Forensic Psychology Online Master’s Programs

Are you interested in working closely with investigators and legal professionals to ensure that justice is served? Whether working with crime prevention teams or providing expert testimony in court, forensic psychologists use their experience in several ways. Forensic psychology online master’s programs help you take the next step toward a role in the field or a doctoral degree.
Review the coursework and benefits of an online master’s degree program, as well as common careers in the field.

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Overview of Forensic Psychology Master’s Programs

A master’s degree in forensic psychology typically requires a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Once enrolled, you can study online and earn a degree in your chosen field. Because many careers in forensic psychology require a doctoral degree, a master’s degree may be a necessary step toward your career path. Consider this degree to lay the groundwork for your Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Psychology degree.

As a forensic psychologist, you may work closely with patients who are on trial or are victims of a crime. This career choice requires professional integrity and ethical conduct as well as empathy, attention to detail and emotional strength.

The pathway to becoming a forensic psychologist varies between states and regions. The courses you take can also vary depending on the online program you enroll in. Explore your options as you consider the best way to apply your passions and skills.

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Is a Forensic Psychology Degree the Same as a Criminal Psychology Master’s Degree?

While both of these fields of study work closely with the legal system, there are some important differences between forensic psychology and criminal psychology. Criminal psychologists typically work to establish motive from the criminal’s point of view. Forensic psychologists tend to take a more distanced approach and evaluate cases as they relate to the law.

You may need to assess and diagnose individuals to establish criminal responsibility as a forensic psychologist. Evaluating competency to stand trial could also fall within your job description. These tasks help give a judge and jury key information they need to determine innocence or guilt in a criminal case.

Benefits of an Accredited Forensic Psychology Master’s Online Program

Choosing a graduate degree program is a major decision, so be sure to review the benefits of a program before enrolling. Forensic psychology online master’s programs may not be as popular as other psychology master’s programs, but there are still many options to choose from as an online student. Explore these benefits to see which choice is right for you.

Varied Work

Prepare to work in a range of work environments as a forensic psychologist. Depending on your particular position, you may be called to provide testimony in court, evaluate patients, travel and meet with law enforcement officers. Some forensic psychologists must work long days, nights and evenings to ensure evaluations are completed before a date specified by the court.

Sense of Accomplishment

Forensic psychology can be a very rewarding career. While the varied work environment and the nature of some criminal cases can be taxing, this position could allow you to make a difference in the lives of your community members. Forensic psychologist evaluations can help play a part in court proceedings, ensuring justice is served for all involved.

Preparation for a Doctoral Degree Program

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most psychologists require a doctoral degree to practice in clinical, research or counseling settings. A master’s degree, however, includes courses in the same topics and helps you hone many of the same skills you’ll practice in your Doctor of Philosophy program. You may be able to work in similar fields, such as victim advocacy, with a master’s degree.

Quality Education

Choose a program that’s accredited by a regional accrediting association. These regional bodies help ensure schools design their curricula based on the latest research and industry best practice. The American Psychological Association (APA) doesn’t accredit master’s or bachelor’s programs, so you won’t find an online master’s program with this accreditation.

Flexible Studies

Unlike an on-campus master’s degree program, studying forensic psychology online allows you to have more freedom in your school of choice and time of study. Some online programs require you to attend lectures at specified times, but most are more flexible in the timing and scheduling of your courses.

This flexibility makes an online master’s program a popular option for students who are working or have other responsibilities. Compare full-time and part-time programs to see which schedule best fits your situation.

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

There are many careers available to graduates of master’s in psychology online programs. If you’re looking to work in the criminal justice system as a forensic psychologist or related professional, consider the following career pathways.

Social Worker

Work closely with victims to provide advocacy and support. Victims may require emotional support and assistance completing the necessary legal documents. Social workers in these positions may require either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work, according to BLS. A master’s degree in forensic psychology can help you practice the skills you need for success in this career path. Review your state-specific requirements to see if you qualify for a victim advocacy position.

