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Online Forensic Psychology Degree Programs

What is Forensic Psychology?

Forensic psychologists lend their expertise on human behavior to the legal and criminal justice systems, both in and outside of court. They often conduct clinical assessments of individuals accused of crimes in order to determine their competency to stand trial. Through their analysis, forensic psychologists construct psychological profiles of criminals to aid the efforts of law enforcement officials. Many also conduct scholarly research to improve rehabilitation and treatment programs for criminal offenders. Forensic psychologists may work for state, local, or federal government agencies. Others act as independent consultants, specializing in work with a particular population, such as juvenile offenders or victims’ families.

Regardless of their focus area, all clinical psychologists need a license to practice. While licensure standards vary, most states require aspiring psychologists to earn a doctoral degree, complete a supervised internship, and pass the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP), a national licensing test administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. Many forensic psychologists seek certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) to demonstrate that they have met their field’s professional standards.

Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Frequently Asked Questions About Forensic Psychology

  • What do forensic psychologists do?

    Forensic psychologists work in the criminal justice system, providing assessments of those involved in some form of legal investigation. These professionals assist in cases to determine the perpetrator’s state of mind. They advise the courts on how to proceed legally based on their assessment.

  • Where do forensic psychologists work?

    Forensic psychologists work in a variety of areas pertaining to criminal justice and the legal system, including prisons, courts, state-funded hospitals, and various law enforcement agencies. They also sometimes work as private consultants, serving different areas of the legal system as independent contractors.

  • Can a forensic psychologist work for the FBI?

    Yes. The FBI often employs forensic psychologists to assist in a variety of investigatory arenas. Forensic psychologists who work for the FBI may work as crime scene consultants, pre-trial investigators and advisors, criminal profilers, and researchers. They may select jurors and evaluate witness competency.

  • How long do you have to go to school to become a forensic psychologist?

    Forensic psychologists need a doctorate in psychology.They must also possess additional background in law as it pertains to their work. Many students pursue a bachelor’s in psychology, which takes 3-4 years, followed by a master’s, which takes an additional two years, and a doctorate, which requires 4-6 years of additional study. During their master’s program, students may specialize their degree in forensics to gain entry to a doctoral program.

  • Is forensic psychology in demand?

    Yes. Jobs in forensic psychology continue to grow. Some psychology professors credit the growing interest to a variety of popular TV shows. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs in psychology fields, including forensics psychology, to grow 14% from 2018-28, which is much faster than average.

  • Are forensic psychology and criminal psychology the same?

    Forensic psychology and criminal psychology share many similarities. Both work with law enforcement and within the legal system to assist in investigations and court proceedings. Criminal psychologists may work more often with law enforcement agencies, such as police, to provide guidance and support for law enforcement professionals. Forensic psychologists more often work within prisons and court systems to assist in ongoing criminal investigations.

Can You Get a Degree in Forensic Psychology Online?

Students can pursue an online forensic psychology degree at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level. Online bachelor’s and master’s programs introduce learners to the theory and practice of forensic psychology and create a pathway to a doctoral degree.

Online programs usually mirror on-campus programs, with distance learners completing the same courses and assignments as residential students. Because online bachelor’s and master’s forensic psychology programs typically do not prepare learners for licensure, they usually do not include a clinical experience. Online students can complete the entire curriculum remotely. However, learners pursuing a doctoral degree in forensic psychology must complete a supervised internship.

Online programs usually mirror on-campus programs, with distance learners completing the same courses and assignments as residential students.

Online forensic psychology programs offer flexibility and convenience. Degree-seekers can complete coursework on their own schedule and, in certain programs, at their own pace. This format benefits students interested in continuing their education while still balancing other personal and professional responsibilities. Online offerings may even cost less than on-campus programs, considering that distance learners do not incur commuting and room-and-board fees.

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Are Practicums and Internships Required in an Online Forensic Psychology Program?

