10 Best Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology 2021

| Staff

10 Best Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology 2021
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Forensic psychologists apply their psychology expertise to work within the legal system. These professionals differ from clinical psychologists in their work environments and approaches. Clinical psychologists help improve clients’ quality of life through therapy sessions. Forensic psychologists, on the other hand, examine individuals’ mental states from a legal perspective.

Best Master's Degrees in Forensic Psychology Badge

Forensic psychologists rely on strong problem-solving skills and generally demonstrate curiosity and emotional intelligence. They typically work with victims and criminal offenders, and the families of each. Forensic psychologists emphasize ethics and objectivity in every aspect of their work.

A master’s in forensic psychology can qualify graduates for careers as victim advocates, correctional counselors, and probation officers. However, forensic psychologists need a doctoral degree and years of professional experience.

This guide highlights the best forensic psychology master’s programs. The following sections review common forensic psychology courses, licensing requirements, and financial aid options to help prospective students choose the best program for their needs.

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Question Answer
What is forensic psychology? Forensic psychology involves the examination of the mental states of people involved in the legal system. Professionals in the field need in-depth knowledge of psychology and the law.
How long does it take to earn a master’s in forensic psychology? Forensic psychology master’s programs typically take two years to complete. Degree completion time varies depending on program requirements.
What is the difference between forensic psychology and forensic science? Forensic psychology focuses on human behavior and psychology. Forensic science professionals examine crime scene evidence and typically work in a laboratory.
Do you need a master’s degree to work in forensic psychology? Most jobs in forensic psychology require at least a master’s degree in the field. Aspiring forensic psychologists should pursue a doctorate.

10 Best Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology 2021

Students who are interested in human behavior and the legal system may consider earning a master’s in forensic psychology. A master’s degree in forensic psychology can lead to many career opportunities in the field. This list below ranks the best forensic psychology programs to help prospective students find a master’s program that fits their career goals.


The staff of Grad School Hub has compiled the following 10 Best Masters’ in Forensic Psychology for the 2019-20 academic school year based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Data contributed from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, and the U.S. Department of Labor plays a significant role in how graduate degree programs are ranked because institutional transparency is essential for deciding which career path is right for you. Based on this data, GSH organizes information into five weighted categories, which are:

  • Alumni Feedback: 20%
  • Continued Enrollment: 20%
  • Degree Selectivity: 10%
  • Graduate Expenses: 25%
  • Projected Annual Salary: 25%

A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible through our Ranking Methodology page.

  1. George Washington University

    Washington, DC



    A private school located in Washington, D.C., GW offers a master of arts in forensic psychology program, which allows students to examine criminal motivations. This program trains students to pursue top careers in law enforcement, homeland security, and community services.

    GW's forensic psychology master's program provides two available paths for students: applied forensics and applied psychology. Required courses include theories of criminal behavior, psychopathology, and research and statistics. Students must also complete 250 hours of externship training to gain work experience. Examples of externship sites include correctional institutions, law enforcement agencies, and mental health treatment sites.

    The program reviews applications on a rolling basis. They also typically accept 50 students each fall semester. Applicants must take the GRE general test, except those who hold a juris doctor, MD, or Ph.D. Qualified applicants must participate in an interview with faculty prior to admission.

  2. University of Denver

    Denver, CO



    A private school based in Denver, Colorado, DU offers a master of arts in forensic psychology specialized in clinical psychology and law. This program prepares students to work in clinical settings as mental health professionals. Graduates typically pursue careers in crisis intervention, victim assistance, and police consultation.

    DU's master's in forensic psychology takes two years for full-time students to complete. Notable courses include psychopathology and criminal evaluations. Field placements supplement coursework by providing direct service experience. Students must also enroll in case consultation and peer supervision as part of their field placement.

    Applicants must hold at least a bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.5 GPA to meet admission requirements. Prospective students without backgrounds in psychology must complete a coursework prerequisite of four psychology classes. They must also obtain a minimum 660 on the psychology subject GRE exam. DU's program requires all applicants to complete the GRE general exam.

  3. Roger Williams University

    Bristol, RI



    Located in Bristol, Rhode Island, RWU offers a master of arts in forensic and legal psychology, which prepares students for Ph.D. programs in research. The program teaches students research design, statistical analysis, and clinical assessment.

