The "CSI" television dramas have romanticized the field of forensic psychology, but the crucial roles the profession provides in the world of criminal justice is very real. Anything "forensic" refers to the use of scientific techniques to investigate crime. The field can place professionals in law-enforcement agencies, mental-health and substance-abuse clinics, courthouses, prisons, jails, and classrooms.
A master's degree in forensic psychology isn't enough to be a licensed psychologist; that requires a Ph.D. But it can provide the academics necessary for licensing as a counselor. Some of the career options for graduates of a forensic psychology master's program include jury consultant, juvenile offenders counselor, police officer, and social science research assistant. Annual pay for such jobs range from $46,050 – in mental-health counseling – to $63,380 – in law enforcement – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This list presents the 15 best colleges and universities for getting a master's degree in forensic psychology online. Most of the programs here can be completed in about two years but can also accommodate longer time frames needed by students with busy, full-time lives. Some programs require brief on-campus visits for seminars, orientation, or research projects. The degrees that offer an avenue for licensure include requirements for hands-on field study in real-world clinics or similar organizations. All the programs require a bachelor's degree, usually with a minimum GPA of 3.0, along with at least some undergraduate background in psychology or social science.
Best College Reviews provides degree rankings, such as the 15 Best Master's in Forensic Psychology Online for 2020, from carefully researched data sets published from government and non-profit organizations across the United States. Five primary factors affect how we rank degrees:
- 25% Student Satisfaction
- 30% Earning Potential
- 15% Retention Data
- 20% Affordability
- 10% Acceptance Rates
For an in-depth breakdown of how we calculate each ranking, check out our Methodology page.
#15 NORTHCENTRAL UNIVERSITY
SAN DIEGO, CA
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY
Northcentral University is an online-only institution. Its Master of Science in Forensic Psychology consists of ten courses and 30 credit hours that should take about 23 months to complete. Students gain an understanding of human behavior in legal and correctional settings and of the application of psychological principles on offenders and victims. Note that the coursework here cannot be applied to a license or certification in psychology or counseling. The curriculum finishes with either a capstone project or internship. Program applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. There is no GMAT or GRE requirement. Up to 12 graduate-level credit hours can be transferred and applied to the NCU degree.
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#14 THE CHICAGO SCHOOL OF PROFESSIONAL PSYCHOLOGY
MA IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY
The MA in Forensic Psychology program offered by The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is a combination of online courses and what the school calls virtual residencies – one-hour webinars and teleconferences. The program consists of 35 credit hours and runs on 7.5-week terms and six terms per academic year. The master of arts degree is designed for working professionals with at least three years of post-baccalaureate experience working in organizations involved with forensic settings. Students must perform a research project that uses knowledge from the program in a real-life work situation. The master's program does not apply toward a license in psychology or counseling. Program applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university; an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 is preferred.
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#13 GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN PSYCHOLOGY, WITH EMPHASIS IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY
The Master of Science in Psychology degree, with an emphasis in Forensic Psychology, is offered through Grand Canyon University's College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The program features the latest information on legal systems, policies, and ethical practices. The master's program consists of 36 credit hours. Courses are eight weeks long. Core courses in the program include Social and Cultural Psychology, Psychology and the Legal System, and Psychopathology of Crime. Program applicants must have an accredited undergraduate degree, earned with a GPA of 2.8 or better. GCU was founded as a Baptist university, and though Christian values often are infused in the curriculum, it is now an interdenominational institution.
Net Price: $20,912
#12 ALDER UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF ARTS IN COUNSELING, SPECIALIZATION IN FORENSIC COUNSELING
Alder University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling degree with a specialization in Forensic Counseling. The program requires about three years to complete online. It prepares graduates to provide counseling and advocacy for people in the criminal justice or behavioral health systems. The program also prepares students for licensing as certified counselors. A unique aspect of the Alder program is its Social Justice Practicum, which develops and refines skills to engage with communities and become agents of social change. A crucial aspect of the master's program is the supervised practicum and internship, which require 100 and 600 clock hours of work, respectively. These real-life experiences equip students with a solid foundation in forensic counseling and the knowledge of how to improve communication between individuals and clinicians. Program applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, preferably with a GPA of at least 3.0. Other application materials include a statement of intent, a resume, and two recommendation letters.
