Best Forensic Psychology Degrees 2021

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Forensic psychology is a psychology subfield focusing on the law and criminal procedures. Professionals who specialize in forensic psychology work with other psychology experts and law enforcement professionals to interview witnesses, select juries, and analyze testimonies. Unlike forensic psychologists, forensic scientists examine crime scenes and physical evidence.

In addition to technical knowledge, forensic psychologists need an analytical mindset, the ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds, patience, and problem-solving skills. Undergraduate coursework in the field helps students develop and hone these and other crucial skills.

Aspiring forensic scientists begin by earning a bachelor’s in forensic psychology. Undergraduate programs in the field prepare learners to succeed in master’s and doctoral programs. Many advanced psychology positions require a terminal degree and a state-issued license.


  • What is forensic psychology?

    Forensic psychology is a psychology subfield that involves analyzing the mental states of criminals, victims, witnesses, and potential jurors.

  • How long does it take to earn a bachelor's in forensic psychology?

    Full-time learners typically complete forensic psychology bachelor’s programs in about four years. Part-time students generally require more time to earn the degree.

  • Can I study forensic psychology online?

    Many top universities offer online bachelor’s in forensic psychology programs. Online learning often benefits busy students who need flexible scheduling options.

  • What is the difference between forensic psychology and forensic science?

    Forensic psychologists and scientists work with law enforcement to solve crimes. However, forensic scientists collect and analyze physical evidence.

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Top 5 Forensic Psychology Degrees

Rank School Location
1 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott Prescott, AZ
2 John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York, NY
3 Walla Walla University College Place, WA
4 Maryville University Saint Louis, MO
5 Florida Institute of Technology Melbourne, FL

Career and Salary Outlook for Forensic Psychology

The daily experience of forensic psychologists varies based on their position and employer. Typical work settings include police stations, prisons, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers. Job duties include interviewing clients to determine their mental state. Forensic psychologists may use collected information to make treatment recommendations. These professionals may also provide testimony during criminal and civil trials.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for psychologists to increase 3% from 2019 to 2029, a rate about the same as the national average for all occupations. This suggests that graduates of forensic psychology bachelor’s programs should enter a stable job market.

The BLS reports that psychologists earn a median salary of $80,370 per year. This figure includes salary data for all psychology professions, including forensic psychologists. Earning potential depends on factors including geographic location and credentials. Professionals with licensure, certification, and experience typically earn more than their peers. Forensic psychologists in major cities generally earn higher salaries than those in rural areas.

Career Lowest 10% Median Annual Salary Highest 10%
Psychologist Less than $45,380 $80,370 More than $132,070

Source: BLS

Accreditation for Forensic Psychology Degrees

Prospective students should choose schools that possess regional accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education charters six regional accreditation agencies to review postsecondary institutions throughout the United States. Students who graduate with a bachelor’s in forensic psychology from an unaccredited school may not qualify for employment or graduate studies.

Even the most rigorous forensic psychology bachelor’s programs typically do not qualify for field-specific accreditation, since programmatic accreditation agencies such as APA do not accredit undergraduate programs. Only doctoral programs can earn APA accreditation. Students must earn a doctorate from an APA-accredited program to be eligible for a state-issued clinical psychologist license.

Courses in a Forensic Psychology Bachelor’s Program

Forensic psychology bachelor’s programs require approximately 120 credits. General education courses help learners develop transferable communication, writing, and research skills. Major coursework also emphasizes research skills, as well as psychology fundamentals. Advanced courses explore topics including forensic, correctional, and abnormal psychology. Some programs include elective credits, which learners may use to complete a second major or a minor.

Forensic psychology curricula often include the following classes. However, course titles and academic requirements vary by school. Students should contact their prospective school’s admissions department for details regarding its bachelor’s in forensic psychology program.

Forensic psychologists need strong research and analytical skills. This class introduces psychology research fundamentals. Learners analyze research, complete projects, and conduct experiments. Degree-seekers take the course during their first year of studies to prepare for advanced research projects later in their program.

Criminology explores the reasons that people commit crime. Students examine various psychological theories and factors that lead people to break the law. This foundational course requires existing psychology knowledge. Courses such as criminology, correctional psychology, and abnormal psychology generally require one or more psychology prerequisites.

An individual’s physical and intellectual development affects their behavior. This class examines life stages from conception to death. Coursework emphasizes healthy development and helps students understand the biological and societal forces that affect criminal behavior.

Forensic psychologists use statistics knowledge to turn research data into applicable results. This course emphasizes advanced statistical concepts, including chi-square tests, regression, and correlation and regression. Students demonstrate mastery of course topics by creating software projects. The class typically requires prerequisites in introductory statistics.

Many of the best forensic psychology bachelor’s programs require a capstone project. Learners typically conduct original research and collaborate with a faculty member. Seniors usually produce a research paper and give an oral presentation to faculty. Applicants to master’s or doctoral forensic psychology programs often include their senior project in their application portfolio.

