Are you a Sherlock Holmes when it comes to studying human behavior? Are you obsessed with shows like Criminal Mind and Psych – and do you usually solve the case before the show ends? Put your analytical mind to the test and become a forensic psychologist. You’ll work with the whole spectrum of a case: the victims, the criminals, the court system, and beyond. You will be the expert in assessing and investigating criminal intent.
What kind of online master’s in forensic psychology should you get?
An online master’s program in forensic psychology can include focused specializations like victimology, cybercrime, and sex offender behavior. Because of the multidisciplinary nature of this field, there are a lot of different career intersections for graduates.
In a victimology forensic psychology program, students look at the profiles of victims of crime. They learn why criminals choose certain types of victims and how victims are affected by crimes. Students might also look at other related populations, such as first responders, who often struggle with emotional trauma after dealing with the aftermath of crimes.
A cybercrime forensic psychology program looks at the intersection of criminal psychology and technology. Students look at the role of new media like the internet and social media in crime, and the psychological elements of cybercrime.
Sex offender behavior looks at the psychological profiles of those who commit sex crimes. Students also look at ways in which the psychological issues of sex offenders can be treated, discouraging repeat offenses.
How much money do people make with an online master’s in forensic psychology?
Psychologists, regardless of specialization, made just under $80,000 in 2018, but Payscale.com data indicates forensic psychologists made somewhat less. The median pay in the field was $65,403 in 2018, with high-end salaries coming in around $100,000. Pay significantly increases with experience in this field, with most of the high salaries going to professionals with more than two decades of background in the field.
Demand for psychologists has been increasing in recent years, with a projected growth rate over the next decade of 14%. Only a small portion of these jobs will focus on forensic psychology.
What can you do with an online master’s in forensic psychology?
Those with forensic psychology backgrounds can find employment in many areas in and surrounding the criminal justice system. Common environments include police departments, correctional facilities, and courthouse settings.
- Police Departments – Forensic psychologists who work as police consultants help police understand the minds of criminals. They also provide training on appropriate ways to engage with the community.
- Correctional Facilities – Forensic psychologists who work in correctional facilities, such as jails and prisons, coordinate the work done in these facilities. They also provide counseling and support for inmates.
- Courthouses – Some forensic psychologists support lawyers prior to and during trial proceedings. They assist with voir dire and the evaluation of witness testimony, among other duties.
What are the requirements for an online master’s in forensic psychology?
- Bachelor’s degree – A master’s in forensic psychology will require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Some schools also set a lower limit for undergraduate GPA, or undergraduate GPA for related coursework. In this case, expect to verify the GPA with transcripts.
- Letters of recommendation – Typical master’s programs will expect two to three letters of recommendation. Commonly accepted recommendation letter sources include professors and employers.
- Application fee – Schools that charge an application fee usually set the fee at about $50. Some will waive the fees for economic hardship reasons.
What are the best online master’s in forensic psychology degrees?
The programs below represent some of the best online master’s degrees in forensic psychology, and can serve as a starting point for those looking for a quality education in the field. These programs all stand out in some way, whether through their great value, excellent faculty, or strong reports of student satisfaction. Every ranking draws on specific data from U.S. News & World Report and Payscale.com, ensuring that the schools that reach the top spots are those that have put out consistent real world results.
See our rankings methodology page.
University of North Dakota
Average Net Price: $14,693
The University of North Dakota (UND) ranks #1 on our list of the best online Master’s in Forensic Psychology. A leader in higher education in the upper Midwest region, UND is based in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Its Division of Continuing Education offers online programs at the undergraduate and graduate level.
The online Master’s in Forensic Psychology at UND doesn’t hold back in educational opportunities. You’ll take 35 credits in online courses. This includes a wide selection of electives in which you can hone in on a special topic. Otherwise, you’ll be selecting from the engaging core curriculum with classes like:
- Behavior Pathology
- Advanced Univariate Statistics
- Psychology & Law
- Psychological Profiling and Criminal Behavior
The capstone requirement takes the form of a one-week residency on the Grand Forks campus. You’ll spend this week engaging with faculty and peers alike, and present a final research paper to them. In addition, you’ll meet with local professionals in the field like the county judge, a violence intervention center director, and a forensic psychologist.