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#11 SOUTHERN NEW HAMPSHIRE UNIVERSITY
MASTER'S IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY
The Master's in Forensic Psychology degree from Southern New Hampshire University consists of 36 credit hours. Students who take two courses per term, which last ten weeks, can complete the degree in 15 months. Classes include Assessment for Forensic Psychology, Intersection of Law and Psychology, and Psychology in the Courtroom. The master's coursework does not prepare students for licensing in counseling or psychology. The degree provides an understanding of the behavior of people in the criminal justice system. Graduates also can tap into SNHU's broad alumni network for career and internship opportunities. Applicants to the program should have a bachelor's degree either in psychology or in another area and have completed courses in psychology, social science statistics, and social science research methods. No GRE or GMAT scores are required.
Net Price: $39,638
#10 UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
MASTER'S DEGREE IN FORENSIC SCIENCE
The Master's Degree in Forensic Science at the University of Florida is offered through the university's College of Pharmacy. The full description of the degree is a Master of Science in Pharmacy with a major in Pharmaceutical Sciences and a concentration in Forensic Science. Graduates of the program work in crime labs, medical examiners' offices, and hospitals, or they teach at a high school. The program consists of 18 credit hours of core courses and 14 hours of electives that cover numerous areas of forensic science. Florida will accept a maximum of 15 transfer credit hours to the master's program. Elective courses include Forensic Genetics, Fingerprint Detection and Identification, and Blood Distribution and Splatter. Program applicants should have a bachelor's degree in a science subject from an accredited institution, earned with a 3.0 GPA or better. GRE scores are also required.
Net Price: $12,527
#9 UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON-VICTORIA
MA FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY
The University of Houston-Victoria places its graduate students in organizations throughout the Texas Gulf Coast community for practicum experience in its MA Forensic Psychology program. Many students go on to have careers at the practicum sites after graduation, UHV says. There are two practicums in the master's program, which consists of 63 credit hours. One practicum focuses on treatment and the other on case assessment. Each requires a minimum of 150 clock hours of supervised work. The master's program has 21 credit hours of core courses and 33 hours in specialization study. The program prepares graduates for licensing as counselors or psychological associates. Applicants must have completed undergraduate classes in statistics, research methods, and abnormal psychology. In addition to a bachelor's degree, applicants must provide an essay about reasons for applying and career goals, a letter of recommendation, and GRE scores.
Net Price: $11,305
#8 UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA
FORENSIC SCIENCE MS
University of Central Florida's Forensic Science MS degree is offered through the school's chemistry department. Graduates can qualify for careers in crime scene investigation along with numerous forensics-based disciplines in areas such as toxicology, statistics, and pathology. Two paths – thesis and non-thesis – largely define the program. The thesis track consists of 32 credit hours and is research-based coursework. Students can choose concentrations in Analysis or Biochemistry. The non-thesis track consists of 34 credit hours and is designed for existing forensic analysts with at least three years of professional experience. The track includes a capstone project. Overall, program applicants must have a bachelor's degree in forensic science or another physical science, such as chemistry, physics, or chemical engineering. Application materials include three recommendation letters and a statement of purpose.
Net Price: $15,341
#7 UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA AT MONROE
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN PSYCHOLOGY, FORENSIC TRACK
The University of Louisiana at Monroe offers a Master of Science in Psychology that includes a Forensic Track. The degree can be completed entirely online and consists of 32 credit hours. A thesis is not required, but students who plan to pursue a doctorate in psychology typically complete one. Classes in the forensic track include Psychopathology, Sociology of Law, and Counseling in Criminal Justice. Program applicants must have a bachelor's degree and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Undergraduate work must include at least nine semester credit hours of psychology-based courses, including three hours of a statistics course. A lower undergraduate GPA could be accepted if GRE scores compensate for it.
Net Price: $10,747
#6 LIBERTY UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE – FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY COGNATE
Liberty University says it can take about 1.5 years to complete its Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree with a Forensic Psychology Cognate. It is offered through Liberty's Helms School of Government. The degree can lead to careers as a crime investigator, intelligence analyst, or instructor in criminal justice and law enforcement. The program consists of 36 credit hours, and Liberty will accept half of that as transferred hours. Students can choose a thesis or non-thesis track. Classes include Fundamentals of Forensic Psychology, Crisis Intervention in Law Enforcement, and Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders. Liberty notes that, as a nonprofit university, it has not increased tuition costs for this degree in four years. Program applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 3.0.
