As you already know from reading the other articles in this series—about the Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s Online Masters Program and the University of North Dakota’s Online Masters Program—I have been thinking a lot about online education. As a professor who has recently begun to teach online, I find that the pedagogy and style of online teaching can facilitate greater and more in-depth discussions than is typically experienced in more traditional teaching formats. It appears clear that the future of online education is growing and that more individuals than ever before have access to online education.  The various tools and available technologies make online learning the wave of the future, if not the present. My question, then, is what about taking an entire program of study, such as a Master’s degree, online? With the significant increase in the number of online programs of study available over the last few years, I decided to have an in-depth look at some of the more popular fully online masters programs in forensic psychology. This article takes a look at the program offered by Argosy University.

Online Master’s Program in Forensic Psychology

Argosy University is large, with 18 different campuses across the United States and numerous online programs. They have multiple web pages and every search of online education in forensic psychology that I conducted provided results that included Argosy’s programs in multiple different categories and on multiple pages.  This being said, it did take me a bit of hunting to find the information that I wanted to include in this article. OK, truth be told, I actually did not find it by myself. I ended up submitting a request for information and received a call back from Argosy. I had to answer a few questions, clearly from a script (because I’m fairly certain that I threw the woman off of her script when I told her the purpose for my request and that I was already a Doctoral-level forensic psychologist; she recovered well, told me I sounded like a great candidate for their Masters degree program (!!) and funneled me over to an admissions counselor). The admissions counselor I spoke with was excellent. She understood the situation, pointed me exactly to where I could locate the information I desired, and then asked me if I knew of anyone who wanted to go back to school and get a degree. I assured her that I had multiple requests every day about degree programs in forensic psychology and that if I heard of anyone interested in Argosy’s program I would send them her way (for those that night be interested, her name is Courtney Colbert and she can be reached at 866.427.4679 ext. 25538—thanks for the help, Courtney!).

The online masters degree in forensic psychology at Argosy consists of a core program of study and the choice of four different areas of concentration (as well as a general concentration for those who are unable to decide or who wish to customize a concentration).  In addition to the coursework, each student is required to complete a Special Topics Paper (which is part of a special topics seminar, which is required to complete the degree). All requirements must be completed within 5 years and the coursework must be completed within 4 years.

Credit Hours

The online masters degree in forensic psychology at Argosy consists of 36 credit hours of coursework (broken into 24 credit hours of core requirements and 12 concentration credit requirements). Students can choose from 4 different concentrations—assessment, treatment, law enforcement, and homeland security—or complete a general or customized concentration to meet their own specific needs. In addition to the coursework, students are required to complete a Special Topics Paper (I’m guessing akin to a mini masters thesis but without the rigor involved in a thesis).

The online masters program in forensic psychology is designed to be self-paced so students can take as many courses as they like at the pace they like but all coursework must be completed within 4 years and all degree requirements within 5 years to graduate.

Tuition

Students in online degree programs at Argosy are charged by the credit hour. The cost per credit hour is $655, which brings the total approximate cost for the online masters degree program to $23,580 (plus some fees). This appears to be in line with other online programs and perhaps slightly higher than many on-campus masters programs at state universities (although certainly comparable to on-campus masters programs for out-of-state students).

 

Program Description

The online masters degree in forensic psychology is described on the Argosy website as follows:

Those individuals with experience in law enforcement or a background in psychology should consider the exciting field of forensic psychology. Students of Argosy University’s Master of Arts (MA) in Forensic Psychology online program have the flexibility and freedom to pursue their degree at their own pace by taking classes any time of the day or night.

 

This master’s degree in psychology is offered through Argosy University’s American School of Professional Psychology, part of the College of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences. This online psychology degree program can prepare students to apply clinical, counseling, and neuropsychology skills within the criminal justice and civil legal systems. Mental health professionals are active participants in a range of law enforcement arenas, providing psychological services such as consultation, assessment, and intervention.

