After having taken a look at each of the 5 available fully online masters degree programs in Forensic Psychology, this final piece provides a summary and comparison of the various degree programs.

Forensic Psychology Programs – Forensic Psychology Degree

There are a number of universities and colleges that offer an undergraduate course or two in forensic psychology, a selection of colleges and universities that offer masters programs in forensic psychology, and a relative handful of colleges and universities that offer doctoral-level education in forensic psychology. These programs typically offer campus-based degrees, with perhaps some opportunity to take a course or two online. But, what about fully online masters degrees in forensic psychology?

Masters in Forensic Psychology – Forensic Psychology Online

When I entered the search term “forensic psychology masters degree online” or “online forensic psychology masters degree” into Google, I was able to discover 5 schools that offer fully online masters degrees. In a series of 5 articles, I examined each of these programs and provided information about their curriculum, tuition costs, licensure status, courses, and other relevant information for someone considering a fully online masters degree in forensic psychology. This article summarizes the information contained in those 5 reviews for an easy comparison of the fully online programs. For my more detailed comments regarding each of these program, please see the individual reviews: The Chicago School of Professional Psychology; University of North Dakota; Argosy University; Walden University; and the University of Liverpool.

Forensic Psychology Masters Programs Online – Comparison of Online Masters Programs

Chicago N. Dakota Argosy Walden Liverpool
Credit Hours 35 credit hours 34 credit hours + a 2-week intensive on-campus experience 36 credit hours 56 quarter credit hours (approx. equivalent to 36 credit hours) 180 total credits (approx. equivalent to 60 credit hours)
Time to Completion 20 months Approx. 24 months (have 7 years to complete all degree requirements) Approx. 24 months(coursework must be completed in 4 years & all requirements within 5 years) 18 months 24 – 36 months(Average = 30 months)
Tuition $31,325 USD    (+ fees) $13,829 USD $23,580 USD  (+ fees) $22,400 USD  (+ fees) $21,600 USD
Admission Requirements Bachelor’s degree + 3 years work experience Bachelor’s degree (GPA = 3.0) Bachelor’s degree (GPA = 2.7) Bachelor’s degree Bachelor’s degree & work experience
GRE Requirements None None None None None
Licensure Eligible No Possible? No No No
Coursework 10 0.5-credit hour courses, 10 3-credit courses 8 core courses, 3 elective courses, + an intensive 2-week on-campus experience 8 core courses, 4 concentration courses, + a special topics paper 7 core courses, 4 specialization courses, + 1 Field Experience Course 8 8-week “modules” +  a dissertation

Comparisons between Masters in Forensic Psychology Programs

Any of these 5 programs can be completed from anywhere in the world (of course, the program at the University of North Dakota requires that you travel to the United States for a 2-week intensive on-campus experience near the end of the degree program but this doesn’t seem like too much of a hindrance for someone interested in obtaining this masters degree).

Although the estimated time to completion varies for each of these programs, the typical time to degree completion for any of these is about 2 years and students are able to pace themselves according to their own work schedules and other commitments (one of the major benefits of an online degree program).

Each of these programs also appears to provide an academic mentor/advisor to assist students with issues throughout their tenure in the program. It is unclear whether this advisor is a faculty member or someone else so interested students may want to ask more about this as they inquire about the program of study for themselves.

The coursework is one point of variation between these programs. The four USA-based programs all require the equivalent of 12 3-credit courses (I use 3-credit courses here as the point of comparison since this is the most common credit weight for college and university courses and is most easily understood by a majority of students). The UK-based program at the University of Liverpool appears to have a slightly more rigorous course load, with the equivalent of 20 3-credit courses being required in addition to a dissertation (which makes up part of those 20 “courses”). This is akin to many research-oriented campus-based masters programs in the United States and Canada with a thesis requirement.

In terms of the tuition costs for these programs, it appears that the typical student can expect to pay around mid-$20,000s for an online masters degree in forensic psychology. Of course, the full range is between $13,829 (at the University of North Dakota + expenses involved in getting to Grand Forks for the 2-week intensive on-campus experience) and $31,325 + fees (at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology). The average cost of $22,550 across these degree programs is about what one could expect to pay for a campus-based masters degree at most state universities (of course, the costs of campus-based programs at state universities vary significantly according to whether the student is from within-state, out-of-state, or international).

In terms of clinical experience, it is likely that none of these programs provide the types of experiences and supervision that one could obtain at most campus-based masters programs. This is most likely one of the major reasons why most of these programs do not prepare the student for licensure. A little further explanation about licensure is perhaps necessary here. Most states will only license doctoral-level individuals as psychologists (meaning that you will need to have a PhD or a PsyD to be considered for licensure). A few states, however, will license masters-level individuals as psychological technicians (or some other title, but not as psychologists), which means that these individuals are able to perform some, but not all, duties of a psychologist. In addition, it is typically the case that masters-level individuals are required to be supervised by a doctoral-level psychologist. Thus, it would be relatively rare for a terminal masters program, either online or campus-based, to graduate students who are eligible for licensure as psychologists. In those states that license masters-level individuals as psychological technicians or counselors, there is typically a requirement that the student have obtained a certain number of hours of supervised clinical experience as part of their masters degree program. Given the online nature of the masters degrees programs reviewed here, the relative lack of face-to-face clinical supervision opportunities is most likely the major stumbling block to students wishing to become licensed at the masters-level.

Doctoral Degree in Forensic Psychology

I’d like to end this article with a few words about obtaining a doctoral degree in forensic psychology. Although forensic psychology is a broad field that encompasses both clinical and non-clinical elements, I will assume that students who complete one of these online masters degrees in forensic psychology are interested in the clinical side and have a desire to work with correctional, offender, and forensic populations.

To work in these environments with these types of populations, you will need to become licensed as a psychologist, which means obtaining a PhD or a PsyD in Clinical Psychology. If this is your ultimate goal, then the most expeditious route is to go directly into a doctoral program upon completion of your undergraduate degree. Of course, for many, this is not a viable option for a number of reasons (GPA or GRE scores not high enough; didn’t prepare early enough to be competitive). A less direct, but viable, route is to complete a masters degree first and then apply to a doctoral program. You should be aware, however, that the chances of being able to transfer some of your masters courses for credit in the doctoral program are not all that good. It depends on the program but the strong programs are going to want to ensure that you receive the best training, which typically means that they want to train you and are not likely to allow you to transfer over many, if any, courses from your masters program. This is not necessarily a bad thing and if you are lucky enough to have been offered admission to a strong doctoral program, you should take advantage of as many classes and experiences as you can! Doctoral programs are much more likely to transfer non-clinical, foundational courses so keep this in mind when making your masters degree course selections. In addition, you may strengthen your chances of being admitted to a doctoral program if you select a masters program (or courses within a masters program) with a solid foundation in writing and research.

For more information about increasing your chances of getting into graduate school or on forensic psychology, please check out the posts under the “Education & Training” and “Forensic Psychology” tabs in this website.