By GVC Staff
A master’s degree in forensic psychology provides students with the advanced education and training that they need for nonclinical career opportunities in the justice system. A master’s degree typically takes two years to complete; however, some schools offer accelerated formats as well as self-paced formats for working adults. The interdisciplinary field provides a blend of practices, concepts, and theories of law and psychology. While some states require licensure to practice, many allow graduates to work in nonclinical areas with a professional certification. Many students consider this degree as a stepping stone to a doctoral program.
Forensic psychology is a diverse field that combines the concepts of criminal justice and psychology. Core courses in graduate-level programs span areas like developmental, behavioral, social, and multicultural psychology along with various facets of the legal system. Students gain a deep understanding of issues that plague our society like domestic violence, sexual abuse, substance abuse, and a variety of mental health conditions. Graduates who hold a master’s degree in forensic psychology go on to work in diverse social, judicial, and law and order settings. They are often called upon to give expert testimonial during a high-profile court case, prepare witnesses, interview criminals, and aid in profiling.
In this article, we have explored the most affordable and comprehensive master’s degree programs in forensic psychology and closely related fields. They have primarily been ranked on affordability. Points have also been awarded on curriculum delivery and school recognition.
Interested in seeing what potential career opportunities can await those who hold a degree in psychology? Check out our article on the ten highest paying psychology jobs here.
- Net Price Below $10,000: 4 points
- Net Price Below $15,000: 3 points
- Net Price Below $20,000: 2 points
- Net Price Below $25,000: 1 point
Student to Faculty Ratio
- Less than 20:1: 1 point
- Less than 15: 1: 2 points
- Less than 10: 1: 3 points
Return on Investment (ROI) According to Payscale.com
- Top 500: 1 point
- Top 300: 2 points
- Top 150: 3 points
Student Support Network (faculty mentors/advisors, writing/technology support, etc.)— 1 point per item
Concentrations/Specializations – 1 point per item
Accreditation (School-Wide and Program-Specific) – 1 point per item
Campus Diversity Support Network – 1 point per item
“Wow” Factor – 1 point (anything that would mark a program as unique. Special qualities that make a program “stand out from the crowd”)
#30 University of Denver
MA Forensic Psychology
The University of Denver offers an MA in Forensic Psychology that teaches students the various ways of leveraging forensic science theory and technology to solve crimes. The curriculum combines master’s level training in clinical psychology that combines practical experience, along with theories of law and psychology. Students are taught about the application of in-depth psychological theory, skills, knowledge, and competencies that can be used for the civil as well as the criminal justice systems. Graduates go on to pursue careers as mental health professionals and work in areas like police consultation, victim assistance, domestic violence, correctional institutions, child abuse programs as well as in trial consulting.
Average tuition per quarter credit hour: $1372
#29 Adler University
M.A. in Forensic Mental Health Leadership
Adler University’s Chicago campus offers an M.A. in Forensic Mental Health Leadership via its Department of Counseling and Integrated Programs. The 28-credit hour coursework covers areas like Forensic Mental Health Responses to Maladaptive Behavior, Forensic Mental Health Systems and Multicultural Communities, Roles, Responsibilities, and Leadership in Forensic Mental Health and Public Safety, Adlerian Principles in Community and Organizational Leadership, Counseling in Forensic Populations and Forensic Mental Health Evaluation and Practice among others. Graduates are prepared to work as leaders and agents for change in forensic mental health and related public safety fields.
Average tuition per credit hour: $1,342
#28 Pace University
New York City, New York
Master of Science (MS) in Forensic Science
Pace University offers a Master of Science (MS) in Forensic Science that prepares students for diverse roles within one of the fastest-growing industries. The 40-credit science-based curriculum blends theoretical knowledge with professional experience that students need to succeed in the dynamic criminal justice system. Graduates go on to work in forensic labs within various law enforcement agencies like the New York Police Department, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the New York City medical examiner’s office, among others. Students gain advanced knowledge in forensic chemistry and biology, practice in state-of-the-art DNA sequencing lab. They also work in specialized laboratories with virtual crime scene reconstruction software and forensic microscopy that prepares them well for the real world.