Online bachelor’s and master’s programs in forensic psychology typically do not require any sort of clinical experience, such as an internship or practicum. For some jobs in the field, a master’s degree in forensic psychology may be sufficient.

However, most clinical psychologists need a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in psychology or a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.). These programs typically include a one-year, supervised internship in a student’s chosen area of practice, such as forensic psychology. After completing their degree and internship, graduates may obtain licensure in most states.

Students pursuing a doctoral degree in forensic psychology online may experience difficulty finding an internship, especially if they live in an area with few clinical sites nearby. As a first step, degree-seekers can contact faculty members for guidance on locating an internship. Learners can also contact their school’s career services department for resources and support. The American Psychological Association offers information on doctoral internship matching.

How to Become a School Forensic Psychologist

Students need a doctoral degree to earn licensure as a clinical forensic psychologist. The first step is earning a bachelor’s degree, a requirement for graduate study. The cost of a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field varies greatly. In some instances, online learners may qualify for in-state tuition even if they live in another state.

Next, students must earn an advanced degree. Pursuing a master’s can help learners find a non-clinical job or earn credits toward a doctoral program. Master’s programs typically take about two years to complete, though some online programs offer accelerated options.

Students usually complete the doctoral degree and internship requirements within seven years. To obtain licensure, doctoral graduates must also pass a national licensing exam.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology

Earning a bachelor’s degree is an important step in becoming a forensic psychologist. Although some programs offer online undergraduate degrees in forensic psychology, most learners earn a bachelor’s in psychology.

Students in bachelor’s programs receive an introduction to the fundamental concepts of psychology, such as cognition, behavior, and human development. As learners advance in their undergraduate program, they can choose courses that prepare them for graduate studies in forensic psychology. Coursework in this area may cover criminal psychology, the sociology of crime and violence, abnormal psychology, and legal systems. Degree-seekers interested in continuing their education also benefit from taking classes in statistics and research methods. See below for five common courses in a bachelor’s program with a focus in forensic psychology.

Example Courses

  • Introduction to Psychology

    This course provides a general overview of the scientific study of mental processes and human behavior. It lays the groundwork for more advanced concepts and theories by introducing students to disciplines within the field and teaching them how to identify and evaluate research.

  • Social Psychology

    This course examines how others can affect an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. Degree-seekers review topics in conformity, prejudice, interpersonal attraction, and violence, setting the stage for more in-depth examinations of what motivates and restrains human behavior.

  • Forensic Psychology

    This course gives students insight into crime by viewing it through a psychological lens. Students examine how environments can influence criminal behavior. They also learn about the ways in which psychological factors can inspire and enable antisocial acts. This class aims to provide a better understanding of criminal behavior.

  • Sociology of Deviant Behavior

    In contrast with criminal behavior, deviant behavior is considered abnormal but not necessarily unlawful. It encompasses mental illness, suicidal thoughts and actions, substance abuse and addiction, and sexual deviation. A sociological analysis of the nature, causes, and reactions to these behaviors proves useful for psychologists.

  • The American Legal Tradition

    Because forensic psychologists work so closely with the judicial system, they must understand how it operates. Learners delve into the structure and function of courts, legal education, the legal profession, legal writing and analysis, and the politics of judicial selection.

Online Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology

A master’s degree in forensic psychology can help position graduates for professional opportunities in the field. For others, it can act as a stepping stone to a doctoral program. Earning a master’s in forensic psychology usually requires students to complete around 36 credits and takes about two years to finish. Some online programs permit students to move at their own pace, allowing them to graduate faster.

While master’s programs in forensic psychology do not generally lead to licensure, they feature some of the same coursework required in doctoral programs, enabling students to earn credits toward a doctorate during their master’s education. Courses in these master’s programs build on the foundations of psychology from the undergraduate level and help students apply theories and principles to the legal and criminal justice systems. Read on for some common courses in an online forensic psychology master’s program.

