Best Online Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology Degree Programs

Oct 19, 2021

What is an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology Degree?

For those who are fascinated by criminal justice advocacy or the impact of mental health on individuals in the criminal justice system, an online bachelor's degree in forensic psychology is a stepping stone to careers supporting the mental health of those affected by crime and the legal system. Forensic psychology is offered as a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. It is a broad degree program with career opportunities in many areas where mental health intersects with the law, such as victim or criminal justice advocacy. Those with a bachelor's degree may work as correctional or law enforcement officers, as part of trial proceedings, or as social workers. Most who seek an online bachelor's go on to obtain master's or doctoral degrees in order to work as specialists in the field or as practicing psychologists. Career options with a master's degree in forensic psychology or higher are more varied.

Difference Between Forensic Psychology & Forensic Psychiatry Degree Programs

Forensic psychology and forensic psychiatry have in common the study of mental health as it intersects with the law. However, while the two degrees sound similar and share some commonalities in what they study, there are vast differences between both the career paths and the educational track of forensic psychology versus psychiatry.

The primary difference between programs is that forensic psychiatry is a medical discipline whereas forensic psychology is a branch of liberal arts training. Forensic psychiatrists are physicians who specialize their training through residencies and year-long fellowships in psychiatry after medical school. Forensic psychiatrists go through a certification process through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Though many students pursuing forensic psychology earn doctoral degrees, these degrees are either PhDs in psychology or PsyDs (Doctor of Psychology). Forensic psychologists are professionals in the study of psychology rather than medical doctors. Forensic psychology is typically more research-oriented and offers greater levels of training in behavioral analysis and psychological testing practices.

With their focus on the law, both forensic psychologists and psychiatrists may find themselves consulting in court cases, but their specialties vary and, therefore, their roles do as well. Forensic psychiatrists may offer psychiatric evaluations or give testimony to mental capacity whereas forensic psychologists are consulted regarding psychological tests or behavioral research.

Forensic Psychology Specializations/Concentrations

Online forensic psychology programs at the bachelor's level do not typically offer concentrations. After obtaining a bachelor's degree in forensic psychology, degree holders may choose to specialize their interest in the juvenile justice system, family court systems, criminal or victim advocacy, or law enforcement as they purse higher level degrees or careers in the legal systems.

Curriculum/Coursework for a Forensic Psychology Degree

Forensic psychology courses guide students to a better understanding of abnormal psychology, the psychological effect of trauma on victims, and the institutional traits of the legal system. Online forensic psychology degrees may be available completely through online courses, but many programs may require an in-person internship or capstone project.

Typical courses for forensic psychology programs include:

  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Addiction & Counseling Courses
  • Juvenile Delinquency & the Justice System
  • Criminal Justice System Courses

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology?

Typically, online bachelor's programs in forensic psychology require 120 credit hours to complete. Most programs are completed in four years at full-time enrollment, though part-time enrollment may take longer. Most programs feature a capstone project requirement. Capstone projects are usually research projects focused on an area of interest of the student's choosing, though some may include an oral presentation.

Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology Degrees

When considering an online program, it is best to seek schools with accreditation at a national or regional level. Benefits of attending an accredited program include access to federal and state student financial aid or loan packages. The accreditation process also assures students that schools match or exceed peer reviewed standards for education and that their credentials upon graduation will be recognized by future employers or postgraduate programs.

A school may be accredited through higher education accreditation boards or through accredited organizations associated with a particular field. Some regional or national accrediting boards include the Higher Learning Commission or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Many accreditation councils feature institutional searches on their websites for prospective students to check the accreditation of potential schools. Students can also search for accreditors or accredited programs through the CHEA website to find more information.

In terms of accreditors for forensic psychology programs, most psychological associations do not accredit bachelor's level programs. The American Psychological Association (APA), the primary accreditation organization in the US, accredits doctoral programs only. When choosing an undergraduate program, students may take into consideration whether a school's doctoral level program is accredited, if the school offers one. According to the APA, programs with research-centric coursework may be more attractive to graduate schools.

Forensic Psychology Licensure & Certification

Many students seeking a bachelor's in forensic psychology may wish to pursue licensure or certification at some point in the future. To become certified and licensed, almost all states require applicants to have obtained a PsyD or PhD in psychology and a certain level of hours of supervised experience.

In addition to a doctoral degree and internship experience, most states also require students to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, or EPPP. The EPPP, a computerized exam, was developed by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards and consists of multiple-choice questions administered at local testing centers. Those seeking licensure must pay an exam fee and may also be required to pay local administration fees in some states.