Average tuition per credit hour: $1,305
#27 William James College
MA Clinical Mental Health Counseling-Forensic and Correctional Counseling
William James College offers a Masters (MA) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an emphasis in Forensic and Correctional Counseling. The 60-credit program can be completed in two years if one is attending the school full-time or in three years if done part-time. The comprehensive curriculum enables students to develop skills that will help them to counsel people in court, juvenile facilities, correctional facilities, community agencies, forensic hospital units, and other forensic settings. Students also have the option to pursue concentrated electives, which will prepare them to work in particular settings or with specific populations armed with the relevant skills and specific knowledge that they gain.
Average tuition per credit hour: $1,100
#26 Marymount University
Forensic & Legal Psychology (M.A.)
Marymount University offers a Master of Arts in Forensic and Legal Psychology, one of the first to do so in the area. The interdisciplinary program combines criminal justice, public policy, law, and subfields of psychology to teach students the application of psychological knowledge to the legal system. The 39-credit program covers areas like origins of criminal behavior, the origins of terrorism, evaluation and treatment of offenders, problems with eyewitness testimony, and the effectiveness of trial consultation. The University’s proximity to key agencies offers a rich and
in-depth practicum experience for students.
Average tuition per credit hour: $1,050
#25 Loyola University of Chicago
MA in Criminal Justice
Loyola University Chicago offers an MA in Criminal Justice that is a great fit for any student looking to embark on a criminal justice career or gain advanced knowledge in criminology. The 30-hour coursework offers insight and understanding on Theories of Criminal Behavior, Politics and Policy Analysis in the Criminal Justice System, Professional Ethics, Applied Data Analysis and Interpretation, as well as Program Evaluation and Research Methods. Students gain a comprehensive education in the sphere of criminal justice and cultivate skills that will help them become competent professionals in every area of the criminal justice system that relates to psychology, criminal behavior, and forensics.
Average tuition per credit hour: $1,033
#24 Russell Sage College
Albany, New York
MS in Forensic Mental Health
Russell Sage College offers a Master of Science in Forensic Mental Health through the School of Health Sciences. The 45-credit curriculum comes with a concentration in Health Services Administration and includes both clinical and non-clinical coursework. These courses span areas like law, social science research, psychology, substance abuse, criminal justice, and victimology. Students gain a broad disciplinary knowledge and advanced skills that equip them to work competently in substance abuse management/treatment centers, behavioral health homes, correctional facilities, and social service agencies.
Average tuition per year: $30,383
#23 Holy Names University
Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology
Holy Names University offers a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology that is an excellent fit for students who wish to develop advanced knowledge in forensic psychology and counseling techniques. The 39-unit degree offers a balance of theory and evidence-based practices and is based on the philosophy of therapeutic and restorative justice. Graduates are well-prepared to act as change agents in a variety of forensic settings like community advocacy contexts, correctional settings, and court-accountable programs. Future forensic experts, analysts, and therapists can benefit immensely from this program as they develop a deep understanding of the changing complexities and dynamics of human experience.
Average tuition per unit: $1,003
#22 Barry University
Miami Shores, Florida
MS Clinical Psychology -Forensic Psychology Specialization
Barry University offers an MS Clinical Psychology with a specialization option in Forensic Psychology. The 60-credit program focuses on providing master-level training in the law and research related to clinical forensic psychology. Courses span areas like Advanced Forensic Psychology: Assessment and Treatment, Law and Forensic Psychology: Research & Practice and Principles and Applications of Forensic Psychology. Students also have to complete a forensic practicum, forensic focused master’s thesis, and internship experiences. Students gain the necessary skills to provide clinical services within the legal system and are also well-prepared to pursue or doctoral study in forensic and clinical psychology.
Average tuition per credit hour: $990
#21 American International College
Master of Science in Forensic Psychology
American International College offers a Master of Science in Forensic Psychology that prepares students for one of the fastest-growing fields in America. Students who hold an undergraduate degree in criminal justice, psychology, or a closely related field can apply for this graduate program. The 36-credit program focuses on applying psychological principles and skills to understand how the legal and criminal justice systems function. The program blends the concepts of psychology and law to offer students a comprehensive knowledge of forensic psychology as well as the psychology of policing, probation, corrections, and parole. Students go on to work in victim services, juvenile justice systems, and family services.