    RWU's 45-credit master's in forensic and legal psychology takes full-time learners two years to complete. Featured courses include research design, psychology and the law, and introduction to clinical assessment. In addition to coursework, students must complete directed research and a comprehensive thesis to graduate. Many graduates earn a doctorate in clinical research, applied psychology, or social psychology. Others act as trial consultants or perform psychological testing with prison populations.

    Applicants must hold bachelor's degrees in psychology, criminal justice, or related fields. Their transcripts must demonstrate satisfactory completion of statistics and research methods. Application requirements also include GRE exam results and a research writing sample.

  4. Marymount University

    Arlington, VA



    Based in Arlington, Virginia, Marymount's master of arts in forensic and legal psychology program teaches students to use psychological knowledge in the legal system. Students may also apply for a concentration in intelligence studies to learn skills for highly competitive careers in the intelligence community.

    Marymount's 39-credit forensic and legal psychology master's program prepares students for work in federal agencies. Students typically study subjects such as forensic assessment, research methods, and legal and investigative psychology. This program also requires students to complete 300 hours of an internship. Students must also complete at least 20 hours of research assistance or teaching experience to graduate.

    Marymount's proximity to Washington, D.C. allows students to utilize resources from local agencies such as the FBI. This program also provides study abroad opportunities.

    Marymount's program prefers applicants with a bachelor's degree in psychology, but it accepts degrees in related fields. Applicants must also complete the GRE general exam. Prospective students applying for the intelligence studies concentration complete nine credits per semester their first year and need a minimum 3.0 GPA.

  5. University of North Dakota

    Grand Forks, ND



    Located in Grand Forks, North Dakota, UND offers a master of science in forensic psychology. This degree prepares students for leading careers as forensic psychologists.

    UND's forensic psychology master's program provides students with a foundation in psychological principles and a comprehensive understanding of the U.S. legal system. Students typically complete 30 credit hours in two years. Featured courses include cognitive psychology, behavior pathology, and human nature and crime. Students must also complete supervised field work, faculty-advised research, and a thesis. Many graduates pursue law school or doctoral programs in forensic science or forensic psychology.

    Application requirements include the GRE general exam and a minimum 3.2 undergraduate GPA. Prospective students must hold bachelor's degrees in psychology or related fields. Applicants must also submit a personal statement, a CV, and three recommendation letters.

  6. Holy Names University

    Oakland, CA



    A Catholic university based in Oakland, California, HNU offers a master of arts in forensic psychology focused on restorative justice in the criminal justice system. Graduates typically pursue careers as probation officers, restorative justice advocates, or victim advocates.

    HNU's 38-credit master's in forensic psychology prepares students for careers that require legal, forensic, psychological, and cultural competency. This program offers a flexible course schedule for easy enrollment. Notable courses include foundations of counseling, human diversity, and psychology of criminal behavior. Students also obtain practical experience through a required field placement and accompanying seminar. The school offers on-campus workshops and lectures from local professionals for additional learning.

    Prospective students must answer questions provided by the program in their admissions essay. Applications require two recommendation letters. Each applicant must attend an interview with the program's admissions committee.

  7. Fairleigh Dickinson University-Metropolitan Campus

    Teaneck, NJ



    A private school based in New Jersey, FDU's Metropolitan campus offers a master of arts in forensic psychology that teaches students the fundamentals of forensic psychology within an accelerated time frame.

    FDU's forensic psychology master's program functions as either a terminal degree or preparation for additional graduate education. Students planning to pursue master's-level forensic careers finish this 36-credit degree in less than two years and begin work in the field.

    In addition to coursework, students must complete a 300-hour externship and pass their comprehensive exam. FDU's program also offers an optional thesis. Students interested in doctoral studies are encouraged to participate in research and complete this thesis.

    Applicants must demonstrate previous coursework in introduction to psychology, statistics, and abnormal psychology to qualify for admission. They must also submit a CV, a personal statement, and two recommendation letters. FDU's program does not require the GRE exam.

  8. California Baptist University

    Riverside, CA



    A Baptist school based in Riverside, California, CBU offers a master of arts in forensic psychology, which equips learners to offer psychological services in the criminal justice system. As a Christian school, CBU emphasizes faith and spiritual growth as a part of this education.

    CBU's forensic psychology master's program offers evening courses to help students complete the degree with limited career interference. Learners typically study topics such as biological bases of behavior, criminal profiling, and research methods.

    CBU's program also requires students to complete a nine-month forensic practicum with on-site supervision in their second year. Placement for the forensic practicum depends on students' interests and career goals. Learners choose between a thesis or comprehensive exam to complete in their last semester.