Nova Southeastern University
Average Net Price: $25,344
Located just north of Miami, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is a private university in Florida. When NSU began in 1964, it focused on physical and social science degrees at the graduate level. Over time, it expanded into offering over 175 programs of study.
Nova Southeastern University jumps right in with a job-specific online M.S. in Forensic Psychology. After taking eight core courses in the foundations of forensic psychology, you’ll dive into one of two career tracks: Forensic Psychology in the Legal System or Forensic Psychology for Mental Health Workers, First Responders, and Disaster Teams. Some classes include:
- Ethical Concerns & Multicultural Issues in Forensic Psychology
- Communication Skills, Tools, and Expert Witness Testimony
- Trauma Informed Assessment and Intervention
- Psychological Issues in Dependency & Family Law Cases
When it comes to the final requirements of this degree, students have the option to either complete a thesis project or a field experience in their area of specialty. Some students have shadowed forensic psychologists or legal consultants. Others have prepared thesis projects for journal publications.
University of California Irvine
Average Net Price: $13,780
A public research university in Orange County, the University of California Irvine (or UC Irvine) is one of ten campuses within the larger state system. UC Irvine is highly regarded for its research activity and academic rigor, despite its relatively recent history—it was founded in 1965. It ranks in the top 40 schools for its programs in psychology, according to U.S. News & World Report.
To kick off this M.S. in Legal and Forensic Psychology at UC Irvine, you’ll need to attend an in-person residency for an introductory course. After that, though, the program is completely offered online. You’ll spend the next two years taking classes like:
- Forensic Assessment
- Eyewitness Testimony
- Children and the Law
- Legal and Social Responses to Domestic Violence
Beyond UC Irvine’s offerings in forensic psychology, it pulls impressive ranks among other top schools for things like return on investment. According to a study done by Forbes last year, it ranked 8th in the nation for “Best Value Colleges.”
Southern New Hampshire University
Average Net Price: $34,984
One of the fastest growing universities in the nation—largely due to its online programs—Southern New Hampshire University is a private institution based in Hooksett, New Hampshire. The College of Online & Continuing Education houses over 90,000 students.
At SNHU, you’ll earn an online M.S. in Psychology with the option of adding on a specialization in Forensic Psychology. This curriculum leans heavily on industry-relevant topics within both law and psychology. You’ll take classes like:
- Social Psychology
- Assessment for Forensic Psychology
- Intersection of Law and Psychology
- Psychology in the Courtroom
Southern New Hampshire may take an untraditional approach to learning through its online programing, but it receives high praise for its methods. U.S. News & World Report named it the 2017 “Most Innovative University in the North.” It also was given an award for its “Excellence in Online Technology” by the United States Distance Learning Association.
Average Net Price: $24,794
Founded by conservative Christian leader Jerry Falwell, Liberty University is the largest Christian higher education institution in the world. It is known for its conservative values. Liberty University Online (or LU Online) enrolls around 100,000 online students annually (compared to its roughly 15,000 students on-campus.
Liberty University takes a slightly different approach by offering a Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Forensic Psychology. This degree is completed 100 percent online. This 36-credit-hour program culminates in master’s thesis. Before that, however, you’ll take classes like:
- Crisis Intervention in Law Enforcement
- Psychology and the Legal System
- Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders
One huge perk of attending Liberty University is the possibility of getting a substantial discount if you’re an active duty law enforcement or a first responder. You’ll get a 25 percent tuition discount right off the bat, and then the chance to apply for other tuition benefits like the Corporate Advantage Program or Military Benefits Package.
Arizona State University
Average Net Price: $13,007
The largest public university by enrollment, Arizona State University (ASU) has around 72,000 students. Though it is based in Phoenix, Arizona, ASU maintains five campuses in the city, as well as four campuses throughout the state. Even more, ASU Online delivers over 150 programs all through distance learning.
