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Online Forensic Psychology Degree Programs At the crossroads of psychology and the law

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Whenever you see an expert take the witness stand to testify on the mental health of a criminal defendant, you’re watching a forensic psychologist at work. There’s much more to the profession than testifying in court, however. Forensic psychologists are licensed clinical psychologists who apply psychological principles and methods to all types of legal issues and environments. The following page outlines what it takes to earn the right online degree and launch a satisfying and successful career in forensic psychology.

Best Online Forensic Psychology Programs 2018-2019

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Forensic psychologists take the lead on working with and testifying about patients involved in criminal trials. The profession generally requires a doctorate as well as state licensure and additional training and certification. Earning an online degree in the field is a convenient way to continue working while gaining the necessary coursework to further your career. Check out the top school for forensic psychology here.

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Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
National Louis University Chicago, Illinois$12,4565%76%25%1Yes Yes Yes

At National Louis University, students interested in forensic psychology can earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice with a major in forensic social justice. This degree program is offered in a hybrid format, with some online classes and some on-campus at NLU's Chicago-area campus. Students take courses exploring criminal behavior; the effects of crime on society; investigation methods; and the roles of law enforcement agencies, the justice and corrections system, and various social service agencies. Graduation requires 180 quarter hours (the equivalent of 120 semester hours); 60 of those (40 semester hours) are in general education. In addition to doing coureswork, some general education requirements may be met through taking an exam or otherwise demonstrating competency. If they wish, students may use their elective hours to add a 4-course concentration in entrepreneurship. Graduates go on to work in positions such as police officers, security experts, forensic researchers, trial consultants and caseworkers.

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Faulkner University Montgomery, Alabama$18,32091%45%29%1No Yes Yes

Students work at their own pace while pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Psychology at Faulkner University; as a result, this 121-credit fully online degree may accommodate both part-time working students who need more than the traditional 4 years to graduate, as well as those who wish to finish it more quickly. Students take 71 credits in the major and 50 in core classes; the school's Christian underpinnings mean that students will take several theology and Bible courses as part of the core curriculum. The major-specific coursework is designed to integrate the principles of psychology with those of criminal justice, and students explore fundamental psychological principles as well as topics such as criminal behavior and interrogation techniques. Graduates go on to work in a variety of positions with both government agencies and within the private sector, including working as an expert witness, a criminal behavior analyst, a trial consultant or a forensic psychology researcher. For many students, the degree also serves as preparation for graduate studies.

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National Median Annual Salary & Job Growth For Forensic Psychology

The bureau of labor statistics provides the following data about job growth in the Psychology industry. As well as the following national median salary data for several different careers in the field of Psychology.

Career/Specialization Description National Median Annual Salary Minimum Education
Clinical Forensic Psychologist Conduct forensic assessment and relevant legal consultation in court service units, correctional facilities, specialized mental health centers or private practice. $61,496 Doctoral degree in forensic psychology or clinical psychology and board certification
Clinical Psychologist Diagnose, evaluate and treat patient psychological, emotional and behavioral issues and disorders. $72,825 Doctoral degree in clinical or counseling psychology.
FBI Psychologist – Behavioral Research and Instruction Unit Research and consult law enforcement on patterns of criminal behavior, such as gang violence, cybercrime, and terrorism. $76,000 Doctorate degree
Probation Officer/Correctional Treatment Specialist Supervise former inmates on probation and ensure their compliance with probation terms. $40,954 Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, psychology or related discipline.


Source: Payscale.com

Forensic Psychologist: Milestone Map

There are several paths one can take to become a successful forensic psychologist. The milestone map below illustrates one of the most common tracks:

Bachelor’s Degree

Earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in criminal justice.

Master’s Degree

Earned an online master’s degree in forensic psychology.


Earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in forensic psychology

State Licensure

Obtained license to practice as a clinical psychologist

Work Experience

Completed 100 hours of postdoctoral specialized training and 1,000 hours work experience

Professional Certification

Passed examinations for specialty certification as a forensic psychologist with the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP)

Forensic Psychology Programs: Online Learning

Getting accustomed to an online college degree program will require a transition from traditional learning habits. There is a certain period of acclimation and adjustment needed to become comfortable with the process. That adjustment period is normally short and smooth, and before long, most students prefer the advantages to online study over more traditional methods. Below is a brief look at the basic tools involved in an effective and satisfying online college experience for forensic psychology.

Lab Work

Forensic psychology courses often require students to complete lab assignments which may take the form of lab kits sent by mail to the student’s home. The student then completes the assignment and returns the results by mail for evaluation and grading.

Internships, Residencies and In-Person Participation

Some undergraduate psychology degree programs may additionally require in-person participation by students in the form of short on-campus residencies, seminars or workshops. Forensic psychology graduate students will most certainly be required to successfully complete an internship, capstone project or other components that will mandate a student’s physical attendance on campus or at a designated facility.


Course examinations are commonly administered through a digital platform. Forensic psychology degree programs, however, may require students to travel to campus or a designated testing site to complete their exams under instructor or proctor supervision.

Student Records

In most cases, degree programs make no distinction between degrees earned on-campus and those earned online. In most cases, a student’s diploma and official course transcripts will not indicate that the degree was earned through an online program.

Forensic Psychology Online Degree Options

The explosion of interest in the forensic psychology field has resulted in more degree programs with the specific forensic psychology major designation (as opposed to a forensic psychology concentration for the clinical psychology major) as well as a growing number of master’s programs in forensic psychology. The following provides an in-depth look at the current forensic psychology degree environment:

  • Master’s
  • Doctorate
  • Graduate & Post-Graduate Certificates

Forensic psychology master’s degrees come in a range of forms, including both M.A. and M.S. titles. The distinction between the two titles concerns program emphasis. The M.A. degree focuses more on clinical and applied aspects of the field, while the M.S. degree more science and research oriented. Additionally, psychology master’s programs regularly offer study in forensic psychology as a minor or concentration as opposed to offering a degree with a standalone forensic psychology designation. Some schools offer their degrees with the criminal psychology designation, which is a specialization that falls within the broader forensic psychology field.

Although earning board certification as a forensic psychologist requires a doctorate degree, an online master’s program can serve as a stepping stone for students. Furthermore, earning a master’s degree can allow aspiring doctorate students to pursue more advanced job opportunities during the time prior to completing their education. Find detailed information about online master’s in forensic psychology programs on our page dedicated to the subject.

Virtually all states require a doctoral degree in order to obtain licensure to practice psychology within their borders. Doctoral-level degree programs in forensic psychology are most often offered as concentrations within the broader clinical psychology degree title, although a small number of programs offer the standalone forensic psychology degree designation. Forensic psychology doctorate degrees may be designated either Ph.D. or Psy.D., with the main difference between to two being that the Psy.D. program is generally more focused on the clinical aspects of the field.

Typical features of a doctoral program in forensic psychology or clinical psychology with a forensic psychology concentration include advanced coursework, a pre-doctoral internship, and a dissertation. Students should expect a four- to seven-year commitment to complete their doctoral degree program.

There are an abundance of graduate and post-graduate forensic psychology certificate programs available for completion online. There are a small number of forensic psychology certificates eligible to bachelor’s degree holders, but the majority of certificate programs are aimed at those who have already earned their master’s degree or doctoral degree in clinical or general psychology and intend to specialize in or transition their practice into forensic psychology. These certificate programs are designed to enhance and enrich students’ knowledge and skills in forensic psychology, and are not specifically designed to prepare them for obtaining professional certification or state licensure.

The length of time needed to complete a forensic psychology certificate varies by program, but most require between six months and one year.

