Online Forensic Psychology Degrees

Are you interested in studying criminal activity or working with the legal system to understand and prevent crimes? If so, earning a forensic psychology degree online is an ideal option. Forensic psychology degrees equip you with the tools to evaluate mental health issues, research mental processes and behavioral trends, and design treatment plans for criminal offenders. Though it’s usually necessary to hold a graduate degree to become a professional forensic psychologist, less advanced online forensic psychology degrees provide excellent training for careers as probation officers, victim advocates, parole officers, and more.

With a growing demand for psychological professionals nationwide, experts estimate a whopping 19% increase for clinical psychologists, a broad designation including clinical forensic psychologists, FBI psychologists, and more. Often, professionals in the field of forensic psychology can expect to earn between $45,000 and $80,000 annually.

A strong online forensic psychology degree program covers working with the judicial or legal system, using psychological research techniques, and diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. You’ll also gain experience analyzing and interpreting human behavior and working in stressful environments, such as crime scenes and courtrooms. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in forensic psychology, read on. Our introductory guide will provide key information about forensic psychology degrees, including costs, courses, majors, and job options for distance learners.

Meet our expert

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Nilda M. Laboy, PsyD Forensic Psychology

“Students learn to apply all of their clinical psychology skills to answer forensic questions, and to provide treatment in forensic settings.”

Online Forensic Psychology Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Bachelor's $19,734 8.68% 4 years $53,500 $61,500 N/A
Master's $18,680 7.36% 2 years N/A $82,000 N/A
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

Careers in forensic psychology require at least a bachelor’s degree, although a doctoral degree is necessary to become a professional forensic psychologist. Attaining an advanced forensic psychology degree online will help increase your salary once you begin your career, and will also increase your likelihood for employment. Those holding a bachelor’s in forensic psychology can expect an average salary of $49,000, while those with doctorate forensic psychology degrees earn significantly more, with average wages falling between $60,000-$80,000.

Online Forensic Psychology Degrees

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Online Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology

Most careers in forensic psychology require at least a bachelor’s degree, but some may require additional education at either the master’s or doctoral level. Still, a bachelor’s forensic psychology degree online is an ideal option for students interested in the psychology of criminal investigation. Most programs include psychology and sociology classes, but also provide a well-rounded background in the liberal arts. While certain jobs require only a bachelor’s online forensic psychology degree, many students go on to pursue advanced degrees to work as professional forensic psychologists. These online forensic psychology degrees can be completed in about four years and cost an average of $19,734 in tuition.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Students pursuing a bachelor’s forensic psychology degree online can expect to take core curriculum and foundational psychology and sociology classes, such as Introduction to Psychology, Criminal Psychology, Sociology of Crime and Violence, and Forensics and the Law.

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Potential majors include the bachelor of arts (BA) or bachelor of science (BS) in forensic psychology or criminology.

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    While most students will go on to pursue graduate forensic psychology programs online, students holding a bachelor’s can work as a probation officer, parole officer, correctional treatment specialist, and more.

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $49,360 for probation officers, parole officers, and correctional treatment specialists.

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    For 2014-2024, experts estimate a 4% increase for probation officers, parole officers, and correctional treatment specialists. This rate is slightly lower than average.

Online Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology

A master’s in forensic psychology is ideal for students who want to learn the foundational theories, philosophies, and methods of forensic psychology. An online master’s in forensic psychology explores the social, psychological, and biological components that influence criminal activities and behaviors. Though a master’s in forensic psychology will not prepare students for American Board of Forensic Psychology certification, it will prepare you to pursue a doctorate in the field or an occupation with civil or criminal courts, legal firms, correctional facilities, and more. On average, an online master’s in forensic psychology requires two years of study and includes tuition costs of $18,680.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Students pursuing an online master’s in forensic psychology will take classes that discuss and apply key psychological theories, such as Ethical Practice in Psychology, Cognitive Processes, Victimology, Criminal Justice, and Foundations in Research Methods.

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Potential focuses include the MA or MS in forensic psychology or criminology.

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    While a doctorate is necessary to become a professional forensic psychologist, master’s level graduates can pursue careers as pretrial services officers, parole officers, probation officers, and more.

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $49,360 for pretrial services officers, parole officers, and probation officers.

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    For 2014-2024, experts estimate a 4% increase for pretrial services officers, parole officers, and probation officers. This rate is slightly lower than average.

Online Doctorate Degree in Forensic Psychology

Doctoral forensic psychology degrees are necessary for students who intend to pursue a career as a professional forensic psychologist. Candidates for doctoral forensic psychology degrees will study the criminal justice system, mental health issues that commonly motivate criminal activities, and important research techniques. Additionally, most doctoral forensic psychology programs online include a final dissertation and an internship. Doctoral forensic psychology degrees can be completed in as little as two years, although most students require four to seven years to graduate. Doctoral online forensic psychology degrees have a wide range of tuition costs, with most programs costing between $40,000 and $70,000.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Students pursuing a doctoral forensic psychology degree online will take advanced coursework, such as Intersection of Crime, Psychology and the Law, Advanced Psychopathology, and a dissertation course.

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Potential degrees include a PhD in psychology or a PsyD with a focus in forensic psychology.

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    A doctoral forensic psychology degree online qualifies students for careers as clinical forensic psychologists, clinical psychologists, FBI psychologists, and more.

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $61,496 for clinical forensic psychologists, $72,825 for clinical psychologists, and $76,000 for FBI psychologists.

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    For 2014-2024, experts estimate a 19% increase for clinical psychologists, a broad designation including clinical forensic psychologists, FBI psychologists, and more. This growth rate is much higher than average.

