology or social service programs qualify with master's thesis or pre-dissertation research focused on prejudice, racism, or sexism.
Online Master's in Forensic Psychology Programs 2022
#1 Online Master’s In Forensic Psychology
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles
- Los Angeles, CA
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
California-based The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles provides graduate programs for online and on-campus degree-seekers. The private school's graduate-level offerings include a flexible master's in forensic psychology.
During the first year of the online program, master's students explore foundational principles through core forensic psychology classes. In addition to core requirements, degree-seekers complete upper-level coursework exploring advanced forensic psychology topics. Faculty members provide mentorship, and graduate students can pursue internships to prepare for careers in the field.
A master's in forensic psychology often leads to advanced positions and raises for current professionals in the field. Graduate students and alumni can receive professional assistance and resources from the institution's career counselors.
The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. The institution holds accreditation, which means degree-seekers can qualify for federal financial aid programs. Learners can use grants, scholarships, and fellowships to reduce out-of-pocket expenses. The percent of students awarded aid is unavailable.
Percent Online Enrollment
Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission