By OPD Staff
Why earn a master’s in forensic psychology online? Forensic science is one of the unique sub-fields of psychology and is closely related to criminal justice. As a discipline, it focuses on understanding the thoughts, emotions, and biological mechanisms that drive criminal activity and other deviant behavior. Knowing these areas could qualify you to work in industries ranging from law enforcement and corrections to mental health treatment and policy.
Before applying for jobs in those sectors, it could be useful to earn a master’s in criminal psychology online. Taking web-based classes will allow you to keep your day job and incur minimal disruptions to your daily life without sacrificing the quality of your education. To get started, scroll down and check out our ranking of the top online forensic psychology master’s programs.
We created this ranking to highlight the best master’s in forensic psychology online. Currently, there are only a limited number of online options available. However, we searched high and low for schools* that fit the bill, from full-fledged forensic psychology master’s degrees to programs in related fields – like criminal justice and human services – that offer relevant specialization courses. Next, we collected information on each qualifying college or university and ranked them in four categories: affordability, accessibility, experiential learning opportunities, and relevance of coursework.
The affordability metric is exactly what it sounds like. Using data available on College Navigator (a government-run education database), we calculated each school’s average price based on their resident and non-resident tuition rates and fees.
In rating accessibility, we considered what percentage of the program’s classes are available online (not including practicums). With two exceptions, all the schools on this ranking offer 100% of their classes online.
Experiential learning refers to any opportunities that the program provides for hands-on education. Most forensic psychology programs don’t require degree candidates to participate in internships or practicums, but many do offer experiential learning in other forms. This could include capstone courses, thesis papers, and/or research projects. For this ranking, we awarded points based on (1) whether the curriculum provides experiential learning opportunities, (2) the variety of options it offers, and (3) if such experiences are a required component. In the ideal case, a program mandates some sort of hands-on learning but provides multiple options so that students may choose the approach that best suits their goals.
Lastly, we assessed coursework by looking at what percentage of the program’s classes focus specifically on forensic psychology. This category serves to differentiate comprehensive online master’s in criminal psychology degrees from those that offer a specialization only (and even those vary greatly in how they focus and distribute their courses).
After collecting all the data, we assigned points to each program in each category, tallied the totals, and calculated the final scores. The highest possible score was 12 points. Scroll down to find out more about the best online master’s degrees in forensic psychology!
*Note that we did not consider private for-profit institutions in this ranking, although there are also for-profit colleges that offer graduate programs in forensic psychology.
Ranking Top 15 Master’s in Forensic Psychology Online
#15. Tiffin University – Tiffin, OH
Online MS in Criminal Justice: Criminal Behavior
Students looking for an accessible, broad-based, and affordable master’s in forensic psychology online might want to check out Tiffin University. The school’s MS in Criminal Justice offers a concentration in Criminal Behavior that covers many of the same topics as a traditional forensic psych program. For example, degree candidates will take classes in “Criminogenic Psychopathology,” “Mental Health Law,” and even “Advanced Psych Assessment Theory.” However, the degree also covers general topics in criminal justice, such as legal issues and contemporary trends. As you near the end of this program, you’ll also complete a seminar course in which you listen to and analyze speeches from major leaders in the field.
Average Tuition & Fees: $12,600/yr
#14. Saint Josephs University – Philadelphia, PA
Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice: Behavior Management
SJU stands out on this online forensic psychology master’s programs ranking with a degree that emphasizes practical applications. In other words, this curriculum won’t just teach you to understand deviant behavior – it will also teach you to diffuse and reroute that behavior in real-life settings. The program achieves this goal through classes that explore therapeutic strategies, evidence-based practices, proven responses to juvenile delinquency, and much more. As a bonus, SJU also offers several psychology-related electives (and even has another concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis). Some examples include “Behavioral Development,” “Sociology of Disasters,” and “Risk Assessment.”
Average Tuition & Fees: $16,092/yr
#13. Regis University – Denver, CO
Online Master of Science in Criminology: Human Behavior
By embedding a Human Behavior Track within its MS in Criminology curriculum, Regis University has essentially created on one of the nation’s best online master’s in criminal psychology programs. This degree is a particularly good choice for students who want to obtain background knowledge in several areas of criminal justice in addition to concentrating on human behavior. In fact, general courses like “Transnational Crime,” “Contemporary Crime Policy,” and “Crime Prediction and Prevention” make up the bulk of the curriculum. However, you’ll also have plenty of flexibility to customize your studies by taking targeted classes like “Neuroscience of Communication and Conflict.”