Average tuition per credit hour: $920
#20 Carlow University
Master of Arts in Psychology-Forensic Psychology
Carlow University offers a Master of Arts in Psychology with a Forensic Psychology Concentration via its Department of Psychology and Counseling. The 36-credit graduate program has four distinct coursework concentrations that focus on the development of research skills. The Forensic Psychology Concentration examines the concepts and legal issues in the American legal system, along with the application of psychological knowledge in these areas. Other topics span areas like criminal and civil forensic psychology, custody, juvenile delinquency, the unique ethics inherent in these settings, competence to stand trial, mental state at the time of the offense, and mediating factors in sentencing, among others.
Average tuition per credit hour: $876
#19 Fairleigh Dickinson University
Teaneck, New Jersey
M.A in Forensic Psychology
Fairleigh Dickinson University offers an M.A in Forensic Psychology that provides students with the essential knowledge and skills they need to work in the sphere of forensic science and the criminal justice system. In this 36-credit program, they learn about criminal psychology and how it interacts with the legal system. Courses include Psychopathology, Psychological Basis of Criminal Behavior, Evaluating Criminal Responsibility and Competency to Stand Trial, Forensic Interviewing Techniques, and Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychology, among others. Students also undergo hands-on training during their project.
Average tuition per credit hour: $853
#18 University of Louisiana at Monroe
Psychology, M.S.-Forensic Concentration
The University of Louisiana at Monroe offers an M.S. in Psychology with a concentration option is Forensics. The 36-credit coursework includes core courses like Quantitative Methods in the Behavioral Sciences, Research Methods, and Neuropsychology. The forensic concentration includes courses like Psychopathology, Individual Tests, Advanced Forensic Psychology, Advanced Theories of Crime and Delinquency, Counseling in Criminal Justice, Sociology of Law, Minorities, Crime, and Criminal Justice, along with six hours of electives. Students need to have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher to be admitted to the Graduate School at ULM. There are other conditional clauses that they need to explore by visiting the school website.
Average tuition per credit hour: $802.76
#17 University of Houston-Victoria
Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology
The University of Houston-Victoria offers a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology via its School of Arts & Sciences. The 63-semester hour program prepares students to become professionally licensed mental health experts in the sphere of forensics. At the end of the program, students go on to take Licensed Psychological Associates (LPA’s) and Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) exams in Texas. Students interested in signing up for this program must have an undergraduate background in Research Methods, Statistics, and Abnormal Psychology. The program blends real-world experience in the practicum with the essential theories and techniques to offer a comprehensive education in forensic psychology.
Average tuition per year: $7,900
#16 Montclair State University
Montclair, New Jersey
Clinical Psychology, Forensic Psychology Concentration (MA)
Montclair State University offers an MA in Clinical Psychology with a forensic psychology concentration. The 36-credit program emphasizes child, adolescent, and family issues with related treatment and rehabilitation. The forensic psychology concentration is designed to help students cultivate essential skills that will allow them to provide advanced clinical services in environments where licensure is not required. Some of these settings include drug court, mental health facilities, family and child advocacy settings, offender rehabilitation programs as well as reputable public service agencies that are exempted by the state boards of primary psychological examiners for all non-doctoral providers. Additionally, the program also offers students the opportunity to research their doctoral study.
Average tuition per credit hour: $700.50
#15 University of New Haven
West Haven, Connecticut
Criminal Justice, M.S., Forensic Psychology Concentration
The University of New Haven offers a Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a forensic psychology concentration. The 36-credit program is jointly administered by the Department of Psychology and the Department of Criminal Justice. It is a perfect fit for those individuals who are presently associated with the judicial system or individuals who are planning to go into a related career. Students develop a fundamental understanding of how law and psychology interact with each other to improve the functioning and administration of justice. Students learn about theories of criminal behavior, the interrelation of law, mental health, and criminal justice, quantitative applications in the criminal justice sphere as well as research methods in criminal justice.
