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2023 Best Online Master's Degrees in Forensic Psychology

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 7/21/2023
2023 Best Online Master's Degrees in Forensic Psychology Badge

An online master's degree in forensic psychology teaches students how to analyze mental health disorders within the criminal justice system. Students learn how professionals use their psychology skills to enhance investigations by supporting law enforcement. Online coursework covers the legal system, research methodologies, criminal behavior, and strategic rehabilitation for offenders. Skills such as these are helpful for professional counselors, law enforcement consultants, and criminal researchers, with many graduates becoming police officers.

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2023 Best Online Master's Degrees in Forensic Psychology Badge
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Online Forensic Psychology Master's Degrees You May Be Interested In


2023 Best Online Master's Degrees in Forensic Psychology

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 Alliant International University 99 99 $67,278
# 2 #2 Arizona State University 84 $54,964
# 3 #3 Touro University Worldwide 82 $54,190
# 4 #4 Chicago School of Professional Psychology Online 72 $51,294
# 5 #5 University of North Dakota 59 $48,344

#1 Alliant International University

  • Salary Score: 99
  • Median Starting Salary: $67,278
  • Locations: San Diego (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

Alliant International University (AIU) is a private university offering an online Master of Science in Forensic Behavioral Science that requires 36 credit hours. Concentrations are available in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies; Criminal Behavior; Forensic Linguistics; Forensic Victimology; Professional Protection & Security Management; and Trial Consulting. Students studying on a full-time schedule can complete this online master's program in two years. The acceptance rate at AIU is 100%, and the graduation rate is 62%.

Students at AIU use the Canvas learning management system to access their core online courses, which are entirely online and asynchronous. The core curriculum blends theory, research, and science, focusing on criminal law and forensic psychology. There are required courses, such as Applications in Forensic Behavioral Science; Criminal Law and the Justice System; Ethics, Values and Diversity in Forensic Contexts; a capstone project; and a presentation. Graduates may earn career opportunities as crime analysts for a law enforcement agency, private security consultants, and forensic linguists.

#2 Arizona State University

  • Salary Score: 84
  • Median Starting Salary: $54,964
  • Locations: Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Arizona State University (ASU) is a public institution with an online Master of Science in Forensic Psychology requiring the completion of 33 credit hours. Typically, students graduate in approximately two years while studying full time. ASU accepts 70% of applicants, with 47% of students graduating.

All online courses at ASU are delivered through the Canvas learning management system. This software allows students to study entirely online and asynchronously. This online graduate degree focuses on the treatment of mental disorders within the legal system, along with legal psychology and research methodologies. Among the core requirements are Advanced Correctional Psychology, Advanced Legal Psychology, and Psychopathology. Additionally, students must complete a capstone project in order to graduate. Students may be hired as behavioral health technicians, correctional officers, and criminal investigators.

#3 Touro University Worldwide

  • Salary Score: 82
  • Median Starting Salary: $54,190
  • Locations: Los Angeles (CA)
  • Accreditation: WASC WSCUC

Touro University Worldwide (TUW) is a private university that offers an online Master of Arts in Psychology - Forensic Psychology. This degree requires 36 credit hours, which full-time students can complete in 12 months by taking two courses per term. TUW has an open admissions policy and accepts 100% of applicants, while 43% of students graduate with degrees.

Canvas is the primary learning platform TUW students use for their coursework, which can be completed 100% online and asynchronous. This online master's degree in forensic psychology explores criminal behavior, crime analysis, and the legal system, all through the lens of psychology. Among the required credits are Law and Psychology, Theories of Criminal Behavior, and Assessment in Forensic Psychology. Additional credits are needed for a capstone project. Jobs for graduates may be available at family protection agencies, victim advocacy groups, and court liaison officers.

#4 Chicago School of Professional Psychology Online

  • Salary Score: 72
  • Median Starting Salary: $51,294
  • Locations: Multiple Locations
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology Online (TCSPP) is a private institution with an online Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology requiring 37 credits for the non-licensure track and 67 credits for the licensure track. The completion time for this degree is approximately three years for full-time students. The acceptance rate at TCSPP in Los Angeles is 37%. Graduation data from the federal database is unavailable.

At TCSPP, students use Canvas as their learning management system. Classes are delivered entirely online; however, students must attend campus twice for four-day learning sessions. The core curriculum explores scientific research, theoretical principles, and practical skills that allow graduates to become ethical professionals. Examples of required courses include Trauma and Crisis Intervention; Human Growth and Development; and Psychopathology. Students must also complete a 700-hour practicum, with 280 hours of client contact. Career opportunities include forensic mental health counselors, corrections officers, and child welfare workers.

