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Top 10 Forensic Psychology Master’s Programs for 2020

There are a number of reasons to pursue one of the best online forensic psychology master’s programs. The degree focus involves the intersection between mental health and human behavior with the law. It can be an area of interest that can inform a student who already has an education in psychology as well as clinical work history. The flexibility of the program is always important, particularly for this degree focus, but it allows professionals to pursue the degree while they are working full time with other responsibilities at home and in the community.  

The Forensic Psychology online program is a way to save time and money, while focusing on the areas of Forensic Psychology that are of particular interest, while pursuing intensive study and internship opportunities as needed by the degree. All the masters in Forensic Psychology Online Programs prepare students for the real-world demands. An online master’s degree in Forensic Psychology allows students to pursue a degree with all the benefits and few of the drawbacks from traditional full-time graduate school programs.  

How We Ranked the Best Online Forensic Psychology Master’s Programs

Criminal Justice Degree Hub editors are concerned most of all with helping criminal justice students find their way to programs that will actually have a positive impact on their career. That’s why our ranking of the best online forensic psychology master’s programs focuses on reputable, accredited schools and programs. We then rank them according to Alumni Salary, Student Reviews, and Tuition Cost, with data from College Scorecard, IPEDS, and Niche. 

1. University of California, Irvine

When you’re looking into online forensic psychology masters programs, the University of California at Irvine offers an excellent option for your goals. The Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology degree focuses on interdisciplinary studies that combine psychological theories with legal and criminal justice theories. That unique aspect of the program prepares students for the challenges they may face when working in a forensic psychology field.

The University of California at Irvine recognizes that the challenges of the criminal justice industry face may intersect with psychology and the program strives to ensure that students understand the intersections and are able to apply theories of forensics and psychology to real-world situations. It gives students a clear idea of how psychology may play a role in identifying criminal behavior or changing behavior for improvements in the future. 

Highlight: The University of California at Irvine requires all students to take a one-week residency at the start of the program.

Program: Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology

2. Oklahoma State University

The MS in Forensic Sciences with a concentration in Forensic Psychology from Oklahoma State University is one of the best online forensic psychology masters programs for students who want to work in the criminal justice field. The degree program is designed around students who want to work with the FBI or other law enforcement agencies as a forensic psychologist. It gives students a strong foundation in criminal justice and forensic science before focusing on the ways forensic science applies to psychology.

Oklahoma State University stands apart by offering students full-time and part-time degree options. Students are able to study when it fits their situation and schedule by taking online courses. The first year of the program is available through a fully online system; however, students will need to do lab work in the second year of their studies that requires campus visits. Students can work at their own pace and develop a schedule that fits their situation and goals.

Highlight: Oklahoma State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program: MS in Forensic Sciences – Forensic Psychology

3. Arizona State University

The online MS in Forensic Psychology from Arizona State University prepares students to work with law enforcement. The program teaches students about the ways mental health and behavior intersect within criminal law and the justice system. It also prepares students for the rigors of working in forensic science to help identify suspects in criminal cases or engage with law enforcement as a criminal psychologist. It gives students a strong foundation to accomplish their long-term goals as a psychologist.

Arizona State University stands out by focusing on the criminal justice aspects of forensic psychology. It prepares students for the potential challenges of navigating the criminal justice system and recognizing when bias against a defendant due to immutable characteristics may complicate court proceedings. It also helps students identify their preferred area of work by providing a well-rounded view of the role in law enforcement.

Highlight: Arizona State University offers accelerated classes that are 7.5 weeks long to help students finish their degrees at a fast pace.

Program: MS in Forensic Psychology

4. University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida offers an online MS in Forensic Psychology that helps students prepare for their role as a psychologist in law enforcement or criminal justice. The program emphasizes the potential for students to help in the process of solving crimes and evaluating the evidence of a crime. Students are able to focus on assisting law enforcement officers and other forensic scientists throughout the process of solving a crime.

