Best Forensic Psychology colleges in the U.S. 2022

A forensic psychology degree teaches students to combine behavioral analysis and law to help with investigations, create programs at detention facilities, and provide recommendations for judges.

Day to day, forensic psychologists conduct research, analyze data, and assess individuals who are involved in the legal system. In many cases, forensic psychologists work with victims of crimes or convicted criminals currently serving time.

While forensic psychology was popularized by TV shows and movies, the role today is quickly growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all psychologist roles are projected to grow by 8% from 2020-to 2030. The BLS also reports that psychologists earn a median salary of $82,180 with the top 10% earning more than $137,590.

Forensic psychology is a relatively new but growing field, and those who want to pursue a career in this field must earn a forensic psychology degree. In most cases, forensic psychologists must also earn a graduate degree, such as a PhD in psychology or a PsyD, to qualify for a role. The best forensic psychology schools more than adequately prepare graduates for a career in the fast-changing, growing field of forensic psychology.

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Best Forensic Psychology colleges in the U.S. for 2022

The University of Denver’s Forensic Psychology program prepares students that would like to apply the principles of psychology to interviews and mental assessments in the criminal justice sector. This program includes courses that teach students how to assess, communicate with, and structure sessions with eyewitnesses, police officers, and defendants. Classes are available both in-person and remotely, though some required courses may include in-person instruction at police precincts in the Denver metro. Students at the University of Denver are also encouraged to observe practicing forensic psychologists to further their professional experience before graduation.

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For students interested in pursuing a forensic psychology degree in New York City, CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice offers a competitive track with ample professional observation opportunities at local precincts and jails in the New York metro area. Undergraduates are advised to apply to internships during their degree program and in summer breaks to gain hands-on experience that will be invaluable when they apply for professional roles post-graduation.

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Washington University St. Louis has a forensic psychology program that emphasizes courses in psychology and mental health disorders and is structured to prepare students for professional roles upon completion of their bachelor’s. This program is to be completed in four years and provides students with a range of local internship opportunities in the St. Louis metro, along with seminars to provide professional observation and guidance before entering the workforce.

University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND

The Forensic Psychology program at the University of North Dakota offers classes geared towards students preparing to enter into the field as a psychologist, therapist, or parole officer. In the classroom, students have opportunities to study mental illness, complete observational labs with local law enforcement, and attend off-campus internships at private practices.

Kean University
Union, NJ

Kean University offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology program for students in New York City that have an interest in working with law enforcement to psychologically assess suspects, victims, and police officers at a crime scene. Courses that contribute to this program include mental development, psychological analysis, and ethics. Graduates should be aware Kean has a large network locally to assist recent graduates in post-graduation job placement.

The Florida Institute of Technology offers undergraduates the opportunity to enroll in their forensic psychology program, which is the first step for students interested in working with police departments and investigators to interview and assess suspects, victims, and fellow officers. It is common for students to take classes in psychology and mental disorders as an introduction to the broader field, along with hands-on labs to familiarize themselves with the rules for interaction and communication in a legal capacity. FIT offers a four-year path with opportunities to apply to internships at schools locally in the Orlando metro area to gain real-world experience.

Northcentral University’s Forensic Psychology program is structured to prepare students interested in pursuing a career in psychology working with law enforcement and crime scene investigation. Applicants should note that practicum and internship experience is critical to this major and that graduates typically enter the workforce immediately after graduation. Students in this program can expect to find job opportunities in the Phoenix metro and will have access to their alumni network that will help when pursuing full-time employment.

The College of Saint Rose offers 1 Forensic Psychology degree programs. It's a small, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a small city. In 2020, 13 Forensic Psychology students graduated with students earning 13 Bachelor's degrees.

For Houston residents with aspirations of pursuing a degree in forensic psychology, the University of Houston - Victoria offers a four-year program designed to prepare students for jobs working directly with law enforcement and criminal suspects immediately after graduation. Students are advised to take classes in psychology and mental health disorders, as well as in-person internships at law enforcement agencies to gain experience working in a legal setting with suspects and practicing forensic psychologists.

The Forensic Psychology program at George Washington University provides a foundation for undergraduate students who want to become involved in assessing perpetrators and victims of crimes from a psychological perspective. Students interested in exploring this major learn how to observe suspects and structure interview sessions, and it is common for undergraduates to complete an on or off-campus internship at a police department or private investigator locally in the Washington D.C. metro, which helps many students develop professional relationships and references for when they graduate.

What is Forensic Psychology?