Every state has different granting authorities for licensure and certification. In most cases, licensing or certification is granted by the state Department of Education or the state Board of Examiners in Psychology. Those seeking licensure should check the specific requirements in the state where they wish to practice psychology.

Those seeking additional credentials can also become board certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) in forensic psychology. The process requires practice samples, a review of the applicant's credentials, and sitting for a three-hour oral examination by three ABPP professionals.

Forensic Psychology Career Information

Forensic psychology is a broad field of study with many different opportunities, especially for those who continue through to the doctoral level. At the bachelor's level, degree-holders may become criminal or victim advocates, either in adult or juvenile courts, or they may work as correctional officers or law enforcement officers. However, most students choose to continue past the undergraduate level. Employment options are wider with master's or doctoral degrees. Many may choose to become forensic psychologists, jury consultants, hostage or crisis negotiators, or counsel inmates in correctional facilities or mental health institutions.

How to Become a Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychologists are highly trained professionals with extensive educational backgrounds. They have many potential roles as specialists in courtrooms both for the defense or prosecution, as jury consultants, or through providing testimony. They may also work as behavioral consultants with law enforcement agencies.

According to the BLS in May 2019, the average salary for clinical psychologists was $87,450, while job growth was projected at 3%, or about as fast as most occupations. The wide variety of potential careers and on-pace job growth may make forensic psychology a particularly attractive career choice.

The first step to become a forensic psychologist is to earn a bachelor's degree and then a master's degree before finally pursuing a doctorate (PhD in Psychology or PsyD) specialized in forensic psychology. In almost all instances, a doctorate is required to work as a forensic psychologist. Doctoral programs typically take four years to complete and most include year-long internships at their conclusion to help prepare students for work in the field.

After earning a doctorate, those working to become criminal forensic psychologists must also usually earn state licenses and may seek board certification. Board certification by the ABPP makes forensic psychologists especially desirable in courtroom settings.

How to Become a Counselor

Other career opportunities, such as work as an addiction, behavioral disorder, or mental health counselor, require less intensive educational commitments. With a background in mental health focused on criminal law, bachelor's degree holders in forensic psychology are uniquely qualified to serve as counselors for those affected by the legal system. The educational background required to become a counselor varies. For most positions, a bachelor's degree is required, though many require a master's degree.

Counselors for addiction or behavioral disorders in private practices, and all mental health counselors regardless of their employer, are required to be licensed. The requirements for licensure vary by state and are more stringent for counselors in private practices than those employed elsewhere. Counselors outside of private practice may become licensed with a bachelor's degree or sometimes certification. Typically, private practice counselors must hold a master's, have completed a certain number of supervised clinical hours, and pass an exam before becoming licensed. The National Board of Certified Counselors has state-specific information on licensure.

From 2019 to 2029, the BLS projects job growth for counselors at 25%, much faster than the average job growth for all occupations, projected at 4%. In May 2019, the BLs reported that the average salary for mental health, addiction, or behavioral disorder counselors was $49,950, while the top ten percent of earners took home $76,080.

Career Advancement in Forensic Psychology

The best path to gaining the most lucrative and sought-after positions in forensic psychology is greater education. The salary for a master's degree holder in forensic psychology is typically higher than for four-year degree holders, and a master's or higher is usually necessary to pursue licensure. Most students of forensic psychology pursue doctoral degrees, which greatly broaden future career prospects.

With a doctorate, a license and certification, especially board certification, increase potential career advancement and the expected salaries for forensic psychology professionals. Certified forensic psychologists may be top earners among clinical psychologists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2019, clinical psychologists in the 90th percentile earned $132,670, a difference of about $45,000 to average earners. Where forensic psychology professionals choose to work also affects average salaries. In the same report, the BLS also noted that some of the highest average salaries are found in outpatient care centers, where the average wage was $99,870.

What Other Kinds of Forensic Psychology Degrees Are There?

Students of forensic psychology tend to pursue high-level degrees, but students interested in learning more at an associate's level may pursue related fields, such as criminal justice or psychology, and certification options are available at various education levels.

Online Associate Degrees in Forensic Psychology

Online associate programs in forensic psychology are quite uncommon. For that reason, prospective students of forensic psychology may begin with an associate in psychology or criminal justice. Typical courses at an associate level in psychology will include social and abnormal psychology and provide students with the basic framework of fundamental psychological theories. Meanwhile, students of criminal justice will focus on the criminal justice system and basic legal doctrine.

Most online associate programs are completed in two years at full time enrollment. Both fields will equip students for pursuing higher degrees in forensic psychology.

