Online Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology & Counseling
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Just as forensic investigation seeks to understand a crime scene by examining each detail after the fact, forensic psychology and counseling seek to assess, evaluate, and treat individuals who have committed crimes or who are in the legal system.
According to the American Psychological Association, forensic psychologists may perform a variety of functions within the criminal and legal system. For instance, they may collect and share data that is relevant to legal issues. Or they may advise an attorney on the way that psychology, both in general and specifically with regards to the individual in question, may relate to the case or various legal issues in general.
Forensic psychologists may provide their professional opinions if they have bearing on a case. If there is any question about whether an individual is fit to be tried for a crime, a forensic psychologist can examine them to make that determination. They can also act as treatment providers for an individual, providing counseling services as needed to either the individual or victims and their families. The first step in obtaining a degree for this rewarding field is to begin studies of psychology and counseling, either at the undergraduate level or by obtaining a master’s degree in forensic psychology and counseling if the student already has a compatible undergraduate education.
Students can become counselors after earning online forensic psychology and counseling degrees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020) projects jobs in mental health counseling to grow 25 percent nationally from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average job growth rate in the same timeframe (4 percent).
If you’re ready to join a specialized team of mental health care providers, read on to get a comprehensive look at online master’s degrees in forensic psychology and counseling.
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Typical Admissions Requirements for Online Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology & Counseling
Achieving employment as a mental health counselor generally requires that students earn a master’s degree and complete an internship. However, some employers may accept only a bachelor’s degree with relevant experience.
Admissions requirements for online master’s degrees in forensic psychology counseling will vary from school to school, but typically include a combination of the following: a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited program; a competitive undergraduate GPA (often 2.5 or greater but occasionally, 3.0 or greater); GRE and/or GMAT scores; letter(s) of recommendation; a phone or in-person interview; and a personal statement.
Note that some programs may request that applicants have completed specific undergraduate coursework in areas such as statistics, research methods, psychology, and/or criminal justice. Note that some programs that require less credit may not be licensure-track programs. If a student seeks to become a national board-certified psychologist or state-licensed counselor or psychologist, they should choose a licensure-track program that meets the qualifications their state expects.
Courses in Online Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology & Counseling
Online master’s programs in general counseling education will include core classes and elective options that prepare a student to understand and treat the wide spectrum of mental health issues they’ll encounter in the field. Beyond that, specialized courses will relate specifically to the ways that human behavior intersects with the law and with criminality.
Some common courses include:
- Social Psychology and Aggression
- Trauma and Crisis Intervention
- Ethics and Professional Issues in Forensic Psychology
- Psychology and Law
- Research Methods
- Forensic Assessment
- Children and the Law
- Violence and Psychopathology
- Human Trafficking
- Race and the Law
- Legal and Social Responses to Domestic Violence
- Law and Behavior: Compliance and Enforcement
- Memory and the Law
- Mental Health and the Law
- Clinical Interviewing and Treatment
- Family and the Law
- Forensic Neuropsychology
- Advanced Legal Psychology
- Advanced Correctional Psychology
- Statistics and methods
- Seminar in Criminal Justice
- Seminar in Courts and Sentencing
- Behavioral Criminology
- Understanding Psychological Reports and Expert Witness Testimony
- Psychological Evaluation of Competencies, Syndromes, & Sanity Issues
- Psychological Issues in Dependency & Family Law Cases
- Therapeutic Jurisprudence & Problem-Solving Courts
- Assessment of Psychological Injury for Legal Cases
- Trauma-Informed Assessment and Intervention
- Child Maltreatment and Trauma Assessment and Intervention
- Substance Abuse, Mental Illness, and Trauma
- Police Psychology
- Intervening in School & Workplace Violence
Supervised Clinical Hour Requirements & Internships – Online Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology & Counseling
In addition to academic coursework, most online master’s degrees in forensic psychology and counseling include supervised hands-on experiences in the form of practicums (100 to 150 hours) and internships (600 to 700 hours).
Program Accreditation for Online Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology & Counseling
Accreditation ensures that the content and quality of an educational program has been evaluated and meets certain key standards. For online master’s degrees in forensic psychology and counseling, the accreditation is split between a few agencies. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC) are the two primary authorities.
The American Psychological Association (APA) accredits professional education and training in psychology in the United States at the doctoral level. The primary certifying body for general counseling education at the master’s and PhD level is CACREP.
However, CACREP considers psychology to be a separate discipline from counseling and does not accredit any type of psychology or social work programs. MPCAC, on the other hand, considers the fields of psychology and counseling to be very closely linked.