Scholarships for Forensic Psychology

Students in even the most affordable forensic psychology bachelor’s programs often need financial aid to avoid debt. Colleges and universities generally offer merit-based and need-based aid for undergraduate students. However, awards may not cover all education expenses, such as fees and textbooks. Students can apply to private scholarships such as those below, many of which renew annually.

AP-LS Award for Best Undergraduate Paper

Who Can Apply: The American Psychology-Law Society accepts applications for the award until June 30. Candidates submit papers in APA format, which must not exceed 25 pages. Applicants must also submit a recommendation letter from a faculty member.
Amount: $150-$500

HSF Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Hispanic high school seniors and undergraduates can apply for the competitive award from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Applicants must possess a minimum 3.0 high school or undergraduate GPA and must be enrolled full time.
Amount: $5,000

WIFLE Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: Women in Federal Law Enforcement administers this scholarship to support women preparing for careers in law enforcement. Candidates must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA, submit an essay, and provide a statement of support from a police officer or community leader.
Amount: Varies

Best Forensic Psychology Degrees 2021

The following ranking highlights the best forensic psychology bachelor’s programs for 2021. These programs offer rigorous curricula, helpful support services, and institutional financial aid opportunities. Prospective students should research each school to learn about curriculum and admission requirements. Information may have changed since this article’s publication.

  1. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott

    Prescott, AZ

    Embry-Riddle, a private aerospace and aviation-focused university, offers a campus-based bachelor of science in forensic psychology at its Prescott, Arizona campus. The program blends applied psychology, forensics, security, and social and behavioral research. All students gain extensive hands-on experience in the university's cybersecurity, intelligence, and forensics labs.

    The 122-credit program provides a thorough grounding in science, math, and research. Specialized training follows through topics like criminality, global security, and both United States and international affairs. Courses include psychology of deception detection, investigative methodology and forensic science, and forensic accounting and fraud examination. All students must complete a two-semester capstone experience consisting of a practicum or research project.

    Applicants must submit official transcripts. Though not required, the university recommends including ACT or SAT scores, a personal essay, a resume, and two recommendation letters. The average successful applicant shows a GPA of 3.73 and SAT combined scores of 1213 or an ACT score of 26. Embry-Riddle is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. John Jay College of Criminal Justice

    New York, NY

    A member of the public City University of New York (CUNY) system, John Jay offers a liberal arts curriculum that prepares students for ethical leadership and global citizenship in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Its on-campus bachelor of arts in forensic psychology focuses on the intersection between psychology and criminal justice.

    The 120-credit program includes 43-52 major credits in courses such as psychology and the law, theories of personality, and psychology of oppression. All students must choose two capstone experiences. Options range from a specialized seminar to an advanced research experience. Optionally, students may complete an honors thesis. The program also offers an accelerated BA/MA program for qualified students.

    Applicants must submit official transcripts and SAT or ACT scores (waived through Spring 2022). John Jay is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  3. Walla Walla University

    College Place, WA

    The private Adventist WWU, located in College Place, Washington, offers a campus-based bachelor of science in forensic psychology. Designed for those interested in careers in probation, parole, or law enforcement, the program requires students to take 63 major credits along with their general education requirements.

    Courses include introduction to criminal Justice, advanced forensic psychology, and research methods. All students must also complete a three-credit volunteer practicum experience.

    Admission requirements include official transcripts reflecting a minimum GPA of 2.5, ACT or SAT scores, and a personal reference. Students without a high school diploma may qualify for admission by examination with a GED total score of 640. Homeschool students need not take the GED. Applicants under age 18 with at least two completed years of high school and a passing score on the California High School Proficiency Examination may apply with parental permission and a letter explaining the reasons for acceleration. WWU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

  4. Maryville University

    Saint Louis, MO

    Maryville, a private university in St. Louis, Missouri, offers an online or campus-based bachelor of arts in forensic psychology. Students prepare for careers in victim assistance, corrections, or similar fields, or for graduate school.

    In addition to traditional general liberal arts courses, all students take psychology courses such as human development through the lifespan, psychological testing, and multicultural psychology. Students also take criminal justice classes, including an introduction to criminal investigations, criminal law and procedure, and police psychology. On-campus students participate in a senior seminar, while online students complete a senior project. All students must also complete a 150-contact-hour internship.

    Applicants must submit official transcripts showing a minimum GPA of 2.5 or a GED score of at least 660 with no section score below 145. Maryville is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  5. Florida Institute of Technology

    Melbourne, FL

    Florida Tech, a private research university in Melbourne, offers a campus-based bachelor of arts in forensic psychology. The 120-credit program requires two semesters of a foreign language.

    Beyond general education requirements, all students take basic social science courses such as cross-cultural and ethnic psychology, psychology of personality, and introduction to child advocacy. They also take one natural science class, such as human cognition: theory and application, sensation and perception, or animal learning and behavior. They then choose five forensic psychology courses such as forensic behavior investigation and identification, critical Issues in forensic psychology, or introduction to child advocacy. All students must also complete an internship and research project.

    Admission requirements include official transcripts and ACT or SAT scores (students may request a case-by-case waiver due to COVID-19). The university recommends (though does not require) an essay and a letter of recommendation. Florida Tech is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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