The number of Americans sentenced through the criminal justice system has skyrocketed in the past 40 years. From 1980 to 2020, the total adult correctional population which includes incarcerated persons, parolees, and those on probation increased by 250 percent according to the U.S. Department of Justice and 500 percent according to research from the Sentencing Project.
While the national debate rages on about whether prosecution or intervention is the best crime prevention, professionals in the criminal justice system need knowledge and skills to serve the public. With a certificate in forensic psychology, social workers, criminal justice professionals, and healthcare workers can address abnormal behavior to help victims recover, reduce crime, and lower incarceration rates.
For those considering a career change to become a psychologist, a forensic psychology certificate program provides a preview to graduate-level work, but will not lead to a career as a licensed psychologist. Many programs allow students to transfer credits earned in certificate programs towards graduate-level studies. Most licensed psychologists and counselors have a master’s or doctoral degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) shows that careers in psychology are growing as fast as the national average (8 percent) and psychologists earn median salaries of $82,180 per year.
Forensic psychology includes several disciplines: social services, psychology, criminology, and legal studies. This field attracts professionals from different backgrounds. Many forensic psychology programs are offered online and designed for working professionals, offering students the chance to specialize or pivot into a new career or advanced degree program.
Graduates from forensic psychology certificate programs go on to pursue work in social service agencies, police departments, the military, court-approved special services, healthcare organizations, community outreach services, law enforcement, child welfare protection, and prisons.
Read on to learn more about online forensic psychology certificate programs.
There are three types of forensic psychology certificate programs: undergraduate, graduate, and professional accredited programs.
Graduate certificates are the most common type of forensic psychology certificate program offered. They are designed for students with bachelor’s degrees and some work experience. Upon completing a graduate forensic psychology certificate, students can pivot their new skills and expertise into different careers or new roles, leverage their knowledge towards a pay raise, or apply to graduate school to earn a master’s or PhD degree.
Undergraduate certificates are less common but are offered by some schools to undergraduate students who want an extra add-on to their bachelor’s degree program. In addition, courses may include minor degree-level courses and serve as proof of knowledge for future employers or admissions committees for graduate degree programs.
Professional certificates are offered by online learning platforms such as Udemy. While universities do not offer these programs, some are accredited by leading institutions that certify or support professional and academic rigor in forensic psychology.
Most of the certificate programs featured here are graduate-level certificates, with some undergraduate and professional certificate options included.
Concordia University St. Paul
Concordia University St. Paul offers a 15-credit online certificate program in behavioral health. It requires five three-credit courses in human services and forensic behavioral health.
The curriculum emphasizes teaching and understanding common behavioral health conditions and risk factors. Upon completing this program, students can become courtroom advocates and enhance their human services credentials.
Montclair State University
The Department of Graduate Psychology at Montclair State University in New Jersey offers a forensic psychology certificate program. Designed for graduate students, licensed mental health professionals, nurses, social workers, and other professionals, this hybrid program offers instruction through real-time virtual courses and in-residence seminars. Students can partake in forensic or clinical practice and count these experiences towards eligibility for professional licensure or diplomate status.
Courses include psychological science and the law, forensic interviewing of children, and interpersonal and familial violence theories. Upon completing this program, graduates can pursue unique forensic psychology roles or graduate studies in psychology.
San Diego State University-Global Campus
The forensic psychology certificate program at San Diego State University gives current criminal justice professionals continuing education, theoretical knowledge, and tools to help their communities cope with traumas related to natural disasters and legal issues.
The program includes social workers, first responders, correctional officers, medical and legal professionals. Courses include mental health and criminal justice, cyberpsychology, forensic psych-active shooter, and forensic report writing. Students can complete this fully online program in eight months full-time or two years part-time.
Washington University in St. Louis
The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences offers a certificate in forensic psychology. This 15-unit program covers five disciplines, including police psychology, investigative psychology, criminal psychology, correctional psychology, and legal psychology. In addition, courses include investigative psychology, juvenile delinquency, and crisis interventions: the criminal justice response to chaos, mayhem, and disorder.
Graduates from this program continue their professional work with law enforcement, community services agencies or pivot to pursue graduate studies in psychology, forensic science, and criminal justice. High school graduates and undergraduates with bachelor’s degrees from Washington University at St. Louis can apply to this program through the undergraduate admissions office.
University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota offers a 9-credit forensic psychology program. It takes one year to complete and provides three admissions deadlines throughout the year. Courses include practical experiences in psychology and abnormal psychology.
Graduates will learn theoretical and practical knowledge of psychological concepts, statistical evaluation, and communication skills relevant to the legal system. Courses are taught by highly-experienced faculty in eyewitness testimony, psychology, and legal studies.
Forensic psychology certificate programs are offered as an add-on to an undergraduate or an introduction to graduate-level coursework. In addition, some certificate programs are offered as professional programs outside of universities.
Here is a list of additional on-campus and online forensic psychology certificate programs:
As mentioned above, some schools offer certificates as an add-on to a bachelor’s degree or a graduate-level certificate to those who have completed a bachelor’s degree program. In addition, many graduate certificate programs allow students to transfer credits to a master’s program.
Here’s a list of forensic psychology master’s degree programs:
While most graduates from forensic psychology certificate programs continue working or apply for master’s programs, others pursue forensic psychology doctoral degrees such as PhD or PsyD programs to become licensed psychologists.
To learn more about online degree programs in forensic psychology, please visit our online degrees and certificate programs in forensic psychology page.
Admissions requirements vary depending on the institution, but here are some standard admissions requirements for online undergraduate and graduate certificate programs:
When researching academic programs, finding an accredited school is essential. Schools and programs that hold accreditation at the institutional or programmatic level have met rigorous standards of educational quality set forth by regional and professional organizations.
The U.S. Department of Education approves the following six regional accreditation bodies through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA):
State authorization is another essential factor for distance education students to consider. This refers to the admissions policies of a particular institution and whether it can accept and confer degrees to students living in a state where the institution is located. Before applying, prospective students are encouraged to contact programs to confirm whether their state of residence allows or prohibits them from earning a certificate or degree.
Dr. Deanna Barch is the chair and the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry in the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department at Washington University in St. Louis. She earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Dr. Barch’s research focuses on the interplay among cognition, emotion, and brain function to understand the deficits in behavior and cognition in illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression. Her other research areas include how poverty, stress, and disparities in access to healthcare shape early brain development and increase the risk for mental health challenges. In addition, Dr. Barch is the co-director of the Cognitive Control and Psychopathology Laboratory at the Conte Center for the Neuroscience of Mental Illness.
Dr. Rafael Art. Javier is a professor of psychology at St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In addition to teaching, he is the director of the Inter-agencies Training and Research Initiatives and the Post-Graduate Professional Programs at St. John’s University. He’s co-authored several books on the subject of violence and its impact on general cognitive and emotional functioning.
Dr. Javier serves on several editorial boards, including the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research and the Journal of Infant, Child, and Adolescent Psychotherapy. He is a diplomate on the American Board of Psychological Specialties with a forensic specialty in psychological assessment.
Dr. Andre Kehn has been an associate professor in the University of North Dakota’s Department of Psychology since 2010 as a core member of the Experimental and Forensic faculty. He teaches social psychology, psychology and the law, and developmental psychology courses.
Dr. Kehn’s research focuses on forensic psychology and social cognition related to juror decision making and eyewitness memory, specifically cross-race effect and false memory distortions in capital trials and judgments in hate crimes. He has published extensively in peer-reviewed publications and earned his doctoral degree in experimental psychology from the University of Wyoming.
Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. Rachel writes about meditation, yoga, coaching, and more on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).