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,250/yr
#12. University of Cincinnati – Cincinnati, OH
Online Master’s in Criminal Justice: Analysis of Criminal Behavior
The University of Cincinnati’s MS in Criminal Justice is ideal for students whose career interests lie closer to law enforcement than to mental health. To start, all program participants take two broad-based seminars (in criminology and criminal justice) and acquire basic skills in research and applied statistics. You’ll then move on to the degree’s concentration sequence in Analysis of Criminal Behavior, which packs a powerful punch thanks to classes like “Biosocial Factors in Criminal Offending” – not to mention another two seminars (this time in juvenile justice and white-collar crime). And if that’s not enough, you can round out UC’s affordable online forensic psychology master’s program with electives like “Law and Social Control” and “Correctional Rehabilitation.”
Average Tuition & Fees: $20,339/yr
#11. Southern New Hampshire University – Manchester, NH
Online MS in Psychology: Forensic Psychology
Applicants who are interested in all fields of psychology (but are especially attracted to forensics) would do well to check out SNHU. At Southern New Hampshire, degree candidates in the MS in Psychology program spend about two-thirds of their time studying general topics – like “Theories of Personality” and “Cognitive Processes.” Only toward the end of your degree plan will you take up forensic-focused classes; examples include “Psychology in the Courtroom” and “Intersection of Law and Psychology.” As a result, graduates of this top online master’s in criminal psychology retain the flexibility to work in a variety of mental health fields as well as law enforcement and corrections.
Average Tuition & Fees: $18,810/yr
#10. University of Louisiana Monroe – Monroe, LA
Online Master of Science in Psychology: Forensic Psychology
Conveniently, the forensic track is the only one of ULM’s MS in Psychology concentrations that it offers entirely online. As such, this program provides an attractive opportunity for students who are interested in exploring the roots of criminal behavior but don’t have time for a traditional degree. Enroll in this affordable online master’s degree in forensic psychology to learn about criminal justice counseling, psychological assessments, and delinquency theories – all from the comfort of your own home. And while it’s not required, you have the option to complete research or a thesis project as one of your psychology electives.
Average Tuition & Fees: $14,712/yr
#9. Arizona State University – Tempe, AZ
Online Master of Science in Forensic Psychology
Don’t want to get tied down by an inflexible curriculum? Interested in accruing knowledge through research? If so, take a look at Arizona State University’s open-ended forensic psychology program. While there is a set course list for the 21-credit core sequence, you can still choose how to satisfy some requirements. For example, you can swap out a class in quantitative research for one in applied data analysis. More importantly, ASU’s affordable online master’s degree in forensic psychology leaves the last 12 credits of the program entirely up to you. Pick a mish-mash of different electives, focus your studies on one area, or earn credit for conducting research – the choice is yours!
Average Tuition & Fees: $17,841/yr
#8. Adler University – Chicago, IL
Online MA in Counseling: Forensic Psychology
Adler University’s MA in Counseling: Forensic Psychology is perhaps the most rigorous, time-intensive program on this list. It’s also one of the least affordable, but the high tuition rate might be worth the cost for applicants who are committed to a career in professional counseling. The program comprises a whopping 65 credits of coursework, including an eight-credit sequence of practica, seminars, and internships as well as an optional thesis component. While this might seem a bit daunting, Adler’s program is also the only one on this online master’s in criminal psychology degrees ranking that will qualify you for NPC and LCC licensure.
Average Tuition & Fees: $42,505/yr
#6. Liberty University – Lynchburg, VA
Online MS in Criminal Justice: Forensic Psychology
At Liberty University, you’ll enjoy a balanced education that touches on both theoretical and practical, broad and specific topics in criminology. Start by acquiring a firm grasp of fundamental concepts like management of criminal justice organizations and ethical policing. Next, dive into a targeted, four-course sequence of forensic psychology classes. This cognate cuts right to the core of the field, offering strategies in crucial topics like crisis intervention, offender rehabilitation, and the legal system. To top it all off, Liberty’s rock-bottom tuition makes it the most affordable online forensic psychology master’s program on this list!
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,430/yr
#6. Saint Leo University – Saint Leo, FL
Online MS in Criminal Justice: Behavioral Studies
People with an interest in law enforcement and a talent for analytical thinking usually become detectives or private investigators. But forensic psychology offers a similar blend of attributes, as Saint Leo demonstrates in its MS in Criminal Justice: Behavioral Studies program. Concentration-specific classes like “Insights into Criminal Behavior” and “Analytical Understanding of Interviews and Interrogations” will help you hone your investigative prowess while deepening your understanding of the judicial system. But that’s not all that makes this a top online master’s degree in forensic psychology. You can also choose from an array of electives that will teach you about how to negotiate with terrorists, rehabilitate criminal offenders, analyze crime scenes, assess risk, and much more.
Average Tuition & Fees: $9,360/yr
#5. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology – Chicago, IL
Online MA in Forensic Psychology
If you’d rather work with data than counsel patients, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology has a program that’s right up your alley. Its online MA in Forensic Psychology (non-licensure) covers a broad swath of topics that range from substance abuse and crisis intervention to risk assessment and criminal personality. As a candidate for this top online forensic psychology master’s program, you’ll also complete a five-credit applied research project. Before graduating, you’ll present (and defend) your results to audience members at a research showcase. In addition to providing a strong foundation in research, this MAFP will also prepare you for careers in law enforcement, social services, and mental health treatment.
Average Tuition & Fees: $26,179/yr
#4. Concordia University-Saint Paul – Saint Paul, MN
Online Master of Arts in Human Services: Forensic Behavioral Health
Concordia University St. Paul stands out on this online forensic psychology master’s programs ranking with its unique MA in Human Services. The university offers this degree, along with a concentration in Forensic Behavioral Health, through its partnership with the AIAFS (American Institute for Advancement of Forensic Studies). Thanks to this collaboration, students enjoy a robust curriculum of relevant courses that touch on everything from sexual offending and substance abuse to psychopathology, family violence, and behavioral health law. In the end, you’ll also complete a capstone course and put your knowledge to the test by writing a 40-page research paper on forensic behavioral health.
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,550/yr
#3. University of California Irvine – Irvine, CA
Online Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology
Admittedly, the University of California Irvine doesn’t often appear on rankings of online programs. But while the school may not prioritize distance education in general, its online Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology is a clear exception. The robust, two-year program comes with a solid 52-credit curriculum that will challenge you to think critically about subjects like “Children and the Law,” “Forensic Assessment,” and “Eyewitness Testimony.” As one of the best online master’s degrees in forensic psychology, this program also requires students to complete an independent term paper in which they demonstrate their knowledge and provide in-depth analysis of a specific topic.
Average Tuition & Fees: $20,615/yr
#2. Nova Southeastern University – Ft Lauderdale, FL
Online MS in Forensic Psychology
Nova Southeastern provides working professionals with an easy, convenient way to earn an affordable online master’s degree in criminal psychology. For starters, you won’t have to worry about how to fit enough forensic-focused courses in your degree plan because 100% of the program’s classes are directly related to criminal psychology. Coursework covers psychopathology, personality disorders, gender violence, behavior interventions, policies for the mentally ill, and just about everything in between. What’s more, NSU allows you to hone your skills even further through one of two career-oriented specialization tracks. One is geared toward mental health workers and first responders while the other provides training for jobs in the legal system.
Average Tuition & Fees: $19,175/yr
#1. Northcentral University – San Diego, CA
Online Master of Science in Forensic Psychology
Northcentral University’s MS degree provides a number of advantages over the competition. But the biggest perk? It has one of the most targeted, career-focused curricula of any program on our master’s in forensic psychology online ranking. Every single course in the degree plan will directly improve your understanding of criminal behavior and deviancy. In fact, you won’t have to take any generic classes in criminal justice or general psych at all! Particularly interesting courses include “Criminal Profiling,” “Psychology of Law and Justice,” and “Forensic Psychology in Correctional Settings.” You can even choose how to top off your education: by completing a capstone course or participating in a hands-on internship.
Average Tuition & Fees: $17,481/yr
You’ve reached the end of our list of top master’s in forensic psychology online.