Forensic Psychology Degrees and Programs
Forensic psychology is the intersection of law and psychology. A masters degree in this field offers a range of career opportunities.
You may find yourself interviewing criminals, preparing witnesses, or providing therapy to victims. You can even give expert testimonial from the witness stand, perhaps during a high-profile court case.
Wherever forensic psychology takes you, you’ll apply expert knowledge of human behavior in a criminal justice setting.
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Recommended Online Programs
Top 10 Best Master’s in Forensic Psychology Degrees
||University of North Dakota
||Grand Forks, ND
||The Chicago School
||University of Denver
||CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
||New York, NY
||Holy Names University
||Missouri State University-Springfield
||California State University-Los Angeles
||Los Angeles, CA
||California Baptist University
||Roger Williams University
||University of New Haven
||West Haven, CT
What kind of master’s in forensic psychology degree should you get?
Before becoming a licensed forensic psychologist, you’ll need your PhD. But earning your master’s degree is an essential step in the right direction.
Master’s programs in forensic psychology are few, but they’re increasing along with interest and demand in the field. Another route is to get a master’s in clinical psychology with a specialty in forensic psychology. Some forensic psychologists double major in law. This approach can make you a more in-demand hire.
The schools on this list have master’s programs specifically for forensic psychology. If you’re interested in the flexibility of distance learning, you can also check out our ranking of the Best Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology.
How much money do people make with a master’s in forensic psychology degree?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide data on forensic psychologists specifically. However, the median salary for psychologists in general is $77,033.
California, New Jersey, and Connecticut are the three states with the highest salaries for psychologists. New York and North Dakota round out the top five.
Over the next decade, projected job growth for psychologists is 14 percent. This is faster than average for all jobs. Plus, job prospects are best for those with a doctoral degree in an applied specialty (like forensic psychology).
What can you do with a master’s in forensic psychology degree?
As mentioned above, a master’s in forensic psychology will prepare you to pursue your PhD. The PhD is a prerequisite to becoming a licensed forensic psychologist.
Many licensed forensic psychologists open their own private practices. Others work as consultants for schools, prisons, police departments, or firms. Another option is working with government agencies like the FBI, Secret Service, or Department of Defense.
Forensic psychologists may perform a wide range of tasks. They help judges and attorneys understand the psychology involved in cases and often serve as expert witnesses. They train police departments, evaluate children involved in custody cases, and investigate allegations of child abuse. They also provide therapy to victims of violent crime, work with witnesses, and determine if a defendant is competent to stand trial.
What are the requirements for a master’s in forensic psychology degree?
If you want to be accepted to one of these programs, it’s best to have some sort of background in psychology or law. In preparation for your PhD, keep those grades up and start studying for the GRE or GMAT.
Master’s programs in forensic psychology typically last one or two years. You’ll need 30-60 credits to complete your program.
This means taking just 10-15 classes is enough to earn your master’s! That’s good news, since you also have a doctoral program in your future.
What are the best master’s in forensic psychology degrees?
Below, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best master’s in forensic psychology. This list isn’t just our opinion – we put time and research into every ranking to make sure we get it right.
First, each program on the list is regionally accredited. This means every program meets a specific set of academic quality standards. We’ve also factored in school reputation, tuition costs, and return on investment.
Our data comes only from trusted sources. These include the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Center for Educational Statistics, and U.S. News and World Report.
The bottom line is: You can trust the schools listed here. These programs will give you the tools you need to be a successful forensic psychologist!
See our rankings methodology page.
University of North Dakota
Located in Grand Forks, North Dakota, UND is the largest and oldest college in the state. It’s a public research university offering more than 225 fields of study. Specifically, the university has two master’s programs in forensic psychology. You can earn an MS on campus or an MA online. Here, we’ll focus on the on-campus MS program.
The Master of Science in Forensic Psychology at UND requires 30 credits of study. This includes 18 credits of required coursework, 6 elective credits, and 6 credit-hours for thesis work. Electives allow students to explore special areas of interest like:
- Human Nature and Crime
- Psychological Profiling and Criminal Behavior
- Seminar in Juvenile Justice
UND provides a tremendous amount of support to students in this program. Historically, all graduate students in the MS program have received a full tuition waiver of required and elective courses. Every student also receives a monthly stipend for graduate teaching assistantship work.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, known as The Chicago School, is a not-for-profit institution specializing in psychology. It offers over 20 degree programs in psychology and related behavioral sciences. The campus in Irvine, California is a paradise for networking and job opportunities. In fact, Irvine headquarters over 100 national and multinational business.
