Forensic Psychology Master's Program Guide

Updated March 18, 2024 · 4 Min Read

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Forensic psychologists work within the criminal justice and legal systems. They provide psychological services to people in those systems, including legal professionals, law enforcement agents, and those suspected or convicted of a crime.

If you want to become a licensed forensic psychologist, earning a master's in forensic psychology helps prepare you for the doctorate you need for licensure. Learn how to earn a master's degree in forensic psychology and what you can do with it.

Program Snapshot

  • Typical Admission Requirements: Bachelor's in psychology or a related field, letters of recommendation, 3.0 GPA
  • Time to Completion: 2-3 years
  • Average Salary: $79,210 (Payscale, February 2024)

Popular Online Psychology Master's Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Forensic Psychology?

A master's in forensic psychology can prepare you for a career in law, corrections, criminal investigation, and nonprofit organizations that address crime prevention or returning citizen rehabilitation.

A forensic psychology master's can also be a step toward a doctorate. A master's program goes into more in-depth topics than a bachelor's degree and includes fieldwork that helps you develop references and a network.

  • A master's degree in forensic psychology can lead to a salary increase. Those with master's degrees tend to earn more than those with bachelor's, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
  • A master's in forensic psychology prepares students to earn a doctorate, the minimum degree required for licensure as a forensic psychologist.
  • Graduate students gain hands-on experience in their field, allowing them to network and build a resume to help them stand out to employers and doctoral programs.
  • Graduate students often enjoy access to special research grant opportunities, which can bolster their resumes before entering the job field.
  • A forensic psychology master’s degree prepares students for careers in a variety of fields, providing marketable skills in several subject areas.

Example Courses

  • Psychopathology

    This course explores various psychological disorders, building off introductory studies in abnormal psychology. Students gain a working understanding of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the key text for diagnosing and treating psychological disorders.
  • Advanced Legal Psychology

    Advanced legal psychology investigates the role of psychology in the legal system. It often covers psychological drivers and how they affect judges, juries, and jury selection. Legal psychology also covers cognitive psychology as it affects how police, attorneys, judges, and juries view evidence.
  • Qualitative Analysis

    Often, qualitative data comes from interviews, focus groups, text analytics, or surveys. This class teaches students to collect and analyze this data effectively. Topics include identifying how to collect best data, data quality issues, theme identification, and the best analytics approaches for different data types and research.
  • Advanced Correctional Psychology

    This course examines the role of psychologists and other mental health professionals within corrections systems, which include jails, prisons, and juvenile facilities. Students explore the various ethical issues related to working with these populations and how to navigate appropriate relationships with corrections staff and inmates.

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

A master's in forensic psychology prepares students for careers in various areas. Licensure and clinical psychology practice require a doctoral degree, so some graduates with master's degrees in forensic psychology can pursue jobs as corrections counselors, survivor advocates, or jail supervisors.

Where Do Forensic Psychologists Work?

Forensic psychologists often work in organizations related to law, crime, crime prevention, and returning citizen treatment and rehabilitation.

Graduates of a master's in forensic psychology program may work for:

  • Police investigators, as expert witnesses
  • Law firms as jury consultants
  • Organizations seeking to reduce crime and help the formerly incarcerated re-enter society

Career Advancement

Doctoral Programs

Many graduates of master's in forensic psychology programs pursue doctoral degrees, which are required for clinical psychologist licensure.

Doctoral programs in forensic psychology expand on the knowledge and skills in a master's program, focusing on research and clinical field experience. Doctoral students often pursue internships and fellowships in specialized areas, working alongside licensed professionals.

After earning a doctorate in psychology, graduates can pursue careers in various professional psychology and counseling roles depending on their interests, career goals, and licensure. A doctorate also prepares graduates to teach postsecondary psychology courses.


If you want to become a forensic psychologist, you must

  • Earn a doctoral degree, either a Psy.D. or a Ph.D.
  • Work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist for a period
  • Pass the EPPP (Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology) examination
  • Pass a local jurisprudence examination in some states

You can work in forensic psychology without becoming a forensic psychologist. For example, you can work in corrections as an investigator or parole officer, with incarcerated people as a therapist or counselor (depending on state regulations), or in a nonprofit that focuses on crime prevention or rehabilitation.

Professional Organizations

  • American Psychology-Law Society: This organization aims to further education for legal and psychology professionals, emphasizing scholarship and public service. Members enjoy access to conferences, leadership opportunities, and awards.
  • American Psychological Association: The foremost organization for psychologists and students in psychology, APA provides various member resources, including special publications, career boards, and conferences.
  • Society for Police and Criminal Psychology: Membership with this organization offers access to scholarly publications, an annual conference, and opportunities for networking with other criminal psychology professionals.

Page last reviewed on February 23, 2024

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