CACREP-accredited programs require 60 credits followed by practicums and internships totaling about 850 hours. MPCAC has some slightly different requirements and often accredits programs that require completion of 60 credits, but only requires completion of 48 credits. that often total 60 credits but occasionally are only 48.
MPCAC also takes into consideration the licensure and certification requirements within the state in question. Beyond these recognized accrediting bodies, the master’s level student should select a school that is at a minimum regionally accredited, which will ensure that they are receiving a quality psychology education that will be valued by future employers.
Featured Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology & Counseling Programs
Southern New Hampshire’s forensic psychology degree is a concentration within its master of science in psychology degree. The program does not lead to licensure, but nonetheless opens doors for career advancement if you already work within the legal or court system.
Students in the online program at SNHU can complete their degree with no set class meeting times and 24/7 access to online course materials. Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution.
- Location: Manchester, New Hampshire – Online
- Duration: 36 credits, 15 months to two years
- Accreditation: SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Tuition: $627 per credit, plus fees
The Chicago School’s online master of arts program in forensic psychology has both a licensure track program and a non-licensure track program. Students in the non-licensure track program can use this to increase their foundational psychology skills when they are already working in the field. Graduates from this program can “bridge” their non-licensure track courses with licensure-track courses with an online certificate.
The licensure-track program meets requirements in 41 states including Washington, D.C. It does not meet licensure requirements in seven states (California, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, and New York).
Students are required to complete a minimum of 700 training hours with a minimum of 280 direct hours of face-to-face client contact. Additionally, students in the online forensic psychology licensure track program attend two mandatory, four-and-a-half-day in-person residencies at the Chicago campus.
- Location: Chicago, Illinois (residency only)
- Duration: Two years full-time, four years part-time
- Accreditation: Western Association of Schools & Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
- Tuition: $1,234 per credit, plus fees
UCI’s master of legal and forensic psychology program is offered in collaboration with the Department of Psychological Science and the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society. It utilizes interdisciplinary learning to focus on the intersection of psychology and legal issues.
Preceding the first fall quarter of instruction, students must attend a one-week, mandatory on-campus residency in the form of an accelerated five-day introductory forensic psychology course. Following that experience, students will complete six online courses during each of the two following academic years. Each quarter consists of two online courses. In lieu of a thesis, students take a capstone course in which students write an independent term paper.
- Location: Irvine, California (residency only)
- Duration: 52 credits, two years
- Accreditation: Western Association of Schools & Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
- Tuition: Approximately $4,942 per quarter
Arizona State University’s online master of science in forensic psychology provides an overview of forensic psychology in order to advance their career or their personal interest. The program prepares students for a career in law enforcement, corrections, mental health administration, crime analysis, policy analysis, and other settings, but it is not designed to meet the requirements for licensure as a psychologist. Students take 11 total classes at 7.5 weeks per class.
- Location: Online, with campuses in Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, and Lake Havasu City, Arizona
- Duration: 33 credits
- Accreditation: Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Tuition: Approximately $11,782 per year (Arizona resident and non-resident)
Nova Southeastern offers an online master of science in forensic psychology. NSU’s online program is designed for busy working adults who want to pursue a non-clinical curriculum designed for students to complete graduate studies, while still balancing jobs and other daily responsibilities.
The program consists of 24 core credits, with students selecting from one of two possible nine-credit specialization tracks and a three-credit capstone course. Specialization options are either forensic psychology in the legal system, or forensic psychology for mental health workers, first responders, and disaster teams.
Students can choose to complete either a thesis or a field experience for their capstone’s content. There is no licensure or certification in Florida for forensic psychology at this time, so this is a non-licensure track program.
- Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- Duration: 36 semester hours
- Accreditation: Nova Southeastern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)
- Tuition: $790 per credit
Liberty University’s master of science in criminal justice and forensic psychology is offered 100 percent online. Liberty is ranked in the top 1 percent of online colleges. It is a Christian-centered university founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971.
- Location: Lynchburg, Virginia
- Duration: 36 credits, 1.5 years
- Accreditation: Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)
- Tuition: $615 per credit, plus fees
Capella University’s online master of science in clinical psychology includes specializations in applied research, clinical psychology, or forensic psychology. This program teaches students all about how human behavior and the criminal mind intersects with the legal system. For students who want to continue on to pursue a PhD in the field, this program provides the foundation of study. These courses are offered in Capella’s Guided Path format, which is a more traditional format of one to three courses per ten-week semester.
- Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Duration: 53 credits
- Accreditation: Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Tuition: $485 per credit plus fees
Purdue University’s online master of science degree in psychology lets students choose one of five concentrations, including forensic psychology. Courses are 15 hours per week for a ten-week term. Students take 40 core credits and 25 to 35 elective credits. Flexible start dates allow students to begin courses throughout most of the year.