Average tuition per credit hour: $700
#14 Tiffin University
MS in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
Tiffin University offers an MS in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Forensic Psychology that helps students develop the essential and in-demand skills in the sphere of law and order. The 30-hour coursework blends theory and practice to help students understand criminal and victim psychology. The researched-based program is designed to help students explore the relationship between psychology and the criminal justice system. Students are prepared for careers in various mental health services and criminal justice settings like community corrections agencies; social services; state prison systems, state, federal and local law enforcement, and victims’ services. They also go on to pursue Psy.D. and Ph.D. degrees in Forensic Psychology.
Average tuition per credit hour: $700
#13 Florida National University
Master of Forensic Psychology
Florida National University offers a Master of Forensic Psychology that provides students with the professional and theoretical knowledge they need to practice in various forensic settings. The 36-credit program covers topics like Criminal Psychology, Substance Abuse, and the Offender, Victimology, Courts, and Society, Psychopathology, Research Design and Methods in Clinical Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Clinical Psychological Assessment, Psychology of Counseling, Introduction to Group Behavior, and Stress and Mental Health along with a Capstone project. Graduates go on to work in courts, criminal justice, law enforcement, national security offices, prisons, child welfare agencies, social services agencies, and treatment facilities.
Average tuition per credit hour: $675
#12 California Baptist University
Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology
California Baptist University offers a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology that prepares students and professionals to deliver analytical and evaluative psychological services for the smooth functioning of the criminal justice system. The 57-unit program helps students cultivate a comprehensive knowledge of psychology, human development, psychopathology, biological nature of illegal activities, psychology, and law as well as criminal profiling. It is an ideal program for working professionals who wish to gain advanced knowledge in the field and grow in their careers. Students also benefit from working in the field with the FBI and experienced U.S. Marshals during their internships. Graduates go on to work in trial advocacy, trial consultant firms, victim advocacy, rape crisis centers, conflict resolution and mediation, probation, and parole.
Average tuition: $41,325
#11 Grand Canyon University
Master of Science in Psychology with an Emphasis in Forensic Psychology
Grand Canyon University offers a Master of Science in Psychology with an emphasis in Forensic Psychology that is available via evening classes. The 36-credit program combines law, psychology, and criminal justice topics so that students are well-prepared to handle the diverse criminal investigation and legal projects. They not only become skilled forensic psychologists but also learn how to affect criminal justice processes positively as well as assist in human rehabilitation. They are given an in-depth undertaking of the methods that can help reduce crime rates, rehabilitate criminals successfully, and how to assist them in becoming productive members of society.
Average tuition per credit hour: $530
#10 Northcentral University
Master of Science in Forensic Psychology
Northcentral University offers a Master of Science in Forensic Psychology prepares graduates to work in diverse law and order settings like law enforcement, social services, the courts, correctional facilities, and departments of victim services. The 30-credit program teaches students to apply psychological principles in forensic settings. The core and elective courses immerse them in the psychology of criminality so that they can learn to think critically and apply their problem-solving and creative thinking skills to the practical application of forensic psychology.
Average tuition: $27,320
#9 Kean University
Union, New Jersey
Master of Psychology, Option: Forensic Psychology
Kean University offers a Master of Psychology, Option: Forensic Psychology that is primarily designed for students interested in pursuing masters-level forensic jobs or doctoral training in psychology and law. The 27-credit coursework includes topics like advanced abnormal psychology, introduction to forensic psychology, and aggression, violent risk, and threat assessment, etc. Professionals who work in various law enforcement agencies or plan to do so would benefit from enrolling in this program. Graduates go on to work in diverse settings like juvenile/adult court clinics, law enforcement research departments, correctional settings, or forensic psychiatric settings, among others.