Net Price: $26,954
#5 OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY
MS IN FORENSIC SCIENCES: FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY
Oklahoma State University offers an MS in Forensic Sciences: Forensic Psychology degree that consists of 39 credit hours of coursework. It's a two year program; the first year can be completed entirely online, while the second year has a few on-campus laboratory courses. Graduates can qualify for careers in local, state, or national law enforcement agencies. The degree can be wrapped up with a thesis or capstone project, depending on the student's academic and professional goals. The program is not designed to prepare graduates for licensing as clinical or counseling psychologists. Students in the degree must maintain a 3.0 GPA. It is recommended that program applicants have a bachelor's degree in related fields such as psychology or sociology. GRE test scores are required, as are three recommendation letters and a statement of purpose.
Net Price: $14,513
#4 NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
BROWARD COUNTY, FL
MS IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY
The MS in Forensic Psychology from Nova Southeastern University is designed to give graduates the tools needed to apply psychology skills in criminal justice settings, social service and child welfare agencies, national security offices, prisons, and treatment facilities. The program consists of 36 semester credit hours, which include two specialization tracks and a three-credit capstone that is either a thesis or a field experience. Many of the students who enter this program have professional backgrounds in law, mental health care or other health areas. Others use it as a stepping stone to a doctoral program. The program hosts webinars that provide information about the degree and how to apply for it. The degree does not prepare graduates for licensing in psychology; that requires a doctoral degree. In addition to a bachelor's degree and some undergraduate psychology prerequisites, applicants need to provide two recommendation letters and a statement of professional goals.
Net Price: $26,740
#3 UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH DAKOTA
FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY MA
The Forensic Psychology MA program at the University of South Dakota consists of 30 semester credit hours and can be completed in two years entirely online while taking classes part-time. The master of arts degree gives graduates the tools to apply psychology principles to civil and criminal justice systems. Graduates can fill roles such as assisting lawyers in jury selection and trial preparation. Online students can watch recorded lectures and get remote-learning support such as tutoring, academic advising, and tech support. Core courses include Behavior Pathology, and Psychology and Law. Students can elect to do supervised field placement in a real-world clinical or community setting. They also can choose to perform an intensive study in areas such as interrogation, eyewitness testimony, and psychology in the classroom. Program applicants should have an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, plus a bachelor's degree in behavioral or social science major that includes psychology instruction. Other application items include a personal statement and three recommendation letters. GRE scores are not required.
Net Price: $14,478
#2 ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
ONLINE MASTER OF SCIENCE IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY
Arizona State University Online Master of Science in Forensic Psychology, as the name implies, can be completed entirely off-campus and at the student's pace. There are 11 courses totaling 33 semester credit hours. Each class lasts 7.5 weeks. The degree is offered through the ASU Program on Law and Behavioral Science. However, the degree doesn't prepare students for professional clinical practice and doesn't lead to licensing as a psychologist. Core classes include Psychopathology and Advanced Legal Psychology, and electives include Quantitative Analysis and Statistics & Methods. A capstone project pulls everything together and takes three credit hours. Program applicants must have a bachelor's or master's degree in psychology, criminal justice, social science or a related discipline. A cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 is necessary. Application materials include a personal statement and two recommendation letters.
Net Price: $12,947
#1 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE
MASTER OF LEGAL AND FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY
The Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology (MLPF) is offered as a collaboration of the University of California, Irvine's Departments of Psychological Science and Criminology, Law and Society. It is a structured, two-year program that is offered entirely online, with the exception of a one-week, required orientation class given on campus in the first quarter of instruction, offered in the fall. Students take six courses each academic year. There are two online courses per quarter. The MLFP combines instruction in psychology, forensics, and the law. It does not prepare graduates for licensure in counseling. Graduates are prepared for careers such as jury consultants, expert witnesses, court liaisons, and advocates for victims or law enforcement. Classes include Children and the Law, Forensic Assessment, and Clinical Interviewing and Treatment. A capstone project is required at the end of the program. Program applicants must have a bachelor's degree and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Other application requirements include three recommendation letters, a statement of purpose, a statement that describes personal history, and a resume. GRE scores are not required.
Net Price: $13,944