Example Courses

  • Intersection of Crime, Psychology, and Law

    This course provides an expansive overview of how psychology works in various forensic and legal settings. Students explore criminal profiling, police psychology, correctional psychology, and psychology in criminal court systems. Learners also examine ethical issues and diversity within the profession.

  • Understanding Forensic Psychology Research

    Forensic psychologists, whether working clinically or as scholars, must be able to understand and interpret psychological research. Students acquire basic statistical skills, such as ensuring validity and reliability, and learn best practices for responsibly reviewing and applying forensic research findings.

  • Psychological Aspects of Violent Crime

    Degree-seekers study homicidal behavior, such as serial murders, mass killings, workplace violence, school shootings, and domestic homicide. By closely examining theories and trends in violent crime, students learn how to psychologically profile offenders and detect behavioral characteristics that may serve as warning signs.

  • Victimology

    Students examine the relationship between criminals and their victims and how the judicial system protects and responds to them. This course explores how race, class, gender, and sexual orientation affect how individuals perceive victims and institutions, and how this affects the administration of justice.

  • Criminal Investigative Analysis and Profiling

    This course allows students to apply their knowledge by taking on the role of a criminal analyst and profiler. Degree-seekers learn about the organization of case files and evidence, common profiling concepts, the logic and reasoning used in criminal analysis, and how best to convey conclusions in a written report.

Required Licenses and Internships to Become a Forensic Psychologist

While professionals can pursue some forensic psychology jobs with a master’s degree and no license, those who practice clinical psychology must hold licensure.

Licensure requirements differ between states, but aspiring forensic psychologists must complete an accredited doctoral program along with a one-year, supervised internship. After earning their degree, graduates can take the EPPP. Applicants should contact their state’s licensing board for specific requirements.

Some forensic psychologists seek board certification to demonstrate professional standards. The ABPP administers board certification.

Careers for Forensic Psychology Degree-Holders

Some psychologists work for local, state, and federal government agencies, supporting the efforts of law enforcement officials or the courts. Others work for rehabilitation facilities, law firms, or victim advocacy and support organizations. Many forensic psychologists also conduct research within colleges or universities. Some psychologists work as independent consultants, usually focusing on family, criminal, or civil casework. Keep reading to review five possible careers in the field.

These psychologists offer professional expertise to those involved in the legal and judicial systems. They may evaluate the competency of an individual to stand trial, advise on sentencing after a defendant has been found guilty, or design rehabilitation programs. Most forensic psychologists hold a doctoral degree, as this is a requirement for all clinical psychologists.

These professionals assess individuals with behavioral problems, analyze cognitive and environmental factors that may contribute to them, and create plans to address the identified issues. Jobs in this area typically require a master’s degree in forensic psychology or a related field.

These investigators review and report on the criminal, financial, and personal histories of individuals. They may search for felony convictions that would disqualify an individual from a government position or seek outstanding debts that might prevent that person from securing a new loan. Background investigators usually only need a bachelor’s degree.

These professionals conduct interviews of victims in criminal cases. By helping victims recall crime details, interviewers can provide critical information to law enforcement officials and prosecutors. While many of these positions only require a bachelor’s degree, employers often prefer candidates with a master’s degree in a field like forensic psychology.

These professionals work at social service agencies that provide assistance to children and their families. They build relationships with families, counsel them through difficult situations, and coordinate services. Many employers either require or strongly prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field.

What Does a Forensic Psychologist Make in a Year?

Salaries for graduates of online forensic psychology programs can vary tremendously. Those who work for the government typically earn modest salaries. Forensic psychologists who operate as independent consultants can often command higher pay because of their specialized expertise. As with all fields, the salaries for forensic psychology professionals depend upon several factors, including location, education, and experience. See below for salary information for five possible careers in this field.

PositionAverage Annual Salary
Forensic Psychologist$69,453
Behavior Analyst$59,974
Background Investigator$45,718
Forensic Interviewer$39,564
Family Advocate$35,189

Source:PayScale

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