The 33 credit hours required in ASU’s online M.S. in Forensic Psychology includes core classes as well as electives and research classes. Rather than a thesis or capstone project, you’ll take a comprehensive written exam to graduate. This curriculum includes a number of seminar-based classes like:
- Applied Data Analysis in Criminal Justice
- Advanced Legal Psychology
- Courts and Sentencing
Arizona State University is a consistent winner of the “Most Innovative School in America” U.S. News & World Report has granted ASU this designation three years in a row. Even more, it was ranked as having the #4 “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs,” which by extension applies to the caliber of online graduate programs at ASU.
Chicago School of Professional Psychology Online
Average Net Price: $13,524
Specializing specifically in psychology, the Chicago School of Professional Psychology Online caters specifically to graduate students. Other than its home campus in Chicago, the school has six other locations, as well as an online branch. It offers over twenty different degree programs that all find their roots in psychology.
Chicago School of Professional Psychology delivers an online M.A. in Forensic Psychology. This non-licensure track gives you the flexibility to attend full-time or part-time. Depending on which, you can finish your degree anywhere between 2 and 4 years. Some highlight courses have included:
- Social Psychology and Aggression
- Trauma and Crisis Intervention
- Ethics and Professional Issues in Forensic Psychology
At the Chicago School of Professional Psychology Online, you’ll use Canvas as your distance learning platform. One of the features includes synchronous virtual residencies, which allows you to interact with your faculty members and peers as if you were learning in the same classroom. It also includes self-paced online learning.
University of Louisiana at Monroe
Average Net Price: $9,145
The most affordable program on our list with a net price of just $9,145 per year, the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) is a public university with a lot to offer. Its online branch, eULM offers over 30 degree programs, and was recently named the #1 online program in Louisiana.
ULM runs a well-respected and established Department of Psychology. The Forensic Psychology concentration within the Master of Science degree is just one of three other areas of focus. You can complete this concentration online. In addition to your core credits, you’ll take forensic-specific classes like:
- Counseling in Criminal Justice
- Minorities, Crime, and Criminal Law
- Psychological Assessment
This program strives to give students as many options as possible. While a thesis track is not required in this particular curriculum, the program allows you to pursue it alongside a faculty member. A final thesis project is especially important for students hoping to continue on to a doctorate program.
Oklahoma State University
Average Net Price: $13,951
Oklahoma State University (or OSU) has a history that dates all the way back to 1890. It was created as a land-grant university and still maintains that designation—as well as being one of the state’s finest public research universities. It is located in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
This thesis-based online M.S. in Forensic Sciences emphasizes research above all else. Forensic Psychology is offered as one of four advanced studies tracks. Beyond your usual curriculum, you’ll take six credit hours devoted to research, and defend a thesis project. In the meantime, you’ll complete classes like:
- The Law and Expert Evidence
- Forensic Statistics
- Advanced Criminalistics
- Quality Assurance in Forensic Science
Unique to other programs, Oklahoma State University designed this program to be delivered online for the first full year of study. However, for your advanced work and research courses, you’ll attend classes at the Tulsa campus. Most students finish this degree in two to three years.
University of Houston-Victoria
Average Net Price: $10,995
One of the four universities in the larger system, the University of Houston-Victoria is a small state school that enrolls around 4,300 students. This small size lends itself to a student to faculty ratio of 18 to 1 and the benefit of a lower than average tuition rate.
The University of Houston-Victoria hosts an engaging and thorough M.A. in Forensic Psychology that requires 63 credit hours to complete. This may be more hours than most programs, but you’ll cover everything you need to know with classes like:
- Techniques of Psychotherapy
- Assessment for Forensic Psychology
- Crisis Counseling
- Multicultural Psychology
In addition to an end-of-the-program practicum requirement, you’ll culminate your degree with a large comprehensive exam. This online exam will cover the content from all of your coursework and fully prepare you to launch into the working world of forensic psychology.