Master’s in Forensic Psychology Degrees & Schools Guide

Master's Degree in Forensic Psychology Career Options & Salary

Why Earn a Master’s in Forensic Psychology?


The links between forensic psychology, crime, and law are close and tight. Some master’s programs in forensic psychology may be housed within a Psychology Department, a Criminal Justice Department, or a Law Department.

This major gives you, as a professional, a closer and more detailed understanding of mental illness and crime. At the master’s level, you will receive detailed coursework on crime, human behavior, mental health conditions, diagnoses and treatments, as well as the decisions the legal system makes.

You’ll learn about every role a forensic psychologist may play in the legal system so you can determine which one you want to fill. For example, when a defendant who has mental health problems comes before a criminal court, the lawyers and judge may request your help to begin understanding the defendant’s probable mental health state at the time of the crime.

Criminal Justice & Law Degrees & Career Paths


PROS

At this level of study, you’ll be presented with a wide range of forensic psychology specializations you can choose. These include terrorism, sex offender behavior, police psychology, and cybercrimes. You’ll also learn how you can apply new skills and insights to nonclinical roles, including criminal investigative analysis, cybercrime, victim advocacy, and terrorism.

You’ll gain a deeper understanding of criminal behavior and use your new expertise to make a difference in the cases you encounter within the criminal justice system.

You’ll become familiar with mental health issues and criminal behavior.

You’ll develop a stronger understanding of threat assessment and violence, then translate that into the skills you’ll use every day.

You’ll gain more-focused expertise via specializations, enabling you to pinpoint your studies with your interests, both professional and personal.

You’ll compare and consider the different psychological approaches while you decide on their effectiveness in dealing with criminal offenders. Then you’ll understand threat assessments as they relate to criminal behavior.

CONS

If you are returning to school with reluctance to earn a master’s degree in any discipline, rethink your decision. If you have already begun to work, you may have a good reason to go back to school. If you have just finished your bachelor’s degree and you choose to return to school rather than look for a job or commit to a new career, you may want to take a step back.

If you do go ahead and return to school for a master’s, you may decrease your professional alternatives. It’s better to spend a few years working in your profession and then return to school. This way, you know what your professional alternatives may be.

You may choose to go back to school because you felt comfortable in an academic environment. At the undergraduate level you tend to receive more support than at the graduate level where this may not be the case.

Overview of a Master's in Forensic Psychology


What Forensic Psychology Master’s Degrees are Available?


Forensic psychology degrees may go by different names, depending on their focus and even which university offers them.

  • Master of Science in Forensic Psychology:
    You’ll learn to apply the science of forensic psychology. You’ll learn the leading-edge methods and theories. What are the responsibilities in this field? How do they relate to legal and ethical issues?
  • Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology:
    In this arts-focused major, you’ll learn how to provide psychological services to individuals within the criminal and civil justice systems. You’ll also be prepared for doctoral study, if you are considering this.
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a Concentration in Forensic Psychology:
    The approach to this major helps you to understand the defendants who are accused and convicted of crimes. You should be passionate about studying how the criminal justice system and psychology are entwined. Once you graduate, you will be prepared to work in the criminal justice system or mental health agencies.
  • Master of Science in Forensic Sciences-Forensic Pathology:
    If you have chosen to pursue a career as a forensic psychologist, this major teaches you everything you’ll need to know as you begin working with law enforcement, the FBI, and even as a university instructor.

Admission Requirements


Here are some possible requirements you might encounter when applying for your master’s degree program:

  • Write a personal statement with a word count of 250 to 300 words, describing your professional background and why you are pursuing a graduate degree in forensic psychology.
  • Show proof of earning a bachelor’s degree within a behavioral or social science major allied with psychology.
  • Prove a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.2 or higher or a graduate GPA of 3.5.
  • Curriculum vitae with relevant experiences related to academic course work and research, volunteer, and work activities.
  • Three letters of recommendation from individuals able to comment on your academic abilities. You may be able to use recommendations from employers or coworkers if you’ve been working in the field.
  • Satisfy the Graduate School’s English-speaking proficiency requirements with appropriate testing results. (This will likely only be required if you are an international student.)

How long does it take to earn a Forensic Psychology Master’s?


If you are attending graduate school for your forensic psychology degree full-time, you may graduate within two years. If you are attending part-time, then you may graduate in three years. This particular program also allows you to select an area of emphasis.

If, for instance, you choose the forensic & correctional counseling area, you will focus more on counseling with individuals in the correctional, juvenile justice, court, community agencies, forensic hospital units, or any other forensic settings.

Remember, you will be required to complete your field placement, which should reflect your emphasis on counseling skills and how these apply in forensic settings.