Popular crime shows have brought forensics and forensic psychology to the spotlight in recent years. The word forensic is derived from the Latin word forensis or forum which is where ancient Romans held their courts of law, and many people today show interest in the field of forensic psychology. 

Forensic psychology is a fairly new psychology specialization that encompasses the practice of clinical psychology in the legal setting. The most common duty of a forensic psychologist is performing a psychological assessment of people who find themselves involved in the legal and court setting. 

Clinical and communication skills are extremely important in this job to successfully conduct:

  • Interviews
  • Draft reports
  • Conduct investigations
  • Research studies
  • Consultation
  • Development of treatment programs
  • Witness courtroom testimony

A forensic psychologist may be involved with many types of court cases including:

  • Threat assessments for schools
  • Child custody evaluations
  • Competency evaluations of defendants and the elderly 
  • Counseling services for victims
  • Death notification procedures
  • Screening and selection of law enforcement applicants
  • Assessment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Forensic psychologists are also involved in court cases involving “mens rea” or insanity cases where they assess the defendant to establish if they knew what they were doing was wrong at the time of the crime. 

Forensic Psychology Degree Overview

Although there are many careers in forensic psychology that only require a master’s degree, becoming a licensed forensic psychologist requires a PhD or doctor of psychology degree (PsyD).

To be accepted into a PhD or doctorate program, you must first obtain a bachelor’s degree, which doesn’t have to be in psychology. 

Some programs require a master’s degree, and others offer a combined degree program that results in both a master’s and doctorate degree. 

Courses in Undergraduate Forensic Psychology Programs

There are a vast array of psychology courses offered in an undergraduate program that include both core curriculum classes and specialty courses that are geared towards your interests. If you plan to focus on forensic psychology, you can expect to take the following types of classes.

  • Intro to Psychology
  • Behavioral Psychology
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Biological Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Statistical Methods
  • Psychology Seminar
  • Criminology
  • Criminal Law
  • Developmental Psychology

Certificate in Forensic Psychology

Many careers in forensic psychology require a license or certification to practice or obtain a job. It is important to research requirements for your desired career path and choose a school, program, and specialty that prepare you to meet your career goals. 

Oftentimes, forensic psychologists may become board certified through the American Board of Forensic Psychology. The specific license or certification required varies by state. Make sure to check your desired field’s requirements before you commit to a school or program. 

Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Psychology

Time to complete: Four years of full-time study, six years of part-time study. Three years for an accelerated pathway.

If you already know that you want to specialize in forensic psychology, then obtaining a bachelor’s degree (BA or BS) in psychology or criminal justice is the first step in moving towards your goal. It is also recommended that you take courses in forensics and abnormal psychology. 

Some schools offer bachelor’s degree programs that specifically focus on and prepare you for a career in forensic psychology, while others offer a general psychology degree. 

Required credits: Approximately 120

Sample courses: The criminal mind, introduction to substantive criminal law, forensic psychology research methods, criminology, psychology of criminal investigation, psychology and law.

Online availability: Many forensic psychology bachelor's degrees can be completed fully online, allowing students to consider schools further afield from where they live. Some of these programs require learners to complete a semester-long internship to gain real-world skills and begin networking with other professionals prior to graduation. If enrolled in an online program, students can typically work with their advisors to find a suitable internship site near their place of residence.

Forensic Psychology Bachelor Degree Admission Requirements

The minimum admission requirements to get into a bachelor’s of psychology degree program typically include:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • High school transcripts
  • 2-5 letters of recommendation
  • Writing sample/essay
  • ACT/SAT standardized test scores

Graduation Requirements

A bachelor’s degree in psychology requires about 160 units and usually takes about four years to complete depending on whether you attend full-time, part-time, online, or on campus. 

Some programs may require a culminating experience paper/project or internship hours to graduate.

Skills Learned

While working towards your bachelor degree, you will learn many essential skills including:

  • Social development
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Critical thinking 
  • Collaboration
  • Effective oral and written communication

How Long Does it Take to Get a Forensic Psychology Bachelor’s Degree?

Online bachelor’s of psychology programs are becoming more abundant, and many schools allow online students to complete the degree on a part-time or full-time basis. The biggest benefits of online learning include:

  • Flexibility and self-paced learning
  • Better time management
  • Improved virtual and communication and collaboration
  • No commute
  • Faster graduation times
  • Ability to work from anywhere

On average, an online bachelor’s degree in psychology usually takes about four years to complete. However, this timeline is dependent on whether you study full-time or part-time, as well as previous education completed.

Bachelor’s degree programs in psychology typically require about 160 credits depending on your area of concentration and program modality.

