Forensic psychologists straddle the lines of psychology and criminal justice. Forensic psychologists are vital to public health and safety—a notion perhaps most apparent in the legal system where patients include suspected and convicted criminals and their victims. They help judges and attorneys understand the psychological factors impacting a case, assess victims and convicted criminals with potential mental health issues, serve as expert witnesses, work with military and law enforcement personnel, and support national security organizations like the FBI and the U.S. Armed Forces.
The American Psychology-Law Society considers forensic psychology a highly specialized branch of clinical psychology and one in high demand. Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022) projects that openings for psychologists—including those in the forensic subfield—will grow 6 percent between 2021 and 2031, which is as fast as the national average for all occupations (5 percent). While the BLS does not track salary data for forensic psychologists specifically, the median annual salary for licensed psychologists is $81,040 (BLS 2022). Payscale.com (2023), a self-reported aggregator of salary data, shows the average yearly salary for forensic psychologists is $73,180 based on 100 profiles.
Aspiring forensic psychologists must secure the requisite training and education to enter this in-demand field. Online master’s degrees in forensic psychology prepare graduates for doctoral programs, a degree that most states require for professional licensure. However, master’s-educated professionals can find forensic psychology-related work in mental health and criminal justice. Please see our guide to jobs in forensic psychology for undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degree holders.
Read on for a comprehensive guide to online master’s in forensic psychology programs, including outstanding professors who teach and conduct research and accreditation information.
Forensic psychologists must be driven, skilled, and committed to their work—traits that online graduate schools look for in program applicants. Admissions criteria can nonetheless change from one school to the next. The following list highlights standard admissions requirements sampled from real online forensic psychology programs:
Forensic psychologists’ patients or clients are often vulnerable, undertreated, or tragedy-tested. Professionals must be prepared to assess and treat them while upholding the laws, practices, and procedures that define their work. For most students, this specialized training starts at the graduate level.
Online master’s degrees in forensic psychology are just as rigorous as campus-based programs. Still, they tend to be more accessible and flexible, particularly for working professionals or those living in more rural areas. Online degrees generally combine distance-based coursework with clinical practicums completed locally. Here are five standout online master’s programs in forensic psychology.
|Forensic Psychology & Counseling Grad Programs
|Grand Canyon University
|MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
|Arizona State University
|Forensic Psychology (MS)
|MS - Clinical Psychology: Forensic Psychology
|Concordia University - Saint Paul
|MAHS - Forensic Behavioral Health
|University of New Haven
|MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Forensic Mental Health
The University of North Dakota’s online master of arts (MA) in forensic psychology program prepares students to apply psychological theory and practice in a legal context. The 30 credits of coursework are delivered using recorded lectures; students need only attend campus once for a two-week capstone experience. All remaining coursework is delivered online via recorded lectures.
Courses include diversity psychology and advanced social psychology. The program has two application deadlines in April and October each year and is designed for working professionals with careers based in law enforcement, military, social services agencies, and hospitals.
Walden University’s online MS in forensic psychology delivers new, non-clinical skills, perspectives, and insights in areas like terrorism, cybercrime, victim advocacy, and criminal investigative analysis and profiling. Students explore the biological and social factors that drive criminal behavior, psychological evaluation, and research methods used to evaluate and enhance forensic assessment.
Once accepted to this 48-credit program, students can transfer up to 24 credits earned at other institutions. Several concentrations within forensic psychology, including criminal justice, police psychology, cybercrimes, victimology, family violence, legal issues in forensic psychology, military psychology, and sex offender behavior. Students who complete Walden’s M.S. in forensic psychology can apply up to half their 48 credits toward the institution’s Ph.D. in psychology program.
Arizona State University’s online MS in forensic psychology is a 33-credit program focused on forensic and legal psychology, mental disorders, and issues in criminal justice. Elective and practicum courses focus on correctional psychology, gangs, seminars in courts and sentencing, research methods, and more.
Graduates from this program are prepared for doctoral programs in forensic psychology or adjacent careers in mental health and the judicial system. GRE scores are not required for applicants with bachelor’s or master’s degrees with a GPA of 3.30 or higher.