Online Master's Degrees in Forensic Psychology

After obtaining a bachelor's degree in forensic psychology, many students choose to continue to master's programs. Master's programs can require between 30 to 52 credit hours and are usually completed in two years at full-time enrollment. Forensic psychology master's are offered as Master of Art or Master of Science degrees. Some programs may require practicum or capstone projects.

After graduation, some students may choose to pursue work as counselors, probation or corrections officers, or they may choose to continue to doctoral degrees.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Forensic Psychology

Online doctoral degrees in forensic psychology are rare, given the focus on in-person internships and practicum required to earn a doctorate. Additionally, no online-only programs are APA-accredited, though some APA-accredited programs offer online courses. Prospective doctoral students looking to balance work and home obligations with their educational pursuits may find a greater wealth of programs and better accreditation through in-person programs that offer some courses online. APA-accredited hybrid programs can offer students greater flexibility through asynchronous coursework while also providing the clinical experience and in-person research required for this degree.

Most graduate programs take between 4-7 years to complete. A bachelor's degree is required, though most programs do not require master's degrees. Most programs require minimum GPAs, and letters of reference ranging between 1-3 may also be required. Students should expect to provide transcripts and writing samples or a statement of purpose.

Online Certificates in Forensic Psychology

Professional certificates may be earned alongside degrees in forensic psychology or through stand-alone online certificate programs. Coursework can be completed fully online and may take between eight months to one year to complete. Certificates may help individuals pursue entry-level careers in corrections or as paraprofessionals in social work and can assist psychological crisis training in first responders. Students will be introduced to the basic principles of forensic psychology, statistics in crime, and behavioral analysis.

Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Forensic Psychology dove into data from the Department of Education and various institutions nationwide to find the best bachelor's degree programs in forensic psychology that are offered 100% online. Experiential learning opportunities, flexible prior learning credit/transfer credit policy, and a unique take on forensic psychology focusing on personal development are all factors that led us to find these programs to be the top online bachelor's degrees in forensic psychology. All of these programs would be a great fit for students looking for a flexible option for learning about this unique field.

1. Maryville University of Saint Louis

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$28470 83% 71% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

The online Bachelor of Arts in Forensic Psychology program from Maryville University of Saint Louis ranks No. 1 on our list due to its focus on psychology, criminal justice, and social science. This program has no required residencies, three start dates annually and curriculum that meets the American Psychological Association standards. This program leverages experiential learning opportunities for students - like a 135-hour internship, along with a research project completed with faculty and classmates. Students can also qualify for Early Access and get started on their master's degree while still enrolled in this program.

2. Bushnell University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$31410 66% 52% 100% No Yes AP Credits

Bushnell University in Eugene, OR, offers an online Bachelor of Science in Psychology program with a concentration in forensic psychology. This program applies Christian faith to psychological science to help students form a deep understanding on the criminal justice field. This program is a great option for this seeking a flexible learning experience - online courses are offered every eight weeks in a flexible online format and students can also earn credit toward their degree from prior college courses, law enforcement or military training! And, the forensic psychology courses are taught by expert faculty members and will prepare students to train in the field with training investigators!

3. Faulkner University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$22310 78% 33% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

The online Bachelor of Science in Forensic Psychology at Faulkner University in Montgomery, AL, is another option as it promotes a faith-based education for working adults, career changers, and recent graduates. This program bridges the psychology and criminal justice fields through courses that cover counseling and social psychology as well as criminal behavior, interrogation techniques, and criminal investigations. Students can expect a personalized educational experience from their instructors in small classes designed to help them accomplish their personal and professional goals - and they'll get a chance to test their skills in the project-based capstone course.

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit's ranking methodology page.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Information for Forensic Psychology Degrees

All students seeking financial aid should begin by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to identify any federal financial aid or loans that a student may be eligible for. Students can complete the application online using their prospective school's code and must sign a promissory note and complete entrance counseling to receive loans.

Forensic psychology students should also seek information about institutional aid. Institutional aid may take the form of alumni grants and special merit scholarships based on academic achievement or previous community service. Merit-based scholarships are often identified as president's or dean's scholarships, and incoming students with high GPAs should research if they qualify through the financial aid department of their institution. To find more information on institutional aid, students should contact the financial aid departments of their schools or search for institutional aid or scholarships on their school's website.

Students can also search for more information on scholarships for undergraduates in psychology through the APA website. Searches based on recipients, topics, type are possible. Information on highly competitive grants, such as the CIA Undergraduate Scholar Program, which features up to $18,000 in tuition and an annual salary and benefits packages for exceptional and well-qualified students in return for work commitments to the CIA, may be found at the APA website.

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