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Schools with Forensic Psychology Programs – Online Degrees & Certificate Programs

Forensic psychology—one of the newest specialties in the burgeoning field of forensics—involves the application of clinical psychology to a judicial setting. The American Psychological Association (APA) explains that forensic psychologists assess individuals’ mental health in various legal contexts, such as child custody hearings and competency evaluations for criminal defendants. They investigate the mental health of those involved with the criminal justice system, write reports, deliver testimony, provide consultation, design treatment programs, perform research, and educate others.

So how does a person join this discipline on the rise? The APA writes that while there are master’s degrees in forensic psychology, these professionals typically must have at least a PhD or PsyD to work in the field. It’s also advisable that prospective forensic psychologists graduate from a school accredited by the APA or the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) to practice in the US. Additionally, they must have at least two years of supervised experience, one year of which is an APA- or CPA-accredited predoctoral internship. Finally, these practitioners can become board-certified by the American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP).

There are also certificate and training options for those employed in criminal justice, mental health, or other relevant occupations who are seeking the tools of forensic psychology without becoming formal forensic psychologists.

Read on to discover what to expect from forensic psychology colleges—both online and more traditional, campus-based program options—and learn about institutional accreditation and professional certification.

Who Should Attend an Online Forensic Psychology Certificate Program?

Obtaining an education is critical for those who want to pursue a forensic psychology career. While interaction with instructors and eventually, patients is key, some online programs available give students the flexibility to learn without traveling to campus for every course.

These programs are designed not only to give students the foundation of the discipline—including instruction in criminal assessments, research methods, psychology in the courtroom, and more—but also to prepare students who are looking to become forensic psychologists, a career designation that requires a terminal degree (i.e., a PhD or PsyD).

As stated above, there are master of arts (MA) and master of science (MS) degree options. Still, these are insufficient for board certification through the American Board of Forensic Psychology, a specialty division of the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).

Prerequisites to online degree programs include a bachelor’s degree (psychology preferred), completion of specific courses (e.g., social science statistics, psychology), a written personal statement, test scores (e.g., SAT or GRE), letters of recommendation, work experience, and a minimum GPA (e.g., >3.0).

Featured Online Certificate Programs in Forensic Psychology

Concordia University

Concordia University of Saint Paul, Minnesota provides an online certificate in forensic mental health (FMH). This 15-credit program—developed in conjunction with the American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies (AIAFS)—features a curriculum that combines behavioral health, criminal justice, and legal systems.

Courses include family violence, PTSD, and trauma; human services; research methods in human services; psychopathology in human services; and ethical and legal considerations in human services.

  • Location: St. Paul, MN
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $475 per credit

Rosemont College

Rosemont College in Rosemont, Pennsylvania offers an online graduate certificate in forensic psychology. This 15-credit program is designed to familiarize professionals with work in criminal justice.

Students must complete five courses on contemporary issues in forensic psychology; victimology; juvenile delinquency; the psychology of terrorism; and psychology and sociology of information security. This curriculum is targeted toward people working in community mental health centers, child welfare agencies, family courts, and government agencies, to name a few.

  • Location: Rosemont, PA
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Nine months
  • Estimated Tuition: $675 per credit

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences offers an online graduate certificate of completion in forensic psychology that prepares students for understanding the complexities of criminality, legal issues, criminal rehabilitation, and crime reduction. This certificate is ideal for those who have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as sociology, criminal justice, or criminal justice.

Blending scientific research, real-life case studies, and instructional coursework, this 16-credit program includes courses such as theories of criminal behavior; psychopathology of crime; offender rehabilitation and reintegration; and psychology and the legal system.

  • Location: Phoenix, AZ
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Estimated Tuition: $565 per credit

Who Should Enroll in an Online Forensic Psychology Program?

These programs are designed not only to give students the foundation of the discipline—including instruction in criminal assessments, research methods, psychology in the courtroom, and more—but also to prepare students who are looking to become forensic psychologists, a career designation that requires a terminal degree (i.e., a PhD or PsyD). As stated above, there are master of arts (MA) and master of science (MS) degree options. Still, these are insufficient for board certification through the American Board of Forensic Psychology, a specialty division of the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).

Prerequisites to online degree programs include a bachelor’s degree (psychology preferred), completion of specific courses (e.g., social science statistics, psychology), a written personal statement, test scores (e.g., SAT or GRE), letters of recommendation, work experience, and a minimum GPA (e.g., >3.0).

Featured Online Degree Programs in Forensic Psychology

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers an online master of science (MS) in forensic psychology, preparing students for work in the criminal justice system. Students will learn valuable skills such as research and critical thinking while also getting an overview of the forensic psychology field and the inner workings of the criminal mind. This concentration also covers critical areas such as diversity and ethics. Tshi concentration does not lead students to licensure but opens doors to careers in places such as legal offices, the court system, police departments, governmental agencies, and correctional facilities.

This 36-credit program includes core courses such as research methods in psychology; social psychology; cognitive processes; and theories of personality. Courses in the forensic psychology concentration include assessment for forensic psychology; the intersection of law and psychology; psychology in the courtroom; and forensic psychology. GRE or GMAT scores are not required for admission.

  • Location: Manchester, NH
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $637 per credit

Walden University

Walden University, which is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota (but operated primarily online), provides an online master of science (MS) in forensic psychology with ten distinct specializations: criminal justice self-designed; cyber crimes; family violence; legal issues in forensic psychology; military; police psychology; self-designed studies; sex offender behavior; terrorism; and victimology.