    Prerequisite courses for CBU's program include general psychology, abnormal psychology, and methods of research. Applicants must also submit a comprehensive essay answering questions provided by the school.

  9. CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice

    New York, NY



    One of the top public colleges in the region, John Jay offers a master of arts in forensic psychology, which teaches students the basics of applied forensic psychology.

    John Jay's 42-credit forensic psychology master's program studies both offenders and victims. Required courses include psychopathology and research design. Students also select electives in subjects such as violence and aggression, eyewitness identification, and victimology.

    In addition to coursework, students choose between a 300-hour externship under professional supervision and a thesis. They can also complete both, if they wish. Many graduates go on to earn doctoral degrees in psychology. Others pursue work in institutions such as prisons, hospitals, and mental health community centers.

    Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also have completed 24 undergraduate credit hours in the social sciences. This includes coursework in psychology, experimental psychology, and statistical methods.

  10. American International College

    Springfield, MA



    A private liberal arts college based in Springfield, Massachusetts, AIC offers a master of science in forensic psychology. This degree develops forensic practice skills for study and work in the field.

    AIC's forensic psychology master's program prepares students with undergraduate degrees in psychology and related fields for further graduate study. Learners must complete 36 credits of coursework in psychology and criminal justice. Required courses include behavioral statistics, ethics in criminal justice, and assessment techniques. Students must also complete an externship in forensic psychology to earn the degree.

    AIC's program accepts applications throughout the year on a rolling basis. Prospective students must demonstrate a minimum 2.75 GPA in undergraduate courses. Inability to demonstrate a 2.75 GPA requires an interview with the program director. Applicants receive the program's decision up to four weeks after submission.

What Do Forensic Psychologists Do?

Forensic psychology professionals apply knowledge of both human behavior and law to help people involved in the criminal justice system. Forensic psychologists often work in courthouses, prisons, and police stations. They typically work with lawyers, law enforcement, criminal offenders, and victims of crimes. For example, forensic psychologists may provide psychological assessments in court or act as expert witnesses. They may also assist law enforcement by creating criminal profiles.

Many professionals apply clinical skills to forensic psychologists occupations. For example, forensic psychology professionals who work in prisons often provide counseling services to inmates. Others collaborate with juvenile or adult offenders to implement treatment plans. Forensic psychologists may also advocate or counsel victims of crimes.

Many forensic psychologists use their knowledge of psychology and the legal system to determine motives for crimes.

Forensic psychologists often conduct original research and analyze the research of other professionals. For example, they may study crimes and criminal offenders to determine common traits. This process may involve interviewing criminal offenders and victims.

A career in forensic psychology requires investigative, clinical, and communication skills. Forensic psychologists must also be able to analyze people and think creatively. Many forensic psychologists use their knowledge of psychology and the legal system to determine motives for crimes. They examine human psychology and work to prevent criminal behavior.

Career and Salary Outlook for Forensic Psychologists

Salaries for careers in psychology vary depending on the professional’s education, experience, and specialization. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists earned a median annual salary of $80,370 as of 2019. The BLS projects employment for psychologists to increase 3% from 2019 to 2029, on pace with the national average growth rate for all occupations.

Because BLS data includes all types of psychologists, forensic psychology salaries may differ significantly from the median. For example, the BLS reports that clinical psychologists earned a median annual salary of $78,200 as of 2019, while industrial-organizational psychologists earned a median of $92,880.

Bottom 10% Median Annual Salary Top 10%
$45,380 $80,370 $132,070

Source: BLS

Accreditation for Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology

Prospective students should verify each school’s accreditation status before applying. Many employers only provide tuition assistance to employees attending accredited institutions. Additionally, only learners at accredited schools can qualify to receive federal financial aid.

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of institutional accreditation in the U.S. and demonstrates the school delivers quality educational programming. Accreditation requires rigorous evaluations by a third-party organization approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

In addition to institutional accreditation, learners can look for field-specific programmatic accreditation. The APA Commission on Accreditation evaluates psychology programs, ensuring the quality of internships, doctoral programs, and postdoctoral residencies in the field. Students can check the accreditation status of any school or program through the Department of Education’s online database.

Licensing for Forensic Psychologists

Most states require psychologists to hold a state license to practice. Licensing in psychology protects practicing psychologists and their clients. The rigorous licensure process also demonstrates a professional’s commitment to their practice. By obtaining a license, individuals demonstrate their professional experience and expertise.