Potential Careers in Forensic Psychology with a Master’s


  • Correctional Counselor:
    You may work directly within a correctional facility, such as a state or federal prison. If this is your chosen professions, you may offer mental health treatment and counseling for both inmates and ex-convicts. You may also conduct psychological evaluations, collaborate with lawyers, case workers, and other professionals within the facility.
    Average annual salary: $41,500
  • Victim Advocate:
    You’ll work directly with crime victims and survivors of traumatic events, such as domestic violence or sexual assault. Your main responsibilities may include helping clients to understand their case and legal rights, offering support throughout the legal process and, if needed, and attending hearings with clients. You are to provide information, support, and resources to your clients.
    Average annual salary: $35,000
  • Jury Consultant:
    You work mainly in the court system in a variety of roles. You may provide consultations, evaluate witness testimony, and assist in jury selection. As a jury consultant, you work closely with lawyers, giving them insights into which jurors they should choose for particular cases. You’ll research potential jurors and you’ll take notes about behavior and body language of each potential jurist.
    Average annual salary: $65,000
  • Police Consultant:
    You may have chosen to work in the law enforcement side as a police consultant. Police departments rely on you to get into the minds of the criminals they are chasing down. You may also offer ways to use community policing and address interpersonal struggles. You may teach anger management courses; provide suicide prevention training; conduct Critical Incident Stress Debriefing training; and educate detectives and police officers how to best handle situations with the mentally ill and disabled.
    Average annual salary: $65,000
  • Federal Government Employee:
    Your training and knowledge will be attractive to such agencies as VA hospitals, DEA, FBI, CIA, or any other state and local government institutions. You teach other government employees to think critically, apply psychological perspectives to real-world situations, and combine interdisciplinary perspectives. This kind of preparation means you can help individuals to become a VA hospital employee or an FBI special agent.
    Average annual salary: $65,000

Options to Advance


After earning your master’s degree in forensic psychology, you may spot a role that interests you. The only problem might be that you have to have a PhD or hold your doctoral degree in forensic psychology. Earning this degree will take about five years. At this level, you’re going to dig even deeper into the meeting ground between criminal justice and psychology. You’ll delve more deeply into mental health issues that lead someone to commit crimes; or you may begin working as a consultant, teacher, or researcher.

Your second option is to earn your Doctorate in Forensic Psychology (PsyD). Here, you expand your knowledge and training in civil areas of law, such as child custody evaluations, divorce, lawsuits that involve personal injury, employment, discrimination, professional malpractice, and other legal issues. You may also consult on child protection cases and involuntary civil commitment issues. Expect to consult on competence to stand trial.

Best Master of Science in Forensic Psychology Programs


  • University of North Dakota
    Grand Forks, North Dakota

    The University of North Dakota, founded in 1883, is now a 550-acre campus, which is the largest in the state. UND has established itself as a leader in unmanned aircraft systems, energy, aviation, and medicine. The average class size is 24 students and UND offers more than 225 academic programs.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Forensic Psychology (MS-FP)
  • Roger Williams University
    Bristol, Rhode Island

    At Roger Williams University, the main mission is to develop lifelong learners who will work every day to improve society. RWU is a private university with a public purpose; it is dedicated to helping society to become stronger via engaged teaching and learning. It invests in both people and resources.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts in Forensic & Legal Psychology (FA-FLP)
  • New College/Arizona State University
    Tempe, Arizona

    New College on the campus of Arizona State University is special. It houses the Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Department, providing a personalized learning experience. At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, every degree has been designed to provide innovative coursework with hands-on experiences, preparing students for the challenges they will face.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Forensic Psychology (MS-FP)
  • Grand Canyon University
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Grand Canyon University’s main campus is the beginning of learning and success for each student enrolled. As a rapidly growing university, the focus, along with education is on continued expansion. New residence halls, libraries, classrooms, laboratories, student support, and recreational facilities are soon to be built.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Psychology with an Emphasis in Forensic Psychology
  • Holy Names University
    Oakland, California

    At Holy Names University, a staircase runs down the center of campus. On each student’s first day, they experience the school’s Right of Passage ceremony, with each student being led to the top of the stairs and a welcome reception. Students learn critical thinking, begin to celebrate diversity, and make connections with faculty on day one.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Dual Master’s degree in Counseling and Forensic Psychology

Traditional Schools Offering an MS in Forensic Psychology


  • Nova Southeastern University
    Fort Lauderdale, Florida

    Nova Southeastern University strives to take an innovative approach to education—students won’t find that it easily fits within any standard educational niches. Established in 1964, the institution was chartered as a graduate institution in the physical and social sciences. Thirty years later, it merged with Southeastern University of Health Sciences, becoming Nova Southeastern university.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Forensic Psychology
  • Northcentral University
    Online

    Northcentral University works to ensure a rich educational tradition that is based on a one-to-one learning model, with weekly course starts and a 100% doctoral faculty. With roughly 10,000 students throughout more than 40 degree programs, NCU continues to offer learning with no set class times, no group projects, no GMAT/GRE requirements and no physical residency requirements.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Forensic Psychology
  • Purdue Global University
    West Lafayette, Indiana

    Purdue dedicates itself to adult students who require flexibility in their learning so they can fit needed study into their daily work and family lives. Because it is an online university, students from anywhere in the world can register, login, and learn in order to advance professionally in their careers. Purdue knows that working adults approach learning in different ways that make on-campus courses difficult.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science Degree in Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
  • Walden University
    Online

    Walden University’s online learning community is known for its diversity. Because the university practices a policy of nondiscrimination from admission through employment, its faculty, staff, and student body are highly diverse. The university boasts several national experts and visiting scholars, to which it adds regularly. Walden University strives to be a force for good.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Forensic Psychology (MS-FP)
  • Liberty University
    Lynchburg, Virginia

    After its founding in 1971, Liberty University offers more than 250 programs to students worldwide through its online program. Liberty trains pastors, pilots, law enforcement, counselors, teachers, CEOs, artists, and nurses. The university’s online program has now expanded worldwide.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Criminal Justice - Forensic Psychology
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