#5 University of North Dakota

  • Salary Score: 59
  • Median Starting Salary: $48,344
  • Locations: Grand Forks (ND)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The University of North Dakota (UND) is a public university that hosts an online Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology. Graduation requirements state that students must complete 30 credit hours, which can be done in approximately two years on a full-time schedule. UND's acceptance rate is 89%, with 52% of students graduating with degrees.

Online students at UND use Blackboard to complete their coursework, delivered online and in an asynchronous format. The virtual curriculum uses statistical data, psychological theories, and forensic applications to teach students about the relationship between law and psychology. There are no on-campus requirements; however, students must complete community fieldwork. Core classes include Advanced Social Psychology; Eyewitness Testimony and Memory; and Behavior Pathology. Graduates may find employment in law enforcement agencies, social service agencies, and hospitals.

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What Is a Master's in Forensic Psychology Degree?

Forensic psychology is one of many forensic disciplines that have become an essential part of our criminal justice system over the last several decades. 

The word "forensic" indicates the use of scientific research to investigate and solve crimes. For example, forensic accountants research financial records to help solve crimes, and forensic scientists use various scientific approaches to study evidence from crime scenes and determine each item's significance.



Forensic psychologists apply their knowledge of human behavior to figuring out the possible motives of the accused and the emotional impact on the victims of a crime.


A master's in forensic psychology degree program is designed to give graduates a thorough understanding of the interaction among psychology, criminal behavior, and the law. Students will learn about behavioral disorders, personality types, social psychology, and other aspects of the mind, but always viewed through the lens of legal applications. Unlike criminology, which narrowly focuses on criminal behavior, forensic psychology takes a broader view of psychology within the entire legal system.

After completing a master's degree in forensic psychology, students who want to become fully licensed forensic psychologists will need to complete a doctoral program. However, graduates with master's degrees in this field may find jobs in the legal system, working as court liaisons, victims' advocates, jury consultants, and more.

Degree Requirements

Forensic psychology master's degrees can be earned through traditional and distance learning formats. Programs may require anywhere from 33 to 51 credit hours. Full-time learners often earn their degree in two to three years, but part-time students may need additional time. 

In-person and online programs often include some type of internship, giving students real-world work experience under the supervision of a licensed forensic psychologist. Most programs end with a capstone research project or possibly a written thesis. A few online programs may also require enrollees to come to campus for a week-long or weekend residency.

To be admitted into an in-person or online forensic psychology master's program, applicants need to have completed a bachelor's degree at an accredited university, and there may be a minimum GPA requirement. Students often choose a program in a related discipline, such as a bachelor's degree in psychology, bachelor's in counseling, or bachelor's in forensic science. However, newly enrolled master's students without previous education in the field of forensic psychology may need to complete several prerequisite courses. 

Along with their application, applicants may also be asked to submit a statement of purpose, one or more letters of recommendation, a resume, and graduate test scores, such as GRE scores. 

Courses

Online master’s programs in forensic psychology provide students with an understanding of how the principles, theories, clinical practices, and research of psychology can be used to serve the legal and criminal justice systems. Elective courses may cover topics such as forensic applications in community settings, juvenile justice, mental health applications, and maladaptive behavior and psychopathology.

Most programs include required courses on forensic psychology research, ethical issues, and professional practices. Other common core courses in a forensic psychology master's program include the following:

Foundations of Forensic Psychology

Typically one of the first courses in a master's program, this course provides an overview of the use of psychology in supporting law enforcement and the legal system. Topics include the assessment and treatment of people involved in court cases, as well as the court system.

Advanced Legal Psychology

This course provides a deep dive into the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of accused criminals. Through case studies, learners understand the application of different psychological theories and research data.

Forensic Assessment

In this course, students discover the appropriate tools and procedures for conducting evaluations of individuals involved in legal cases. In particular, they learn to assess an accused person for competency to stand trial. Some courses may also cover working with children in child custody and other family court cases.

Communication and Testimony Skills

Forensic psychologists must document and share their findings in written and oral reports, and they are often called upon to serve as expert witnesses in trials. This course shows students the proper procedures and gives them opportunities to practice essential communication skills, including how to testify in court.

What Can You Do With a Master's in Forensic Psychology?

Master's programs in forensic psychology are designed to prepare graduates for careers in the legal system or for advanced degree programs in psychology, criminal justice, and law. Depending on your career goals, you may complete your master's degree and move directly into the workforce, or you may continue your education. 

Becoming a Licensed Forensic Psychologist

If you wish to become a licensed forensic psychologist, you will need to continue your education at the doctoral level. You can choose between two types of doctoral degrees. A Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is geared toward those who plan to become practicing forensic psychologists, while a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology is better for those who want to conduct research and work in academia.