Licensure requirements vary by state. For example, candidates for forensic psychology licensure in Virginia, like in most states, must hold a doctorate in psychology. Virginia candidates must also complete internship hours and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Licensed professionals in Virginia must fulfill continuing education and professional development requirements to maintain their credentials.

The Association of State and Provincial Psychology provides licensure information for each state.

The American Board of Professional Psychology offers a specialty board certification, a voluntary credential that demonstrates the holder meets established professional standards. The certification also signifies the holder’s competence in a specialty area of psychology, such as forensic psychology. Candidates for certification must undergo an extensive review process, including a credential review. Candidates must pass written and oral examinations.

Courses in a Master’s in Forensic Psychology

Earning a master’s in forensic psychology prepares students for doctoral programs and careers in the field. Many programs offer courses in research methods and statistical analysis, which help learners develop skills necessary to complete research projects and a thesis. Depending on the program’s focus, students may also take courses in specialized areas of psychology and law.

Many forensic psychology master’s programs offer the specialized courses below. However, course offerings vary by program, so learners should contact their prospective institution to verify course availability.

  • Psychology and the Law

    This class introduces students to the intersection of psychology and the legal system. Students learn about public policy development and the legislative process. Coursework also examines specific legal issues and their impact on mental health practices. Learners explore topics including eyewitness interviews and lineup procedures.

  • Forensic Assessment

    Students in this course learn basic skills necessary to provide forensic evaluations. Learners prepare to assess cases of criminal insanity defenses, competency to stand trial, and risk of violence. Students learn how to write assessment records and communicate them to the court, and they develop an understanding of the legal and ethical responsibilities related to forensic assessment.

  • Psychopatholgy

    Learners prepare to examine mental health challenges in a forensic setting. Students learn how to provide accurate diagnoses and how to treat individuals with specific mental health challenges. Coursework also explores types of interventions and strategies for working with specific populations. The class may also explore contemporary views of violent behavior and the development of violent crime.

  • Research

    Students learn about methods and techniques for conducting research in the social sciences. This course prepares learners to define a research question and design a research project. Students also learn how to understand and interpret published studies. This course prepares students to conduct research ethically and professionally.

  • Statistical Analysis

    In this course, learners review issues related to descriptive and inferential statistics in psychology. Students learn how to assess data using common statistical software, such as SPSS Statistics. In addition to practical skills, this course explores the theories that underlie statistical analysis.

Financial Aid

Graduate students often apply for financial aid to help fund their education. Master’s students can pursue opportunities such as work-study positions. Learners in the federal work-study program work on campus or in the community, often in a role related to their program.

Some students take out federal loans to pay for their graduate education. To determine their eligibility for federal funding, students should complete the FAFSA form. Although federal loans often provide better terms rates than private loans, students must repay all loans with interest.

Earning a master’s degree online can help students save money. Many schools offer discounted tuition rates for online students, and distance learning typically reduces expenses related to transportation and housing. Additionally, online students often work full time while earning their degree.

Scholarships for Forensic Psychology

Scholarships are an ideal form of funding, since they do not require repayment. Graduate students can qualify for a variety of scholarships from private organizations. The scholarships below are available to students pursuing a master’s in forensic psychology.

Melanie Merola O’Donnell Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in a field related to mental health can qualify for this scholarship. Applicants must demonstrate a history of volunteer or research work. Applications must submit a CV, transcripts, and a personal essay.
Amount: $2,500

Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford Grant
Who Can Apply: This grant supports graduate students who are researching the understanding, prevention, and/or treatment of traumatic events. Applicants must demonstrate affiliation with an institution, such as a nonprofit organization or government agency, for educational or charitable purposes.
Amount: $1,500

Queen-Nellie Evans Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports minority graduate students who demonstrate a commitment to helping marginalized communities. Students pursuing a degree in a field related to clinical service or public policy can qualify for this award.
Amount: $4,000

Violet and Cyril Franks Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship provides financial support to help graduate students complete projects meant to reduce the stigma associated with mental health challenges. Applicants must submit a project proposal, budget, and CV.
Amount: $5,000

Clara May Grants
Who Can Apply: Graduate students who are writing a master’s thesis on sexism, racism, or prejudice can qualify for this grant. Applicants must hold membership with the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.
Amount: $1,000

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