Online Forensic Psychology Choose Your Career

Average Forensic Psychology Salaries

$49,360
$61,500

Probation Officer

Salary: $49,360
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
4% 91,700 Bachelor's Varies

Probation officers work with and supervise previous criminal offenders. Probation officers supervise probationers’ rehabilitation efforts while also ensuring the probationer is not a threat to himself/herself or the surrounding community. Often, probation officers work with possibly dangerous individuals and in areas with high levels of criminal activity. Therefore, probation officers should be skilled at providing emotional and counseling support to potentially unstable clients, and should also be able to handle high-stress and possibly hazardous work environments.

Forensic Psychologist

Salary: $61,500
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
19% 91,700 Doctorate Board Certification Required

Forensic psychologists are instrumental in prosecuting criminals and even preventing crimes. Many forensic psychologists research crime, criminals, and crime scenes to better understand common criminal traits. These professionals often work in law firms, prisons, or even courthouses. Many forensic psychologists serve as expert witnesses in trials. Usually, forensic psychologists are skilled at performing in-depth research, interpreting human behavior, providing counseling services, and working in often stressful environments.

Online Forensic Psychology Degree in Action

Nilda M. Laboy, PsyD Forensic Psychology

Nilda M. Laboy, PsyD, is a clinical and forensic psychologist and a counselor educator. She has over 25 years of experience that includes positions as a staff psychologist in addiction programs, a state psychiatric hospital, a federal forensic facility, and adult and juvenile court clinics. She is an associate professor and the Chair of the Counseling Department at William James College in Newton, Massachusetts.

What types of students do you notice tend to excel in a forensic psychology program?

Some of the traits that I have seen in outstanding students include superior time management and organization skills. This is crucial to navigate the amount of reading, writing, and field work required in the field. The student has to love to read and write. In addition, this field requires that practitioners have excellent boundaries, integrity, and strength of character. This is true for any professional in counseling or psychology, but especially for those specializing in forensic and/or correctional settings.

What are the most crucial skills that students build upon in this type of program?

To be a forensic psychologist (doctoral level), students learn first to be excellent clinical psychologists, and work especially to fine-tune their psychological assessment skills. Then they learn to apply all of their clinical psychology skills to answer forensic questions, and to provide treatment in forensic settings.

How do you prepare when serving as an expert witness in court?

First, I have to know my client and their case well. I need to know (and be able to explain to the court) why I choose an assessment measure over others, and be familiar with the relevant literature. If I am testifying or answering a question for the court, I need to know the relevant case law that applies to that particular situation. For example, if I perform an evaluation of competence to stand trial, I need to know the legal standard in the jurisdiction in which I am testifying (specific state or federal).

Crime shows are really popular on TV right now and this line of work is always portrayed as being so exciting. Do you find that a lot of students are inspired to get into forensic psychology because of this? What's the reality of getting into this type of career?

I always tell applicants (and remind my students) that they will not be doing what they see on TV. This is not CSI, NCIS, or any of those shows. The shows don’t portray all of the hours that we spend in the hallways outside of the courtroom waiting to testify (sometimes to be told at the end of the day that we are not needed). They also don’t portray the hours we spend writing reports. I find that people get excited with the shows and they don’t have an understanding of what is the scope of practice in this field. Some people want to work with serial killers because they are “fascinated” by them, so their motivation is mainly for their own benefit, and they don’t see these professions as what they really are: a way of helping others and society at large.

What advice would you give to a student considering a degree in forensic psychology?

One thing that has to be clarified is that you can only be a forensic psychologist if you are licensed as a clinical psychologist at the doctoral level. That training usually takes five years (including a full-time pre-doctoral internship), and then one needs supervised experience and to pass the appropriate examination boards.
There are many master’s degree programs in forensic psychology and people think that they can be a forensic psychologist after completing them. This is not true. With a master’s degree in forensic psychology you can work in law enforcement, but you cannot do forensic psychology evaluations. People who want to pursue a master’s degree and are interested in counseling individuals involved with the criminal justice system should consider a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, and find a program that has a concentration in forensic and correctional counseling, with an appropriate practicum and internship experiences. With that degree and appropriate post-master’s supervision and board examination, they can be licensed as a mental health counselor and provide treatment in a variety of settings to people involved with the criminal justice system.

I will advise anyone considering a career in this field to talk to people who do the work and to seek out information from the programs they are considering. Ask them where their graduates are working, and ask them to talk to current students. They can give you a good idea whether the program is a good fit for you.

Online Forensic Psychology Professional Requirements

Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)

The EPPP is required for individuals who intend to become licensed psychologists. The test covers eight major topics: biological bases of behavior; cognitive-affective bases of behavior; social and cultural bases of behavior; growth and lifespan development; assessment and diagnosis; treatment, intervention, prevention, and supervision; research methods and statistics; and ethical/legal/professional issues. Those taking the EPPP should hold a doctorate in psychology, should have completed a year of supervised clinical experience, and should have a foundational knowledge of the field of psychology. Additional requirements vary by state.

Is it required?

Yes

How long will it take?

4 Hours

American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP) Certification in Forensic Psychology

American Board of Forensic Psychology certification is an optional qualification that signifies expertise in the practice of forensic psychology. The certification is not mandatory, but is often attractive to employers. Certification involves three major parts: a review of credentials (including education and training), a written exam covering broad knowledge in the practice of forensic psychology, a review of work samples, and an oral examination testing specialized knowledge in the field. Candidates should have doctoral forensic psychology degrees and demonstrable work experience.

Is it required?

Recommended

How long will it take?

Varies