University of Louisiana-Monroe’s fully-online M.S. in psychology (forensic concentration) prepares students for several careers in private- and public-sector law enforcement, corrections, law, child protection services, and more. Coursework reinforces criminological and psychological theory and criminal justice procedures. Students cannot earn more than 12 graduate hours until they complete all undergraduate requirements, including at least nine semester hours in psychology and three in statistics.
Grand Canyon University offers an accelerated online MS in psychology with an emphasis in forensic psychology. While completion times vary, students can complete all 36 credits in as few as 20 months online or on-campus via evening classes. Students explore human psychology and societal responses to criminal behavior, emphasizing rehabilitation and system improvement. Courses prepare students for the job force or to pursue doctoral degrees in psychology or education.
Nova Southeastern University describes its MS in forensic psychology as a non-clinical program ideal for working in law enforcement, corrections, national security, military, and other types of professionals seeking an advanced education, as well as for students in rural areas. This 36-credit online program explores key psychological issues and skills as they intersect the criminal justice system—a balance of core and specialized coursework that provides a solid understanding of forensic psychology and its applications in many professional contexts.
One can choose from two specialty tracks: forensic psychology in the legal system or forensic psychology for mental health workers, first responders, and disaster teams. According to NSU, students can choose to complete a capstone thesis or field experience, though it recommends the latter for those considering doctoral degrees.
Dr. Abigail Tucker is a practicing psychologist and professor at Nova Southeastern University (NSU). She teaches online forensic psychology courses in police psychology and psychological issues in juvenile justice assessment and intervention programs.
Outside of the virtual classroom, Dr. Tucker oversees the Psychological Services Department; the Community Recovery Team; and the Justice, Accountability & Recovery Program at Community Reach Center in Thornton, Colorado. She is also an editorial board member of the Journal of Family Violence, an author of several publications, and a frequent presenter on the role of mental health in forensics and other law enforcement issues.
Dr. Tucker serves the Colorado Behavioral Council Criminal Justice Workgroup and is an active member of the American Psychological Association. Her research interests include forensics and community and emergency services regarding mental health issues. She holds a PsyD from NSU.
Dr. Kristen Beyer is a professor of online graduate courses in forensic psychology at Walden University and a licensed psychologist in private practice. She has extensive experience working at the intersection of psychology and criminal justice, serving as the social and behavioral science research coordinator at the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime’s Undercover Safeguard Program.
She’s treated police officers and federal contractors headed to Iraq and Afghanistan at Mission Critical Psychology Services. Dr. Beyer also worked at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and is keenly interested in treating patients across the lifespan who suffer from depression, anxiety, and adjustment issues. Dr. Beyer holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Detroit, Mercy.
Dr. Andre Kehn is the director of forensic psychology programs and a professor in psychology at the University of North Dakota, where he teaches eyewitness memory and testimony and psychology and the law, among others. He notes in his faculty biography that his primary research interests include eyewitness memory, the perception of witnesses, and the social cognition related to juror decision-making.
Specifically, Dr. Kehn applies cognitive and social psychological theories to study false memory distortions, the perceived veracity of alibi and child witnesses, and the effects of emotion on juror memory and sentencing decisions. He earned a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Wyoming.
Prospective students researching online master’s degrees in forensic psychology should consider accreditation and state authorization.
Programs can be accredited nationally, regionally, or programmatically.
While the APA only accredits doctoral programs, prospective students considering an online master’s in forensic psychology are advised to confirm the program is accredited by one of the regional organizations recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which recognizes six regional accreditation bodies:
Accreditation standards vary by agency but typically include benchmarks related to teaching and curricular quality; student outcomes; transparency; and ethical conduct, among other measures. For example, the Higher Learning Commission’s Criteria for Accreditation verify:
In short, accreditation indicates a high-quality educational institution or program, whether offered in an on-campus, online, or hybrid format.
Prospective students should confirm they can attend a particular online program before submitting their applications. This process is known as state authorization status, which means a student living in a specific state may or may not be permitted to enroll in a college or university in another state. Authorization guidelines are less clear for online programs, so each state sets its conditions.
The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) was designed to simplify the process by establishing clear authorization standards for online schools and designating those that meet them. Those schools are then authorized to operate in participating states. The NC-SARA maintains a list of SARA-aligned states and institutions online. To ensure eligibility, students interested in attending an out-of-state online program in forensic psychology are encouraged to contact program coordinators.
Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.