Accelerated programs are also available and allow you to complete the program in as little as one year. However, these programs are faced-paced and rigorous. 

 

Master's Degree in Forensic Psychology

Obtaining a master’s degree in forensic psychology can open up many opportunities to advance your career, salary, and expertise in the field.

Entry into a master’s program typically requires a bachelor’s degree, GRE score, letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and a written essay.

Time to complete: Students usually spend two years working towards their master's degree in forensic psychology if enrolled on a full-time basis. Part-time learners may need three years, while some accelerated programs may allow them to graduate in as few as 12-18 months.

Required credits: Most programs consist of 36-48 credits, depending on individual program requirements.

Sample courses: Intermediate statistics in the social sciences, projective and objective personality assessments, theories of personality and counseling, clinical interviewing and assessment, and criminal, psychological, intellectual, and cognitive assessments.

Online availability: Colleges routinely offer master's degrees in forensic science online since they do not mandate any in-person learning components. Some programs end with a comprehensive examination, which can usually be proctored near the student's place of examination. Others require learners to research and write a thesis.

Courses in Graduate Forensic Psychology Programs

Course curriculum depends on the school and program you choose, but a sample of classes offered in a master’s of forensic psychology degree program usually includes:

  • Psychology and law
  • Advanced social psychology
  • Eyewitness testimony and memory
  • Diversity psychology
  • Assessment for forensic psychology

How Long Does it Take to Get a Forensic Psychology Master’s Degree?

On average, a master’s degree in psychology program usually takes about two years to complete, though this timeline depends on:

  • Whether you study online
  • full-time or part-time learning
  • Previous education
  • Your specialization
  • How long it takes to complete your thesis project 

Master’s programs in psychology typically require about 40-semester credits depending on the area of concentration and program modality.

Doctoral Degree in Forensic Psychology

In order to specialize and be employed as a licensed forensic psychologist, you need to first obtain a PhD or doctor of psychology (PsyD) degree and spend two years in an internship gaining supervised experience. If you want to continue your education beyond a master’s degree and become a licensed forensic psychologist, then you will need to complete a PhD or doctorate of psychology degree program (PsyD), complete an internship, and also take a licensing and board certification exam.  

Time to complete: Doctoral degree in forensic psychology programs vary in length depending on whether a learner pursues a Psy.D. or Ph.D. Psy.D. programs prepare graduates for clinical psychology roles and usually take between three and five years to complete, depending on enrollment status. Ph.D. in forensic psychology programs prepares graduates for research and academic roles and typically takes between four and seven years to complete.

Required credits: Credits can range anywhere between 60 to 125, depending on the school and type of degree.

Sample courses: Advanced topics in forensic psychology, law, and mental health, adult forensic psychology, forensic assessments, sex offender evaluation and treatment, police psychology. Some programs may also provide concentrations in areas such as victimology, legal issues in forensic psychology, criminal justice, crisis response, or crisis leadership management, among others.

Online availability: While students can find an online doctorate in forensic psychology programs, many require in-person residencies that bring students together and allow them to complete intensive training. These usually last less than a week.

Psy.D. programs may also require learners to participate in a year-long field experience focused on forensic work. If studying at a school further away from their place of residence, students can typically work with their advisor to find a suitable location. Common examples include outpatient or inpatient treatment clinics, legal advocacy organizations, forensic residential treatment facilities, or correctional facilities.

What Can I Do with a Degree in Forensic Psychology?

A career in forensic psychology shows promise, with a projected 8% job growth rate between 2020-2030 with a median pay of around $82,180. Having a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology with an emphasis in forensic science makes you well suited for many entry-level positions in the legal field including:

  • Forensic science technician
  • Detective and criminal investigator
  • Accountants and Auditors
  • Corrections or parole officer

Here are a few other popular careers for forensic psychology graduates:

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

  • Median Salary: $55,690
  • Career Outlook: +4% (2020-2030)
  • Responsibilities: Working with both those who are currently incarcerated and those on probation or parole, these professionals help these individuals connect to social services that can support their rehabilitation. They interview each individual to understand specific needs and see how much progress they have made before creating a rehabilitative plan of action. Some of the services they may connect individuals with include addiction treatment, job training, and healthcare. They also keep case files on each client and update as needed.
  • Required Education: Bachelor's Degree

Detectives

  • Median Salary: $67,290
  • Career Outlook: +7% (2020-2030)
  • Responsibilities: Sometimes known as special agents, detectives and criminal investigators collect evidence from crime scenes, covertly observe suspects, and look for connections between motives and outcomes. They keep detailed reports on their findings, including any interviews they conduct and the data they collect. They may also testify in court about their findings as part of legal proceedings.
  • Required Education: Bachelor's Degree