Average tuition per year: $12,595
#8 John Jay College of Criminal Justice
New York, New York
Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology
John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York offers a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology for students who are eager to develop essential skills to work in the fields of criminal and civil justice systems. Students gain a strong understanding of criminal psychology as well so that they can understand, evaluate, and treat offenders as well as their victims in an effective manner. Graduates often go on to enroll in a doctoral program in psychology. The 42-credit curriculum helps students develop an advanced understanding of psychopathology, psychological development, and personality assessment. Accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC, it enhances their knowledge of psychotherapeutic techniques and associated research methods, along with diverse social differences like gender, race, sexual orientation, class, and religion that can influence criminal behavior.
Average tuition per credit hour: $470
#7 University of California, Irvine
Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology
The University of California, Irvine, offers a Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology (MLFP) program that emphasizes the convergence of psychology and legal issues. The Department of Psychological Science and the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society jointly offer this program and prepare students for the real-world challenges in the legal system. The 52-credit coursework covers psychological principles, essential theories, and research for understanding the legal systems and processes. The interdisciplinary learning that they receive prepares students for diverse careers in research, academics, government agencies, policy institutes along with private and public sector agencies and organizations.
Average tuition per quarter: $4,798
#6 Roger Williams University
Bristol, Rhode Island
Master of Arts in Forensic & Legal Psychology
Roger Williams University offers a Master of Arts in Forensic and Legal Psychology. The two-year program full-time program prepares students for doctorate programs that are focused on analysis, investigation, testing, and exploration in the field of legal and forensic science. The comprehensive curriculum offers thorough guidance on research design, clinical assessment, statistical analysis, and psychological testing. Students learn to address different types of empirical questions within the sphere of clinical, legal, and forensic psychology. The 33-credit program offers them an in-depth training in research design, clinical assessment, statistical analysis, and psychological testing.
Average tuition per credit hour: $450
#5 National University
San Diego, California
Master of Forensic Sciences
National University offers a Master of Forensic Sciences that helps students develop advanced skills in the field of forensic sciences. The 54 quarter units coursework provides in-depth knowledge of death investigation, basic human anatomy, identification of all unknown dead persons, and analysis of trauma and disease. It is a great fit for students looking to improve career prospects in forensic sciences or planning on enhancing skill sets in lab work, law enforcement, investigation, law, or any other related profession. The program offers a good blend of theory and practice, which prepares students for real-world experience. They have the option to interact directly with investigators and forensic pathologists during their practicum.
Average tuition per credit hour: $442
#4 California State University LA
Los Angeles, California
Master of Science in Forensic Psychology
California State University LA or Cal State LA offers a Master of Science in Forensic Psychology that prepares students for diverse careers within the criminal justice system. The 34-unit coursework helps students develop a strong knowledge and understanding of psychology that applies to criminals as well as victims. A combination of theory, research, and practical training in the areas of assessment and treatment prepares them for real-world settings. The 9-month practicum offers them the choice of working with the Department of Children and Family Services Counseling Center, Rape Crisis Center, the Sheriff’s Department, the Dependency Courts, Prisons and Probation centers. Students are closely mentored by a faculty member who
oversees their progress through the course.
Average tuition per year: $14,394
M.S. Program in Forensic Science
IUPUI, a partnership between Indiana and Purdue universities, offers an M.S. Program in Forensic Science, and students are awarded a Purdue University degree. The 30-credit, one-year accelerated program is designed for those who wish to become professional forensic scientists. The program is available both part-time or full-time and helps students gain employment in the criminal justice field or a related area in a relatively shorter time. Course topics include Forensic Science & the Law, Population Genetics, Forensic Microscopy, and Current Issues in FS, among others. Students go on to work in varied law and order settings.
Average tuition per credit hour: $345.30
#2 Prairie View A&M University
Prairie View, Texas
Master of Science in Juvenile Forensic Psychology
Prairie View A&M University offers a Master of Science in Juvenile Forensic Psychology teaches students how psychology interacts with the justice system. The 36-semester credit hour program covers psychological theories in juvenile crime, theoretical explanations of juvenile delinquency, and juvenile aggression. Students who are interested in research and a Ph.D. can opt for a thesis, and those wishing to pursue work in the field of forensic psychology can choose an externship. They gain a broad understanding of the cognitive and personality development of youth aggression, psychological dynamics of family violence along with knowledge and skills on the assessment, classification, and treatment of juvenile offenders.