According to BLS data, social workers earned a median pay of $50,390 in 2021. Expect the number of social worker positions to increase by about 9% between 2021 and 2031. This increase is higher than the average job growth.

Police and Detective

Forensic psychologists work closely with police officers and detectives. Some graduates of forensic psychology online master’s programs choose to undergo law enforcement training before or after earning their degree. The skills and knowledge areas you learn in this degree program may help you work more effectively with victims and criminals in your daily responsibilities as a law enforcement officer.

The median pay for police officers in 2021 was $66,020, according to BLS. While the number of officers is expected to increase, the job outlook between 2021 and 2031 is only a 3% growth. This makes it less than the average job growth estimates, according to BLS.

Forensic Psychologist

Earn your master’s degree to prepare to become a forensic psychologist. Most states require you to receive a doctoral degree, so review specific requirements in your area. A master’s degree can reduce the amount of time it takes to earn your doctoral degree and it may improve your application.

Forensic Psychology Salary and Job Outlook

BLS data doesn’t track forensic psychologist salary information. According to PayScale, in October 2022, these professionals earned a median salary of approximately $73,200. The specific salary you can earn varies from less than $61,000 to over $93,000, depending on your experience level, location and other factors.

According to BLS, the number of psychologists, in general, is expected to increase by 6% between 2021 and 2031. This increase is about as fast as the average employment change over the decade. While there won’t be a significant increase in forensic psychologists, you can expect average levels of growth in this compelling career.

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

The cost of forensic psychology online master’s programs varies depending on location, financial aid and other factors. According to the Education Data Initiative, the cost of a master’s degree in 2021 was about $66,340. College Tuition Compare found the average tuition per year for forensic psychology graduate programs ranged approximately between $10,700 and $18,700 in 2022.

Many financial aid options are available to students seeking a forensic psychology degree. Consider both merit- and need-based aid as you consider how much an online master’s degree will cost. Studying online may be a more affordable option since you won’t have to consider relocating or paying for campus housing.

Admissions Requirements

Most graduate programs require similar steps to apply, though the admissions process can vary. Here are some typical steps you may have to complete as you prepare to enroll in the college of your choice. Be sure to review any additional steps required by a specific program.

  • Application form: Most colleges have online application forms that ask for your basic information. You’ll likely need to include your academic and professional background information as well.
  • Application fee: Many schools require you to pay to apply. This nonrefundable fee can vary in cost. Some schools offer free applications.
  • GPA requirements: A GPA of at least 3.0 can strengthen your application, though specific requirements vary.
  • Standardized test requirements: You may need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and submit your score as part of your master’s degree application. Some colleges don’t require this test.
  • Essay: An essay describing your background, interests and career goals is another common step in the application process, though it isn’t always required.
  • Letters of recommendation: It’s common for colleges to ask for one or more letters of recommendation. Be prepared to ask a teacher, professor or employer to write a letter for you.
  • Interview: Finally, some programs require an interview before offering an acceptance letter. The interview process may cover your goals, previous experience or other areas of your application.

Most online graduate programs have an admissions team ready to assist you throughout the process. These professionals are available to guide you through the process, answer any questions and inform you of the necessary steps to enroll as a graduate student.

Common Courses in a Master’s in Forensic Psychology Program?

Dive into the world of forensic psychology and prepare for a career working closely with the criminal justice system. While the specific coursework can vary between colleges, the following are some general areas of study you’ll likely encounter:

  • Theories of criminal behavior
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Social behavior
  • Police psychology
  • Ethics
  • Crisis intervention
  • Psychopathology
  • Violence risk assessment
  • Evaluation methodology

Most programs allow you to tailor your degree to suit your personal career goals. Elective courses, concentrations and alternative tracks all offer you choices in courses above and beyond your core course requirements.

Forensic psychology online master’s programs are available as both Master of Arts and Master of Science degree programs. Consider a Master of Arts degree to include a broader range of evaluation and counseling approaches. Master of Science degrees can be more research oriented, though there can also be a lot of overlap between the two degree options.