Common Online Courses in Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology programs cover a broad range of topics, ranging from social psychology to coursework that prepares students for work in the courtroom. Here’s a look at a sample of titles and descriptions for courses that forensic psychology students are likely to find in their curricula:

Criminal Psychology:

Provides insights and analysis about crime from a psychological point of view. Evaluates the role of psychological factors to better understand the motives behind antisocial acts and how individuals are influenced by multiple systems within the psychosocial environment.

Gender Violence – Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse:

An examination of gender crimes, its victims and perpetrators, concerning cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. Topics include the psychological damage caused by these events and their impact on criminal, civil, family and juvenile law.

Integrated Theories of Crime:

An exploration of basic questions regarding human nature and behavior, crime, and criminality from the perspective of psychological, sociological criminological theories.

Methods and Tools of Psychological and Violence Risk Assessment:

A look at the various psychological assessment tools and techniques employed by psychologists in the forensic setting with a focus on standardization properties and interpretation of results.

Social Psychology:

Review of theoretical and empirical literature in social psychology with a focus on stereotyping and prejudice, interpersonal relationships, social cognition, group behavior and other related topics.

Checklist: Before Enrolling in an Online Program

Choosing the right degree program requires a bit of self-reflection and analysis in terms of career goals and lifestyle preferences followed by making a list of program priorities and “must-haves.” Doing so will save time by quickly narrowing one’s list of potential programs. Although, this list will be different for each individual, there are a few items that should be part of any student’s list:

  • School and Program Accreditation: A foundation requirement. Full and proper accreditation ensures that a program’s overall quality has been verified and that a degree awarded by that program will be recognized by other schools, state licensing boards, professional associations and employers. Find more detailed information on accreditation of forensic psychology programs below.
  • Cost: It is important to understand the cost of any online degree program, including total costs over the entire length of the program. Do not enroll in any degree program until you can comfortably state: “I can afford this program, and it is worth my time and money.”
  • Admission Requirements: Every school has its own set of admissions requirements and preferences. Be sure that you meet all of the requirements for each program you are considering. Also, do a bit of networking to find out the types of research that forensic psychology professors are doing in a particular program and play to their interests.
  • Financial Aid: Well before applying to any online program, be sure to plot out your financial needs over the course of your studies and explore potential scholarship, grant and loan sources. Examine carefully the ramifications of taking on student debt, both during your academic pursuit and after graduation.
  • School Support Services: Be sure to look beyond a degree program’s subject-related coursework and consider what other services are offered by its school. Online students should have the same access to counseling, financial aid, employment and tech services as on-campus students. Also check out whether online learners can access library books and materials.
  • Internships and Work Experience: Since forensic psychology is an applied specialization, be sure that the degree program you select can help you locate and secure quality internships and other work experience positions in the field.

Online Psychology Program Accreditation

Post-secondary accreditation is the process by which the legitimacy and quality of a post-secondary educational institution and its academic programs are verified. Accreditation in the U.S. is handled by non-profit organizations and professional associations concerned with maintaining high educational standards in colleges and universities. There are a number of accrediting agencies in the forensic psychology field, chief among them are:

Institutional Accreditation:

There are six regional accrediting agencies in charge of institutional accreditation in the United States, each of which is recognized by the Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Programmatic Accreditation:

The primary accrediting association of forensic psychology doctoral degree programs is the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA does not, however, provide accreditation to undergraduate or master’s level forensic psychology programs. APA is recognized by the Department of Education as the national accrediting authority for professional education and training in psychology in the U.S.

Both of the above-described forms of accreditation are important and prospective online forensic psychology degree seekers should be careful to confirm that their degree program holds both.

Online Enrollment Timeline: Forensic Pscyhology

Submitting applications and required documents on time can make the difference between being admitted into your program of choice, and delaying your education. To make sure that you meet all hard deadlines, be sure to put together a calendar of important dates in the enrollment process and check that calendar regularly. The following is a basic timeline to use as the basis of one’s own deadline calendar for applying to an online graduate program:

Time Before Program Start Date
Step 1

Submit application for the Graduate Records Examinations (GREs) given in October.