To qualify as a licensed forensic psychologist, you'll also need to complete a one- or two-year internship, working under the supervision of a licensed professional. As the last step in the process, you'll need to meet all of your state's requirements for licensure, which will include taking the licensing exam for all clinical psychologists — the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. You may also want to pursue board certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).

Keep in mind that the licensure requirements in many states specify that your degrees must come from accredited colleges or universities. All of the schools on our rankings list of the best online forensic psychology master's programs are accredited, but make sure you select an online program that prepares you for licensure in the state where you plan to practice.

Other Forensic Psychology Careers

Accredited online forensic psychology master's programs can lead to a number of different career options. Some graduates may decide to find work in the legal system, working as court liaisons, court managers, jury consultants, case managers, or victims' advocates. Others may go into the related field of law enforcement at the local, state, or federal level. Still others may put their assessment and therapy skills to work by becoming counselors or therapists.

Graduates can also use the research, analysis, and critical thinking skills developed in their master's coursework to pursue other occupations. For example, some may become research analysts or policy analysts. Yet another option is to work in community service as a policy analyst or community service program manager.

Financing Your Master's Degree in Forensic Psychology

In addition to program details, format, location, and accreditation, cost is one of the most important factors to keep in mind when you're choosing an on-campus or online master's degree in forensic psychology. 

Fortunately, master's students enrolled in accredited online degree programs are eligible for financial aid, which comes from many different federal, state, and school sources. To apply for financial aid, you'll need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online form. You'll later be notified if you qualify for aid and how much money you're being offered. 

Scholarships and grants are the preferred forms of aid because they usually don't need to be paid back. Graduate students can also submit applications for forensic psychology scholarships, such as the Ellis R. Kerley Forensic Sciences Foundation Scholarship and the George H. Robinson Memorial Scholarship.

Student loans are another option for financing your master's degree, but the loan interest can add a significant amount to the total. In general, federal student loans offer lower interest rates than private student loans, but before you accept either type of loan, use our student loan repayment calculator to determine the full amount. 

Looking for a way to reduce the cost of earning a graduate degree? Explore our 2023 list of the most affordable master's degrees in forensic psychology.

FAQs About Master's in Forensic Psychology Programs

How Much Can You Make With a Master's in Forensic Psychology?


The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the authority on career data, indicates that the median annual salary for licensed forensic psychologists with doctorates is $102,900. The BLS does not provide wage information for several related occupations for bachelor's and master's degree holders. However, it does report the median annual income for some forensic psychology job options: $60,250 for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, $49,410 for arbitrators and mediators, and $83,640 for police detectives.

How Much Does a Master’s in Forensic Psychology Cost?


The total cost of a master's degree in forensic psychology varies depending on the school and format. However, the National Center for Education Statistics reports an average cost of $19,749 per year for a graduate degree. One way to minimize the expense is to choose an affordable master's in forensic psychology program. Another is to apply for financial aid by submitting a FAFSA form.

How Long Is a Master’s in Forensic Psychology?


The amount of time it takes to complete a master's in forensic psychology can vary depending on the program. Many programs require 33-36 credit hours and are meant to be completed in two years of full-time study. However, some programs are more extensive, requiring up to 51 credit hours.

Do I Need a Doctorate To Be a Forensic Psychologist?


Yes, to become a licensed forensic psychologist, you must have a doctorate. After earning your bachelor's degree, you can earn a master's and then a doctoral degree, or you can go directly into a doctoral program for either a PhD or PsyD. Earning a master's in forensic psychology may be sufficient if your career goal is to work in the legal system in some capacity — court liaison officer, case manager, victims' advocate — but not as a licensed psychologist. 

Is a Master's in Forensic Psychology Worth It?


When you consider how much time, energy, and money you'll put into earning an online forensic psychology master's degree, it's only natural to wonder if it will be worth it. The answer, of course, depends on your personal circumstances and career goals. 

If you're not entirely sure that you want to become a forensic psychologist but you know you want to use your knowledge of human behavior within the legal system, this degree may be the perfect choice for you. After earning your master's degree, you can always continue on for a doctorate if you decide that is the path for you. On the other hand, there are other types of psychology degrees that may be better suited to your interests.

Bottom Line

If you're interested in both psychology and the law, a master's degree in forensic psychology may be a smart choice. It will prepare you to work in the court system, helping both victims of crimes and people who've been accused of committing crimes. Additionally, it will pave the way toward earning a doctorate in psychology and becoming a fully licensed forensic psychologist if that's the career path you decide to pursue. 

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