The MA in Forensic Psychology program at the Chicago School takes two years to complete. Students learn to integrate psychology into the legal and public policy arenas through coursework and hands-on experience. Like the field of forensic psychology itself, the program provides variety, including courses such as:
- Trauma and Crisis Interventions
- Mental Health Law
- Tactical and Field Psychology
At the Irvine campus, students in the Forensic Psychology program apply what they’ve learned at the Forensic Training Institute. They provide forensic assessment, clinical treatment, and staff training for attorneys and police officers. Students also have the option to complete a concentration in Police Psychology. Through these hands-on experiences, students develop essential contacts within the forensic community.
The University of Denver is a private university near the Rocky Mountains in south Denver, Colorado. It serves about 12,000 students and offers over 300 academic programs. This includes an MA program in Forensic Psychology that originated in 1999. Discovery, research, and hands-on experience form the basis of DU’s educational philosophy.
The two-year Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology combines clinical psychology training with course work and practicum experiences in psychology and law. It prepares students to work in a variety of settings including adult, juvenile, and child populations; victim assistance; police consultation; correctional institutes; domestic violence and child abuse programs; and trial consulting. Typical courses include:
- Interviewing and Theories of Psychotherapy
- The Psychology of Criminal Behavior
- Conflict Resolution
- Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychology
- Psychopathology, Evaluation, and Treatment of the Adult Offender
Curriculum and practicum experiences at UD are extensive and comprehensive. Students are engaged in direct service throughout their two years in the program. Upon graduation, 29 percent of alumni have gone on to doctoral programs. They have entered the workforce at a rate of 71 percent, with positions including correctional settings, community mental health, law firms, law enforcement, courts, and district’s attorney’s offices. Other students start their own businesses or clinics.
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
The John Jay College of Criminal Justice is a college within the City University of New York in midtown Manhattan. It is an international leader in educating for justice and has a community of over 15,000 students. The newly expanded, state-of-the-art campus features laboratories and research facilities for disciplines including forensic psychology.
John Jay’s 42-credit Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology focuses on understanding, evaluating, and treating both criminal offenders and their victims. Students acquire in-depth knowledge of personality assessment, psychological development and psychopathology, research methods, and psychotherapeutic techniques. With only four required courses, students have plenty of choices, such as:
- Violence and Aggression
- Social Science Evidence in Court
- Mental Health Issues in Policing
- Personality Profiles of the Homicidal Offender
- Assessment and Counseling of the Juvenile Offender
Students in this program may take an “externship” requiring a minimum of 300 hours under the supervision of licensed psychologist or trained mental health professional. Alternatively, students may complete a thesis. Graduates pursue further study or enter the workforce in a wide variety of agencies. Some become forensic researchers who study and evaluate at-risk populations, while others are accepted into federal law enforcement agencies.
Headquartered in Oakland, California, Holy Names University is a private Roman Catholic university. The school welcomes students from all religious backgrounds. Its mission is to prepare all students for lifelong personal and professional growth. Ranked as one of the most diverse universities in the nation, HNU offers seven master’s degree programs, including an MA in forensic psychology.
The 39-credit Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology degree is based on a philosophy of therapeutic, restorative justice. Coursework focuses on forensic assessment through a lens informed by knowledge of co-occurring mental health, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Students also learn to engage in critical analysis of our criminal justice institutions. They are prepared to become change agents in forensic settings. Courses include:
- Psychology of Criminal Behavior
- Advanced Issues in Correctional and Criminal Counseling
- Substance Abuse Assessment and Treatment
- Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment of the Victim
- Forensics: Psychometrics and Assessment
HNU’s forensic psychology program is designed for working adults. Classes are scheduled in the late afternoons and evenings Mondays through Thursdays. Some Saturday classes are also required. In addition to coursework, students complete a supervised practicum and case seminar.
Missouri State University-Springfield
Missouri State University is a public university in Springfield, Missouri. The university’s mission is in public affairs, and it focuses on ethical leadership and community engagement. Across its four campuses, MSU serves over 24,000 students. The university’s 100 graduate options include a Forensic Child Psychology Graduate Certificate Program.