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Forensic Psychology Master’s Program?

Most forensic psychology online master’s programs can be completed in one to two years. This length of time allows most full-time students to complete all the required coursework and capstone projects to earn a Master of Arts or Master of Science degree.

Some programs can take up to two years to complete. If you plan on studying part-time, expect your degree to take between two and six years, depending on the number of hours you can commit to your studies.

Explore accelerated or self-paced online programs to earn your degree in less time than most students. For some students who already have many prerequisite courses, master’s degree programs can be completed in as little as six months.

Certifications and Licensure

According to the APA, psychologists in the United States must receive certification and licensure to practice in clinical settings. Forensic psychology online master’s programs may prepare you with the skills and knowledge necessary to become a forensic psychologist. However, you may also need to be certified and licensed to move forward in your chosen career.

Licensure

According to APA guidelines, you must be licensed according to your state’s requirements to be a forensic psychologist. The requirements are the same as the general requirements for clinical psychologists. Because these requirements are state-specific, there are many different levels and steps that may be required. For example, some states let you get licensed with only a master’s degree, while many require a doctoral degree. Not every career related to forensic psychology requires licensure, so this may not be a required step in your career journey.

Certification

The American Board of Professional Psychology offers specialty Board Certification in Forensic Psychology. This is one of two specialty certifications you can receive from the board. The process includes a three-hour oral exam and a review of your credentials.

Before you can take this exam, you must have the necessary credentials. Here are the general requirements before you schedule an exam:

  • Receive a doctoral degree in a relevant field
  • Complete an internship that’s accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the American Psychological Association or the Canadian Psychological Association
  • Be a licensed psychologist

These are the general requirements for all clinical psychologists seeking certification. Check with the American Board of Professional Psychology for the specific requirements related to forensic psychology before you schedule the exam.

Scholarships for Forensic Psychology Students

Don’t let the tuition rate of your favorite forensic psychology master’s program hold you back from pursuing your chosen degree. There are a number of financial aid sources available for graduate students, so explore each of these categories to see if you qualify for financial assistance.

Scholarships

Traditionally merit-based, scholarships are available from colleges, nonprofit organizations and professional associations. Some scholarships are worth a few hundred dollars, while others can cover your entire tuition cost.

Many scholarships require you to submit an essay demonstrating your abilities and career goals. Be sure to read the essay prompt carefully and submit a unique essay for every scholarship application. Some organizations that offer scholarships for forensic psychology include the American Academy of Forensic Psychology and the APA.

Grants

Grants are often awarded based on financial need. Just like scholarships, you typically don’t need to repay a grant to the awarding organization. The American Academy of Forensic Psychology also offers grants, such as the Diversity Grant and Early Career Grant, that can help you in the process of seeking board certification as a licensed forensic psychologist.

Be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as you prepare to apply for your master’s degree program. The FAFSA helps connect you with scholarships, grants and student loans for your graduate studies.

Assistantships

Many colleges offer assistantships for graduate students. While many are only available for on-campus students, online students may be able to apply to select assistantships. These positions offer payment and/or tuition reimbursement in exchange for work as a student. Most require you to teach academic courses or assist in research in your field. In many cases, an assistantship can fully cover tuition, room and board.

Other Financial Aid

These three forms of financial aid are the main ways you can reduce the cost of your master’s degree program. Consider other ways to cover your costs, such as work-study programs and student loans. Financial aid may be the assistance you need to apply to highly rated forensic psychology online master’s programs without worrying about the cost of tuition.

Sources:

Choosing a Program, American Psychological Association Accreditation

Psychologists, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook

Social Workers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook

Police and Detectives, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook

Average Forensic Psychologist Salary, PayScale

Average Cost of a Master’s Degree, Education Data Initiative

Forensic Psychology Program 2022 Tuition, College Tuition Compare

Forensic Psychology, American Board of Professional Psychology

What You Need to Know to Get Licensed, American Psychological Association

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