Students also have the option to complete the general forensic psychology program with courses such as abnormal behavior; criminal behavior; the intersection of crime, psychology, and the law; understanding violence, risk, and threat assessment; psychological aspects of violent crime; and victimology. The program comprises 48 credits, and students will be required to complete a five-credit capstone or field experience at the end of the program.

Please note that this program does not prepare students to become licensed psychology professionals, but rather gives them employment-ready skills in various forensics settings (e.g., correctional facilities, mental health and substance abuse treatment centers, jails, and prisons).

  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $548 per quarter hour

On-Campus Forensic Psychology Certificate Programs

There are on-campus forensic psychology programs for students who prefer to learn in a classroom environment to accommodate that learning style. The prerequisites for these face-to-face programs are similar to those listed above for the online forensic psychology programs.

Washington University

Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri offers a certificate in forensic psychology with courses such as introduction to criminology; introduction to forensic psychology; criminal typologies; juvenile delinquency, and investigative psychology. This 15-credit program may provide a springboard into psychology, sociology, or criminal justice graduate study.

  • Location: St. Louis, MO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $695 to $895 per credit

University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota, located in Grand Forks, provides a one-year online or on-campus certificate in forensic psychology for those wanting to learn more about the application of psychological theory and skills in criminal justice. This nine-credit program is designed with working professionals in mind and offers courses such as psychology and law; practical experiences in psychology; abnormal psychology; and social psychology. The certificate is recommended for professionals seeking or currently involved in parole/probation, social work, and victim advocacy.

  • Location: Grand Forks, ND
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: North Dakota residents ($384.88 per credit); Minnesota residents ($431.07 per credit); US non-resident ($577.32 per credit); international ($769.77 per credit)

Montclair State University

Montclair State University offers a post-master’s certificate program in criminal forensic psychology designed for working professionals, current students, and licensed mental and medical health providers. This 15-credit program requires five courses: psychological science and the law; criminal forensic assessment; interventions in forensic psychology; forensic interviewing of children; and theories of interpersonal and familial violence.

This certificate is designed for students with a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology, social work, and counseling. A similar certificate option is available in family/civil forensic psychology. To be eligible for both programs, students must have a master’s degree in psychology.

  • Location: Montclair, NJ
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $769 per credit

On-Campus Forensic Psychology Degree Programs

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Fairleigh Dickinson University, based in New Jersey, offers an accelerated program in forensic psychology, which results in a bachelor of arts (BA) and master of arts (MA) degrees. This joint program typically takes five years of full-time study to complete, involving coursework in theories of personality; interviewing techniques; physiological psychology; abnormal psychology; and industrial psychology, among others. Prerequisites for this program include a high school GPA of 3.5 or higher.

  • Location: Teaneck, NJ
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Five years
  • Estimated Tuition: MA courses ($623 per credit); BA courses ($967 per credit)

The American Psychological Association (APA) provides a comprehensive guide of APA-accredited graduate programs in psychology and law (i.e., forensic psychology). The majority of these advanced master’s, PsyD, and PhD programs are offered in an on-campus format.

Featured APA-Accredited Forensic Psychology Programs

Palo Alto University

Palo Alto University in California offers a clinical PhD in forensic psychology among its seven distinct mental health emphases with coursework in psychopathology and psychodiagnosis; ethics in clinical psychology; and professional standards, in addition to a one-year supervised practicum in a correctional or forensic setting. Palo Alto University boasts a Forensic Mental Health Student Group—developed in 2010 in conjunction with the Forensic Mental Health Association of California (FMHAC)—as well as a special topics forensic speaker series.

  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC); APA
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: $18,944 per quarter

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York provides a rich variety of forensic psychology programs at many levels: a bachelor of arts (BA), a master of arts (MA), accelerated dual degree programs (BA/MA, MA/JD), a postgraduate certificate, and doctoral degrees (clinical and non-clinical).

One standout option is the APA-accredited, 60-credit psychology and law doctoral program combining deep intellectual inquiry at the intersection of psychology research and legal academia. While this program is not intended to prepare licensed psychologists, John Jay also provides a clinical doctoral program that pays thought to the considerations of the criminal justice system in addition to rigorous preparation to become licensed mental health professionals.

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE); APA
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the college for a customized assessment

Forensic Psychology College Accreditation and Professional Certification

Prior to enrolling in any forensic psychology program, students should check the accreditation status of the program and institution. This process typically involves an evaluation of the program, school, faculty, curricula, and student outcomes in order to gauge program effectiveness.

Programmatic Accreditation

As stated above, the American Psychological Association (APA) accredits clinical psychology master’s and doctoral (both PsyD and PhD) programs—including those with forensic psychology as an emphasis—through the American Psychology-Law Society (AP-LS).

Institutional Accreditation

Schools may also have institutional accreditation that applies to the school. There are seven regional accreditation agencies for postsecondary education:

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Professional Certification and Licensing in Forensic Psychology

Finally, the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) offers individual professional certification to forensic psychologists in conjunction with the American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP). Candidates must be licensed clinical psychologists with doctoral degrees, at least 100 hours of supervised forensic psychology training, and at least 1,000 hours of experience in the field.

As part of the process, aspiring licensed forensic psychologists undergo a credential review, written examination, oral examination, and a democratic vote by the Board for admittance.

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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.