The top masters programs in forensic psychology

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What is forensic psychology?

While the word ‘forensic’ is enough to stir the interest of any true crime fan, limiting the scope of forensic psychology to just criminal profiling is a mistake. In fact, understanding the minds of criminals is just a small part of a master’s degree in forensic psychology. As a student of this field of research, you’ll assist law enforcement in many different ways.

The forensic psychologist may be called upon to treat certain individuals and to provide expert witness testimonies in court. However, one of the most well-known responsibilities of this field involves dealing with an insanity plea, which requires the analysis of a psychologist. You’ll represent families in civil court too, during custody battles, for example.  Be aware that to become a licensed forensic psychologist in any state in the U.S. requires a doctoral degree. 

In general, admission requirements include:

  • undergraduate coursework in statistics, research methods, and psychological theories
  • Minimum GPA 3.0
  • GRE scores
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of reference
  • resume

Check with individual schools for any additional requirement.  Note that credit transfers are usually handled the same way by all colleges in the United States. Check each school’s list of course equivalencies on their official website to learn if your coursework is appropriate for credit transfer.

The courses listed below offer the best master’s in forensic psychology according to the quality of their research, program flexibility, and plenty of other factors.

Best programs for a master’s in forensic psychology

  • University of Denver

    University of Denver Denver, Colorado
    University of Denver

    Self-described as the “go-to” establishment in its field, Denver specializes in mental health forensics and how abnormal psychology can influence criminal behavior. Its syllabus aims to apply a mix of modern theory and research methods to the pursuit of criminal justice. The undergraduate who chooses this degree course will likely have an interest in cutting-edge testing and experimentation.

    Program nameMA Forensic Psychology
    AccreditationHigher Learning Commission, Colorado Department of Higher Education
    LocationDenver, Colorado 
    Cost $48,594 per quarter. Other fees may apply. Financial Support
    Program format On-campus, full-time
    Program length 2-5 years
    Read more
  • George Washington University

    George Washington University Washington, District Of Columbia
    George Washington University

    Novel in its approach, the forensic psychology program at George Washington University gives students a choice of how they’d like to progress their education from the outset. Graduates can choose to either concentrate on applied psychology or applied forensics. The college notes that its graduates leave with the tools to solve crimes, assess offenders, and use interrogation techniques ethically.

    Program nameM.A. in Forensic Psychology
    AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
    LocationWashington, D.C.
    Program format $1,395 per credit hour. Other fees may apply. Financial Support
    Cost On-campus, full-time
    Length 2 years 
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  • University of North Dakota

    University of North Dakota Grand Forks, North Dakota
    University of North Dakota

    The University of North Dakota claims that its forensic psychology degree program is the best in the United States. It occupies a unique position on our list, as an online program that can only be studied on a part-time basis. This particular program is recommended for undergraduates who have already found their way into a related career. Graduation requires the completion of 30 credits of coursework.

    Program nameM.A. in Forensic Psychology
    AccreditationHigher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
    LocationGrand Forks, North Dakota 
    Cost $544.24 per credit. Other fees may still apply. Financial Support
    Program formatOnline, part-time
    Program length 2 years 
    Read more
  • John Jay University

    John Jay University New York City, New York
    John Jay University

    Forensic Psychology at CUNY John Jay includes a special focus on social identities such as religion and race, a topic growing in importance and relevance in the U.S. Researchers seek to understand the role of these aspects in the diagnosis of mental illness and in other experiences in life. CUNY John Jay is ideal for students who wish to dodge either an externship or a thesis in the pursuit of their master’s degree: a choice is given between these 2 options. Graduates must achieve 42 credits.

    Program nameM.A. in Forensic Psychology
    Accreditation Middle States Commission on Higher Education
    LocationNew York City, New York 
    Cost $11,532 “average over program” for in-state students. $20,962 for out-of-state admissions. Part-time study is charged at $470 per credit hour (in-state) and $855 (out-of-state). Financial Support
    Program format On-campus, full/part-time
    Program length 2 years 
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  • University of Houston

    University of Houston Houston, Texas
    University of Houston

    Overall, mental health is in decline worldwide. To combat this slump, Houston-Victoria emphasizes the need to produce qualified mental health workers. It introduces its master’s degree in forensic psychology as a way to achieve this goal. Coursework is based around family matters, addiction, ethics, and multicultural psychology. Consequently, themes of criminal justice take a back seat. Graduating students require 63 semester hours of course work and practicum study. 

