Several schools offer online master's degree programs in forensic psychology. Some programs are fully online, while others include brief on-campus residencies that allow students to share information and work on team projects.
Students must hold a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related program. These master's programs require around two years to complete through online study. Required courses usually cover the foundations of forensic psychology, abnormal psychology, diversity psychology and the use of psychological profiling. Students also choose electives that meet their career goals. Field experiences may be an option, and most programs require a final research project and paper.
Although jobs in the field are available to someone with a master's degree in forensic psychology, most positions call for a doctoral degree. A master's degree is usually required in order to move ahead in a doctoral program. State licensing requirements generally mandate a doctoral degree for psychologists in private practice, and a doctoral degree is required for certification as a forensic psychologist by the American Board of Professional Psychology.
Master's Degree in Forensic Psychology
An online master's degree program in forensic psychology prepares graduates to apply psychological counseling and clinical skills in a legal or criminal justice setting. Emphasis is often placed on mental health issues associated with criminal behavior, as well as psychological approaches to dealing with criminal offenders. Forensic psychologists perform a variety of tasks, including assisting lawyers in jury selection and preparation for trial, conducting forensic assessments, overseeing focus groups and assessing programs designed for criminal offenders. Specialization areas within forensic psychology may include working with criminal, civil or family issues.
Program Information and Requirements
Online master's degree programs in forensic psychology are usually around 36 credits and take approximately two years to complete. Students can access a variety of materials online, including podcasts of course content, transcripts, videos and course content. Distance learning students also have access to online academic advising, career assistance, tutoring and library services. Forensic psychology master's degree programs can usually be completed entirely online. Some programs; however, may require students to take part in a short campus-based experience.
Computer requirements for online students include an operating system such as Windows XP or Vista, an Internet browser such as Internet Explorer or Firefox, and software such as Adobe Acrobat Reader and Apple QuickTime. Students may also need a video card, Web camera, microphone or headset.
A master's-level forensic psychology curriculum focuses on the various roles forensic psychologists play within the legal system.
This course examines abnormal psychology in mental health settings, such as community agencies and rehabilitation institutions. Topics covered include the DSM-IV, psychosocial problems, behavior pathology and cognitive disorders.
Forensic Psychology Assessment
An online forensic psychology assessment course covers risk assessment, legal competency, juvenile evaluations and criminal responsibility. The course also commonly touches on polygraph use, psychological tests and other assessment tools.
Forensic Psychology Ethical Issues
This course looks at various ethical, legal and professional issues encountered by forensic psychologists. Students are provided with a wide range of resources for resolving these potential legal and professional issues.
An online psychological profiling course uses case studies and research to examine modern psychological profiling techniques. The profiling of criminal behavior, such as murder and rape, are covered in this course.
Career Information for Graduates
Employment settings for forensic psychologists may include state hospitals, addiction service centers, prisons, community health centers, juvenile facilities and social service agencies. Additional job opportunities for graduates of forensic psychology programs may include legal consultant, victim advocate, therapist, forensic treatment specialist, educator and correctional officer. Psychologists as a whole had median annual earnings of $72,580 per year in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reports employment for psychologists is expected to increase by 19% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
While it is possible to find employment with a master's degree in forensic psychology, individuals interested in private practice or education, research and other advanced job opportunities should consider a doctoral degree in forensic psychology. In fact, certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology requires completion of a doctoral degree program. An online master's degree in forensic psychology also prepares graduates for doctoral studies in areas such as criminal justice, forensic science and psychology.
Fully online master's degrees in forensic psychology require a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field to enroll. Career growth in the field of psychology is projected at higher than average from 2014-2024.