Master of Arts (MA): Forensic Psychology Degree Overview

Oct 26, 2019

A Master of Arts (M.A.) program in forensic psychology teaches students the basics of victim counseling, treatment methods, criminal motives and psychological health evaluations. Read about degree requirements, courses and continuing education for a master's program in forensic psychology.

Essential Information

In a master's program in forensic psychology, individuals participate in thesis research and internships, also referred to as practicums. These experiences allow students to work with peers and experts in the field of forensic psychology. An M.A. in Forensic Psychology program may take 1-3 years to complete. It's important to note that a master's degree alone is typically not sufficient for licensure as a psychologist, which usually requires a doctorate. Graduates pursuing licensure may continue on into a doctoral program in forensic psychology.

Master's Degree in Forensic Psychology

Many programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in psychology. However, some programs may admit students with other majors, provided they have completed undergraduate coursework in abnormal, experimental and child psychology. Some programs also require students to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation and an essay. Forensic psychology is a growing field that combines social science and psychology in a way that is useful to the criminal justice system. Students take courses in research design and quantitative research analysis, in addition to psychology courses. Topics of study can include the following:

  • Psychopathology
  • Crisis intervention
  • Forensic assessment techniques
  • Psychology of criminal behavior
  • Family violence

Career Outlook and Salary Info

Professionals in the field of forensic psychology use their knowledge of personality theory and psychoanalysis in an attempt to help crime victims. A Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology prepares graduates to put their skills to use in the criminal justice, public policy or mental health fields.

With a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology, individuals may be prepared to provide their services to probationers, federal agencies, mental health institutions, courts or criminal investigators under the supervision of a licensed forensic psychologist; they may also act as a counseling psychologist, though these positions may require a doctorate.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report figures specific to forensic psychologists; however, it does project a 14% increase in job opportunities for all psychologists through the 2018-2028 decade ( This growth is expected to be due in part to a growing demand for psychologists' services in organizations like mental health centers and social service agencies. The average annual income for clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $85,340 as of May 2018, per the BLS; all other psychologists, except for industrial-organizational psychologists, earned an average of $95,610.

Licensure and Continuing Education Info

All psychologists who work with patients are required to earn state licensure, according to the BLS. Requirements vary by state but often include completion of a doctorate program, experience and passing an exam. Voluntary certification in forensic psychology is also available from the American Board of Professional Psychology.

Graduates of forensic psychology master's degree programs can pursue doctoral degrees in related fields like criminal justice, law or public policy studies. Those who want to conduct research or work independently as clinical psychologists can earn a doctoral degree in psychology or forensic psychology.

Forensic psychology master's programs teach students to apply psychological theories to aspects of the criminal justice system and criminal psychology. A master's degree in forensic psychology opens the door to more advanced study at the doctoral level.

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