One of the first of its kind, the Forensic Child Psychology Graduate Certificate Program at MSU provides training specifically for professionals working with children. The program works in partnership with the local Child Advocacy Center and the Greene County justice system. Students learn to protect the reliability and integrity of child interviews in criminal cases. Required courses include:
- Forensic Child Psychology
- Psychology of Child Abuse and Exploitation
- Forensic Psychology: Child Abuse and the Law
Courses are taught by professionals who have first-hand experience with children in forensic settings. Students participate in hands-on practicum opportunities at agencies in the Springfield community. Program graduates continue their education or work in education, law enforcement, or criminal investigation settings.
California State University-Los Angeles
One of 23 colleges in the California State university system, this CSU campus is located in the heart of Los Angeles. The university is enjoying record growth and currently enrolls over 25,000 students. According to the New York Times, Cal State LA is number one in the nation for the upward mobility of its students. The university is divided into eight colleges and offers an MS in Forensic Psychology.
Consisting of 33-34 units of coursework, the Master of Science in Forensic Psychology program emphasizes theory and research while providing practical training. The program is designed to accommodate both students seeking a PhD and those looking to enter the field. Courses include:
- Courtroom and Legal Issues in Criminalistics
- Theories and Perspectives in Criminal Justice
- Human Memory
- Seminar: Administration of Justice
Students in this program form a close mentoring relationship with a faculty member. This faculty member oversees the student’s progress toward his or her individual career goals. The program also includes a 9-month practicum. Students receive hands-on practice and supervision related to their area of interest. This may include work in a rape crisis center, Department of Children and Family Services counseling center, prisons, probation, Sheriff’s Office, or Dependency Courts.
California Baptist University
California Baptist University is a private, Christian university in Riverside, California. The liberal arts university integrates academics with spiritual and social development opportunities. Based on the belief that everyone serves a unique purpose, the university offers over 76 majors. It also has over 150 programs, lots of palm trees, and an MA in Forensic Psychology.
The two-year Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology program prepares students to provide critical psychological services within the criminal justice system. It focuses on human development, the biological nature of crime, criminal profiling, and psychopathology. Students gain hands-on experience and take interesting courses like:
- Biological Bases of Behavior
- Criminal Profiling
- Advanced Psychopathology and Criminology
In the final year of the program, students complete a nine-month practicum. In the past, students have worked with US Marshals, victim advocacy, trial advocacy, trial consultant firms, conflict resolution and mediation, probation, parole, and rape crisis centers. Some students have even landed FBI internships.
Roger Williams University
Located on Mt. Hope Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island, Roger Williams is a private coeducational university. It focuses on liberal arts, and it offers over 45 majors and over a dozen graduate degrees. This includes a two-year Forensic and Legal Psychology program. Roger Williams enrolls 6,500 students, and 96 percent receive some form of financial aid.
The two-year Master of Arts in Forensic and Legal Psychology is designed to prepare students for research-focused PhD programs. Students design and implement studies addressing issues in forensic or legal psychology. They are trained in research design, statistical analysis, clinical assessment, and psychological testing. Core requirements include:
- Psychology and Law
- Introduction to Clinical Psychology
- Multicultural Competence in Psychological Practice
- Research Design
- Advanced Developmental Psychology
Successful completion of the program requires a thesis, as well as research practicums or directed research. Most graduates go on to doctoral programs. However, they are also prepared to conduct psychological testing, direct treatment groups with special populations, act as trial consultants, and investigate prosecutorial misconduct.
A private university in West Haven, Connecticut, the University of New Haven offers a wide range of innovative and interdisciplinary programs. After six years, 96 percent of alumni report that they are succeeding in their chosen fields. And of the top 12 English-language newspapers in the world, eight quote UNH’s faculty on a regular basis. The university offers an MS in Criminal Justice with several possible concentrations, including Forensic Psychology.
The course requires 36 to complete the Master of Science in Criminal Justice. As a final requirement, students either complete a thesis or take a comprehensive final exam. The forensic psychology concentration is offered jointly by the departments of criminal justice and psychology. Courses include:
- Theories of Criminal Behavior
- Abnormal Psychology in Forensic Populations
- Forensic Treatment Models
- Mental Health, Law, and Criminal Justice
All degree candidates begin by completing the core curriculum. After consulting with an advisor, they then select electives from a list of approved courses. Before exiting the program, students register for six thesis credits or take an exam that is oral, written, or both. The exam is based on the program of study that the individual student has completed for the degree.