    Program nameM.A. in Forensic Psychology
    AccreditationYes, by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
    Location Houston, Texas 
    Cost$8,314 (in-state). $15,437 (out-of-state). Other fees may still apply. Financial Support.
    Program format On-campus, full/part-time options
    Program length 2 years 
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  • University of Central Oklahoma

    University of Central Oklahoma Edmond, Oklahoma
    University of Central Oklahoma

    Careers in music and art therapy are listed as outcomes of the forensic psychology program at the University of Central Oklahoma. However, students with a passion for law enforcement, research, and experimental applications of psychology may find this master’s program suitable. To graduate, students must maintain a GPA of 3.0. A thesis has to be submitted and defended by the relevant deadlines.

    Program nameM.A. in Psychology – Forensic
    AccreditationNorth Central Association of Colleges and Schools
    LocationEdmond, Oklahoma
    Cost$291.65 general tuition fee plus $37.70 per credit hour for in-state residents. The general tuition fee goes up to $708.65 for out-of-state applications. Other fees may still apply. Financial Support.
    Program format On-campus, full-time
    Program length 2 years 
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  • Capella University

    Capella University Minneapolis, Minnesota
    Capella University

    While not a true forensic psychology degree in the same mold as the other entries on this list, Capella University does offer a master’s in this discipline. You just have to study it as part of the clinical psychology program. Capella University’s syllabus is maintained by faculty and student peers, which makes it more changeable than many of the other programs on our list. It’s also a short 5-course program studied online. Graduation requires 25 completed credits.

    Program nameM.S. in Forensic Psychology 
    AccreditationHigher Learning Commission 
    LocationMinneapolis, Minnesota 
    Cost$18,430–$26,235 depending on the number of transfer credits used. Other fees may still apply. Financial Support.
    Program format Online
    Program length 2 years 
    Read more
  • Walden University

    Walden University Minneapolis, Minnesota
    Walden University

    Students at Walden University seek to create positive change in the justice system. This M.S. in forensic psychology is filled with modern concepts such as terrorism, military psychology, and cybercrime, all of which can be specialized in. For interested students, Walden’s master’s degree can meet the criteria for up to half of the doctorate in psychology coursework.

    Program nameM.S. in Forensic Psychology
    AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
    LocationMinneapolis, Minnesota 
    Cost $10,716. Other fees may still apply. Financial support
    Program format Online 
    Program length 2 years 
    Read more
  • Alliant University

    Alliant University San Diego, California
    Alliant University

    The production of an interview-ready portfolio is one of the highlights of the forensic behavioral science course at Alliant University. The college prides itself on its accessibility so this degree can be studied online, requiring just 2 in-person visits to the campus. This flexibility makes it an easy choice for international students. Graduates of Alliant University require 36 credits.

    Program nameM.S in Forensic Behavioral Science 
    AccreditationWASC Senior College and University Commission
    LocationSan Diego, California 
    Cost$719 per credit hour. Other fees still may apply. Financial support 
    Program format Online 
    Program length 2 years
    Read more
  • Kean University

    Kean University Union, New Jersey
    Kean University

    Kean University’s master’s program is one of the more affordable colleges on our list. This institution offers a research-driven course that emphasizes the use of psychology in courtrooms, prisons, and juvenile detention centers. Kean’s varied program structure means that it’s an option for both law and psychology undergraduates. Those who haven’t decided on a career yet are welcome too.

    Program nameM.A. in Forensic Psychology 
    AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education 
    LocationUnion, New Jersey 
    Cost $7,876 (in-state). $8,677 (out-of-state). Other fees may still apply. Financial Support.
    Program format On-campus, full-time
    Program length 2 years
    Read more

Financial aid opportunities

The first place to start your research into how to finance your master’s degree should be Federal Student Aid.  Their website contains general information on all types of aid available to eligible students and is where you can complete and submit the free application form, FAFSA. Contact the financial office at your selected school to learn about scholarships and grants for psychology students.

Career options with this degree

Although licensure as a forensic psychologist requires a doctorate degree there are also various career options available to those with master’s degrees.