The way the University of Central Florida differs from other options is the emphasis on solving crimes. Students are able to select from three concentrations within forensic psychology: forensic analysis, biochemistry, or professional. That allows students to focus on their specific areas of interest and tie their forensic skills back to the psychology associated with criminal behavior.

Highlight: The University of Central Florida is ranked as one of the most innovative online programs by U.S. News and World Reports.

Program: MS in Forensic Psychology

5. University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota offers an online MA in Forensic Psychology that helps students accomplish their goals for their careers. The degree program focuses on the application of psychological theories and ideas to the criminal justice system. It recognizes that psychology may assist with identifying criminal behavior or addressing concerns associated with criminal behavior as it applies to psychology. The program prepares students to handle assessments during court proceedings as well as to work with law enforcement on criminal cases.

The University of North Dakota stands apart by emphasizing knowledge of the legal system. It ensures that all students are fully prepared to work within the justice system and understand the application of forensics to psychological theories. When students finish the online program, they will have the ability to work with the FBI, local law enforcement, or others within the justice system.

Highlight: The University of North Dakota does not require a GRE for students to apply for the program.

Program: MA in Forensic Psychology

6. Purdue University Global

The online MS in Psychology with a Forensic concentration from Purdue University Global offers students an opportunity to work on their degree at home while learning about the intersection between the law and psychology. The degree program is fully online and does not require students to spend any time on-campus. The program focuses on evidence-based theories of psychology to ensure that students understand the importance of evidence in the criminal justice system.

Purdue University Global stands apart by offering students a deep understanding of how psychology applies to the criminal justice system. It prepares students to work with law enforcement or to focus on criminal justice reform. Students will have the skills to handle different aspects of the system from the perspective of a psychology professional, so it gives students a strong focus for their career goals.

Highlight: Purdue University Global allows students to start working on their degrees at multiple times throughout the year to make it convenient for student schedules and obligations.

Program: MS in Psychology – Forensic concentration

7. Concordia University St Paul

Concordia University at St. Paul offers an MA in Human Services with a concentration on Forensic Behavioral Health that prepares students to work in law enforcement with a focus on psychology. The degree program emphasizes the relationship between mental health, the criminal justice system, and the law to ensure that students are ready to handle the challenges of working in the system.

The way Concordia University at St. Paul stands apart is the emphasis on human services. It recognizes that mental health plays a critical role in criminal behavior and it teaches students to recognize how their knowledge may help in the criminal justice system. It prepares students to work within the system to improve treatment for individuals who have committed crimes, as well as to identify signs of a mental health condition that may contribute to criminal behavior during a trial.

Highlight: Concordia University at St. Paul partners with the American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies on the online degree program.

Program: MA in Human Services – Forensic Behavioral Health

8. Grand Canyon University

The MS in Forensic Psychology from Grand Canyon University emphasizes advanced studies into the intersection of criminal behavior, responses to criminal behavior from society, and psychological theory. The result of the focus on intersections in the criminal justice system is that students are able to identify a bias that may exist in court proceedings or assist law enforcement with the process of evaluating evidence as it applies to a criminal case.

Grand Canyon University stands out by allowing students to transfer credits into the program. The program allows students to transfer up to 12 credits or 1/3 of the total credits required for the degree program. By transferring credits into the program, students are able to finish the online degree at a fast pace. That allows students to start working in their field when they are ready to move forward with personal plans.

Highlight: Grand Canyon University offers accelerated eight-week long courses for the master’s degree program.

Program: MS in Forensic Psychology

9. Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University offers an online MS in Forensic Psychology that focuses on the ways that psychology may intersect with legal issues or the legal system. It prepares students to work with law enforcement or social services agencies in a variety of different settings and situations. It also offers students a strong foundation in forensic studies that can be applied to different cases and situations.