- Location: Locations in Maine, Indiana, Iowa, and Nebraska
- Duration: 60 to 75 credits
- Accreditation: Purdue University Global is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission
- Tuition: $420 per credit
Northcentral University’s master of science in forensic psychology is a 100 percent online program that immerses students in the psychology of criminal behavior through seven specific courses plus three electives.
Northcentral provides for busy students through weekly course starts so students can work at their own pace and on their schedules. All professors hold doctoral degrees in their field. NCU’s psychology programs do not lead to licensure. Students in this program may choose a non-clinical internship.
- Location: San Diego, California
- Duration: 30 credits, 16 months
- Accreditation: NCU is accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission
- Tuition: $872 per credit plus fees
College Choice ranks the University of North Dakota’s online master of arts in forensic psychology the No. 1 online forensic psychology program in the country, according to US News. It is offered online, full-time or part-time, and can be completed in about two years. The school provides spring and fall start dates.
- Location: Grand Forks, North Dakota
- Duration: 30 credits
- Accreditation: The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Tuition: $544.24 per credit, plus fees
Professors to Know in Master’s in Forensic Psychology & Counseling Programs
Dr. William Brown
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Dr. William Brown is the College School’s campus dean. He earned a PsyD in clinical psychology from the Florida Institute of Technology, and a BS in psychology from the University of Florida. He also completed a postdoctoral program in forensic psychology at the District of Columbia Commission on Mental Health Services at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital.
A licensed clinical psychologist in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Dr. Brown has worked as a clinical and forensic psychologist in multiple inpatient and outpatient settings, including private practice. In addition, Dr. Brown previously served in multiple academic and operational roles for Argosy University, including faculty member, program chair, campus vice president of academic affairs, campus president, and group vice president.
Dr. Elizabeth Cauffman
University of California, Irvine
Dr. Elizabeth Cauffman is a professor of psychological science, education, and law in the forensic psychology program at the University of California, Irvine. She received her PhD from Temple University. Her specialties are adolescent development, mental health, juvenile justice, and legal and social policy. She holds courtesy appointments in the School of Education and the School of Law. Following her studies at Temple University, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center on Adolescence at Stanford University.
At the broadest level, Dr. Cauffman’s research addresses the intersection between adolescent development and juvenile justice. She has published over 100 articles, chapters, and books on a range of topics in the study of contemporary adolescence, including adolescent brain development, risk-taking and decision-making, parent-adolescent relationships, and juvenile justice. Findings from her research were incorporated into the American Psychological Association’s amicus briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons, which abolished the juvenile death penalty, and in both Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama, which placed limits on the use of life without parole as a sentence for juveniles.
As part of her larger efforts to help research inform practice and policy, she served as a member of the MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice as well as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on the Neurobiological and Socio-behavioral Science of Adolescent Development and Its Applications. Dr. Cauffman currently directs the Center for Psychology & Law as well as the master’s in legal and forensic psychology program at UCI.
Dr. Julee Poole
Purdue Global University
Dr. Julee Poole is the Purdue Global University department of psychology department chair. She has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology and serves as the academic chair of the graduate psychology program.
Dr. Poole was a professor of psychology for 15 years before going into administration. She started her academic career at Austin Peay State University and began teaching at Purdue Global (formerly Kaplan University) in 2007 in the undergraduate psychology department before moving to the graduate psychology department. She became the academic assistant chair before becoming the academic chair of the graduate psychology program in 2013. She earned her PhD from Capella University.
Jobs for Those With an Online Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology & Counseling
There are quite a number of job possibilities for those with an online master’s degree in forensic psychology and counseling.
Even if the degree program is not a licensure track program, the experience in understanding how social and cultural issues intersect with criminal behavior and the legal system can open a lot of career doors. Those who are fans of crime shows on TV probably already know that forensic psychologists can help in criminal investigations. Beyond that, they can also study criminals and their crimes to advance science’s understanding of the criminal mind.
They can also work in the court system as assistance, researchers, or consultants to lawyers, judges, and juries. In private practice or group practice, they can work to advocate for fair treatment of underserved populations, including African-Americans, the LGBTQ+ community, the Latinx community, those from lower-economic areas, children, or those with mental illness.
Forensic psychologists and counselors can work in jails, in victim advocacy, in the court system as jury consultants, or in governmental agencies such as the FBI or CIA. They can work for police departments, veteran’s facilities, or as probation officers. Crime analysts are the job made famous on television shows, and that is certainly a possibility too. With a degree in forensic psychology, one can enter the world of academia, training other forensic psychologists.