Step 2

Take GREs. Choose programs for application submittal.

Step 3

Submit requests for undergraduate transcripts to be sent to prospective programs. Request letters of recommendation from professors and other academic advisors.

Step 4

Submit all admissions forms, test scores and other required documentation.


Step 5

File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) application and other required documents. Sit for department interviews.

Step 6

Accept program of your choice and decline other offers.


Source: American Psychological Association.

The key to being accepted to top degree programs is for the applicant to make himself or herself stand out from other program applicants. In addition to undergraduate GPA, admissions committees look to a variety of other factors in choosing its degree candidates. The following outlines some of the most effective:

  • Know your program Most graduate school programs, regardless of the subject, are all about the research. This may be less true for online programs, but only slightly. That’s why graduate program applicants would be wise to familiarize themselves with those areas of research being pursued by faculty members in the forensic psychology department.
  • Academic Research Prospective grad students who can demonstrate experience in conducting real research in forensic psychology or a related field as an undergrad will likely increase their chances of admission.
  • Join a psychology-specific club There are national psychology-related groups that students can join such as the APA’s Student Affiliate program and Psi Chi honor society. These groups and clubs are typically open to online degree seekers as well as their on-site counterparts. Extracurricular psychology-related activities are a great way of showing one’s passion for the profession.
  • Networking with undergraduate faculty Admissions committees place a good deal of importance on an applicant’s letters of recommendation. Students should make an effort to form strong personal and academic relationships with their professors, which often lead to letters of recommendation that set them apart from the competition.

Forensic Psychology: Career Concentrations

Technically speaking, forensic psychology is a specialization that falls under the broader heading of clinical psychology, an area of applied psychology. Forensic psychologists apply the principles and methods of clinical psychology to the world of law and crime in settings such as courts, prisons, correctional facilities, hospitals and private facilities, government agencies and others. The practice of forensic psychology is growing along with the broader psychology profession, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating a 19% job growth for psychologists between 2014 and 2024.

The following describes potential career concentrations in forensic psychology and related paths:

Forensic Psychologist Licenses & Certifications

State licensure is an absolute requirement for professional practice in forensic psychology. Professional certification, while not a strict requirement, is highly recommended and a hiring prerequisite for many employers. .

  • State Licensure

    All states require that prospective forensic psychologists sit for and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). Candidates first apply for licensure with their state’s licensing authority. If the candidate meets all state education and experience requirements, he or she then applies to take the EPPP and schedules a testing date. If the candidate does not pass, he or she can immediately apply to retake the exam as soon as they are able. However, the test cannot be taken more than four times in a 12-month period.

  • American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP) Certification in Forensic Psychology

    National certification of forensic psychologists is administered by the ABFP, a non-profit association affiliated with the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), the primary organization for specialty board certification in psychology. Credentials for ABFP board certification include: 100 hours of qualifying specialized postdoctoral training in forensic psychology; 1,000 hours of qualifying postdoctoral experience in forensic psychology; and passing both written and oral examinations.

Similar Online Psychology Programs

Students with an interest in psychology may also want to consider online degree programs in the following related disciplines:

Online Child Psychology Degrees:

Child psychology professionals deal with psychological issues concerning children and adolescents in relation to their families and other social contexts. Online child psychology degree programs are available on the bachelor’s and master’s levels.

Online Clinical Psychology Degrees:

Clinical psychology concerns the evaluation and treatment of patients in order to diagnose and resolve psychological issues. Online clinical psychology degree programs are available primarily on the bachelor’s and master’s levels.

Online School Psychology Degrees:

School psychologists are employed on all educational levels to evaluate and treat psychological, emotional and social issues of students, as well as to counsel parents, consult with school officials, and advocate on behalf of their student patients.

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