Average tuition per credit hour: $317.19
#1 Oklahoma State University
M.S. in Forensic Sciences-Forensic Psychology
Oklahoma State University offers an M.S. in Forensic Sciences with a concentration in forensic psychology via the OSU School of Forensic Sciences for students looking to pursue a career in forensic sciences and related fields. Students need to complete 39 graduate credit hours during which they gain a deep understanding of the crime scene and forensic techniques to help document and solve crimes. The hands-on training helps them build strong professional skills that can help them run forensic departments and labs in the future as laboratory analysts and crime scene investigators. Students gain a solid background in forensic sciences through advanced criminalistics, specialized courses, forensic psychology, and law and expert analysis. Graduates go on to work with the FBI, law enforcement agencies, and related local agencies.
Average tuition per credit hour: $230.45
Overview of Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology
A master’s degree in forensic psychology prepares students to work in diverse law and order settings. They apply the clinical, legal, and forensic analysis skills that they have learned in the graduate-level program along with a psychological perspective to aid in litigation, criminal investigations, or consult with law firms. Students wishing to pursue a career in law enforcement or get a doctorate in the field would benefit from such programs. While students don’t need to hold an undergraduate degree in the same discipline, they are often required to have a bachelor’s degree in general psychology, human services, criminal justice, and other related fields.
One can get a Master of Arts (MA) and a Master of Science (MS) in Forensic Psychology, depending on the school they apply to. While each degree type covers the core concepts comprehensively, student outcomes may differ slightly between them. An MA degree may equip one for careers in counseling and developing psychological profiles while an MS may emphasize the more scientific aspects of forensic psychology like research and analysis, which prepares graduates to work as analysts or consultants.
Typical courses include topics like Psychology and the Legal System, Research Methodology, Psychopathology of Crime, Theories of Criminal Behavior, Treatment, and Rehabilitation, among others. Concentrations can range from Crisis response and Mental health to Legal issues and Victimology. Along with the core and elective courses, students also have to complete a practicum and internships.
Students have the option of attending a full-time program on campus or opt for evening or weekend classes. Working adults wishing to pursue a master’s degree in forensic psychology may also enroll in a 100% online program. The latter will allow them to get an advanced degree as they continue to work full-time. Some schools also offer a hybrid option that provides a combination of on-campus and online classes.
Forensic Psychology Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment of psychologists will see a 14% growth through 2028. Master’s and doctoral degree holders will see faster growth.
Median salary – $79,010 per year
According to the American Psychology-Law Society, forensic psychology and related fields have grown steadily in the last 30 years. While demand will remain steady in the years to come, there is a shift towards specialization to ensure enhanced delivery of services to the law and order system.
The median salary for all other psychology professions – $95,610 per year
Top jobs for forensic psychology Master’s Degree Holders
Forensic Psychologist – Forensic psychologists work for various government agencies like the FBI and police departments. They evaluate offenders, profile criminals, and also work directly with the offenders to help them deal with underlying mental health issues.
Expert Witness – Forensic psychologists often act as expert witnesses in criminal trials where they help answer speculative questions about the accused’s state of mind. They work with attorneys to offer the jury a better picture of the crime and the people involved.
Psychology Professor – Academia is the chosen field for many who get their master’s degree and then go on to pursue a doctoral degree. They maintain a research practice and also teach undergraduate or graduate-level courses.
Psychology Researcher – Some students wish to learn more about the field and explore new ways to understand the criminal mind. They, too, go on to complete a doctoral program after their master’s.
Jury Consultant – Forensic psychologists often act as jury consultants for law firms where they evaluate the potential jurors using their knowledge of human behavior. They are often called upon for jury selection so that attorneys can hope the desired outcome.
Juvenile Offenders Counselor – Master’s degree holders who have received the necessary state-based certifications may practice as juvenile offenders counselors. They work with their clients to help them overcome the effects of physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and the aftermath of a crime committed.
Law Enforcement Officer – Some master’s degree holders go on to pursue a career as a law enforcement officer. Forensic psychology knowledge may serve them in good stead while solving crimes and growing in their careers.