Nova Southeastern University stands out by recognizing the role of psychologists in a variety of settings within the criminal justice system. It emphasizes the importance of hands-on training and encourages students to work with organizations, agencies, or law enforcement to apply skills they learn in a class to their career goals.

Highlight: Nova Southeastern University’s forensic psychology program does not prepare students to take on roles in a clinical setting.

Program: MS in Forensic Psychology

10. Liberty University

Liberty University offers an MS in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Forensic Psychology online. The degree program emphasizes the role of psychology in the criminal justice system. It focuses on teaching students the legal details about the criminal justice system they need to know as it applies to socio-cognitive situations. It gives students a strong foundation in psychology, law, and the justice system.

Liberty University stands apart by allowing students to accelerate the learning process. Students are able to transfer up to half of their credits into the program before they start working. It also offers accelerated eight-week courses that further improve the speed for graduation. The average student finishes the degree within 18 months due to the accelerated pace.

Highlight: Liberty University is SACSCOC-accredited for the online forensic psychology degree program.

Program: MS in Criminal Justice – Forensic Psychology

Will Employers Trust an Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology? 

While some students express concern for the credibility of an online master’s in Forensic Psychology, those fears are often based on a lack of understanding of the accredited Forensic Psychology Master’s online. Online programs are becoming more popular for students as well as employers, because they can rely on the fact that their employees can receive the depth of education they need from an accredited Forensic Psychology Master’s online while they are working day-to-day. It’s a win-win for the employer as well as the employee, since it allows the student to learn from subject matter experts who may be located across the country or around the world. That’s also of enormous benefit to employers who can reap the benefits of that level of knowledge and experience.  

Particularly in areas where employers are not able to find job candidates who already have the appropriate credentials, employers can mold one of their talented and knowledgeable employees into the right candidate with the help of one of the accredited online Forensic Psychology Programs. It’s a great opportunity for the candidate, because the person doesn’t have to worry about finding a job after his or her education is complete. Some employers even offer special incentives with flexibility at work or hours to complete homework and videos. The employer may help in paying for the accredited Forensic Psychology Master’s online or offer other reimbursements or rewards. Contrary to the premise that employers may find issue with an online degree, they often prefer the opportunity to experience the benefit of an employee who is learning and advancing in a way that will benefit the organization or company. It’s a way to enhance real-world knowledge, while gaining focused expertise.  

How Much Can I Make with a Master’s in Forensic Psychology? 

The master’s in Forensic Psychology salary averages $79,010, though that range can vary depending on the work setting (hospital, government, clinical, etc.). While the master’s degree is a factor in the salary, experience is a consideration as well. Depending on the setting, the forensic psychologist may also be required to work long hours, including evenings and weekends. The job outlook for mental health professionals does appear to indicate a positive ~20% overall growth through 2028, which is easily explained by the fact that mental health, particularly as it relates to forensics, continues to grow in the public’s perception. There are also an ever-growing number of students who are pursuing the Forensic Psychology degree (there was an increase of +10,000 in 10 years).  

Forensic psychologists tend to work directly in areas of criminal or civil cases, where expertise in victimology and criminal behavior become essential elements in determining guilt or innocence in the courts. Beyond just the careers in mental health fields, professionals can be found pursuing careers in social work, treatment and counseling, as well as behavioral disorders and investigation. Some online degree programs also require a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice or Psychology to pursue a master’s degree in Forensic Psychology. The master’s degree can be quickly accomplished with 32-36 credit hours. Depending on the online program and how aggressively those courses are pursued, students can complete the courses toward the master’s degree in two years.  

The master’s in Forensic Psychology is just one more step in the educational roadmap of most career professionals, since a student may still need to pursue a doctorate degree to achieve the level of career advancement and security that most Forensic Psychologists need. Still, it’s an important step, and the flexibility allowed by the online programs makes this a possibility for those students who would not otherwise be able to pursue advanced graduate studies in Forensic Psychology. The master’s degree opens up additional career options as the professional determines when or if they will pursue doctoral studies.  

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