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

  • Median Salary: $47,660
  • Career Outlook: +23% (2020-2030)
  • Responsibilities: These professionals work with their clients to identify and treat issues such as addiction, mental health disorders, and problematic behaviors to help them reach their goals. They work with clients to build the skills needed to recover from addictions, cope with issues, and modify their behaviors to function in society.
  • Required Education: Bachelor's Degree

Forensic Psychologists

  • Median Salary: $82,180
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)
  • Responsibilities: Forensic psychologists use their advanced education and deep knowledge to better understand why people behave the way they do and what drives aggressive, antisocial, and violent behaviors. Some work in research positions, conducting tests and studies to produce new data. Others work in academic settings to help educate the next generation of students interested in forensic psychology. Still others may work within the courts and justice systems, providing expert witness in high-profile cases.
  • Required Education: Doctorate

Internships in Forensic Psychology

Psychology students usually complete an internship as part of a doctorate program. The internship allows you to gain hands-on, real-world experience in different aspects of criminal justice and legal settings. 

A sample of internship placements for forensic psychology include:

  • Prison internships
  • Medical setting internships
  • Government internships
  • Research internships

Forensic Psychology Career Resources

Professional organizations are a great way to stay up-to-date on current psychology trends as well as a place to seek networking and educational opportunities. Here are a few options:

Additional Forensic Psychology Career Outlook and Salaries

Career Salary Projected Job Growth (2020-2030) About the Position
Forensic Scientist  $60,590 16% Forensic science technicians help collect and analyze data evidence and data related to a crime scene.  
Psychologist $82,180 8% Forensic psychologists seek to understand people’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior that pertain to a legal case.
Probation Officer $55,690 4% Probation officers provide social services and rehabilitation to people who have been in trouble with the law.
Police and Detectives $67,290 7% Police officers protect lives and property, while detectives focus on gathering facts, data, and evidence to help solve crimes. 
Source: BLS

Earning an Online Forensic Psychology Degree

Online and hybrid bachelor’s of psychology programs are becoming more abundant, and accredited online forensic psychology degrees match the quality of their on-campus counterparts. The biggest benefits of online learning include:

  • Flexibility and self-paced learning
  • Better time management
  • Improved virtual and communication and collaboration
  • No commute
  • Faster graduation times
  • Ability to work from anywhere

Forensic psychology programs may also require an internship or work experience that will have to be completed in person.

Forensic Psychology FAQ

  • What should I major in to become a forensic psychologist?

    • Many forensic psychology programs are now available, but students can also enroll in programs such as criminology, criminal justice, or even general psychology to get a good foundational set of knowledge. To become a forensic psychologist, it is often best to major in either psychology or criminal justice.
  • Is a forensic psychology degree worth it?

    • Forensic psychology is a great degree path for students interested in using psychological principles to address criminal and civil questions around psychological behaviors and disorders. Graduates can go into clinical, research, or academic positions.
  • Is forensic psychology a hard major?

    • The difficulty level of a forensic psychology degree program depends on many factors. Students who understand psychological principles and enjoy applying them to real-world situations may find the program challenging at times, but ultimately doable.
  • How much do forensic psychologists make?

    • Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that psychologists earned median annual wages of $82,180 as of 2020. Those with bachelor's or master's degrees typically earn less than graduates of doctoral programs.
  • What can I do with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology?

    • There are many career options for people with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology including forensic scientist, probation officer, corrections officer, and crime analyst.
  • Is forensic psychology a good career?

    • Yes, forensic psychology is a great career choice and is expected to grow 8% between 2020-2030, while forensic science careers are expected to grow 16% in the same timeframe.
  • How hard is it to become a forensic psychologist?

    • To become a forensic psychologist you need to complete several years of rigorous schooling, internship programs, thesis projects, and license and board examinations.  

List of all Forensic Psychology colleges in the U.S.

School Average Tuition Student Teacher Ratio Enrolled Students
University of Denver Logo University of Denver Denver, CO
5/5
19 : 1 13,856
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice Logo CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York, NY
2/5
40 : 1 15,766
Washington University in St Louis Logo Washington University in St Louis Saint Louis, MO
5/5
15 : 1 15,449
University of North Dakota Logo University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND
3/5
26 : 1 13,615
Kean University Logo Kean University Union, NJ
3/5
43 : 1 14,064