 

Argosy University’s faculty members are mindful of real-world expectations and relevant skill sets. These experienced practitioners provide an understanding of the theory, training, and practice of forensic psychology, delivering instruction about the following subjects and techniques:

  • The epidemiology of mental/behavioral disorders
  • Risk factors for violence and criminality
  • Profiling and patterning
  • Psychological testing
  • Prediction and intervention measurement
  • Forensic assessment
  • Criminal and civil law procedures
  • Secure environments
  • Forensic treatment and intervention skills
  • Professional standards and ethics

The masters program is 36 credit hours in length and includes the completion of a Special Topics Paper and seminar. The description of the seminar is as follows:

This seminar will include a review of a special topic in the field of forensic psychology. During the end of the 2nd year of study, the student will create a Special Topics Paper. Students completing the Special Topics Paper review an issue related to forensic psychology that becomes the focus of their contribution to the seminar

Admission Requirements

Applicants are expected to have completed a bachelor’s degree with an overall Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.7 or a 3.0 for the last 60 hours of coursework. In addition, the fine print on Argosy’s website indicates that student who do not meet these minimum GPA requirements may be admitted as an exception if they show significant evidence of academic and professional potential. This potential may be demonstrated by the career and/or personal accomplishments indicated in the statement of academic and professional goals, the career summary, and academic or professional letters of recommendation.

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required for admission to Argosy’s online degree program (nor does it appear to be required for admission to any of the campus-based Masters programs). This most likely means that admission to these Masters programs is less restrictive than it is for other graduate programs (since the majority require at least taking the GRE, if not specific minimum scores on the test).

Licensure as a Psychologist

Perhaps the most important thing to know about this program is that it does not lead to licensure. This means that those who complete this program will not be able to become licensed as a psychologist (either at the Masters level for those states that make this available, or at the Doctoral level) unless a different degree program is subsequently completed by the student.

From the website:

The Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology program DOES NOT lead to certification or licensure as a psychologist or mental health professional in any state in the United States. This program is designed to enhance the skills and knowledge of students who are already certified or licensed or who are interested in pursuing this degree for reasons other than obtaining certification and licensure.

Coursework

Core Requirements (24 credits)

FP6005 Maladaptive Behavior and Psychopathology (3 credits)

This course is an introduction to the study of maladaptive behavior. Etiology and definition of disorders in the DSM-IV will be reviewed. The course also looks at various methods of treatment related to the disorders covered.

FP6010 Psychology and the Legal System (3 credits)

This course focuses on the relationship between law and psychology and the mental health system, mental illness, and criminal conduct, with a more specific historical and procedural examination of the practice of psychology in the judicial forum. Substantive issues related to ethics and the law, risk assessment screening, psychological principles applied to law enforcement and correctional functions, and standards of legal competency and insanity are discussed.

FP6015 Psychology of Criminal Behavior (3 credits)

This course provides an introduction to personality theories and learning styles in the context of psychological theories of criminal and aggressive behavior. Historical and contemporary theoretical conceptualizations of criminal behavior are explored, including behavioral, social learning, cognitive psychoanalytic, psychodynamic, developmental, biological, and socio-cultural perspectives. Selected topics may be considered including alcohol and crime, sex crimes, juvenile delinquency, and women and crime.

FP6020 Individual Assessment (3 credits)

This course offers a broad understanding of group and individual educational and psychometric theories and approaches to appraisal, which also examines data and information gathering methods; validity and reliability; psychometric statistics; factors influencing appraisals; and use of appraisal results in helping processes. Also, the specific ability to administer and interpret tests and inventories to assess abilities, interests, and identify career options is considered.

FP6030 Research and Evaluation (3 credits)

Studies that provide a basic understanding of types of research are presented: basic statistics, research report development, and research implementation. Other areas studied include program evaluation, needs assessment, publication of research information, and ethical and legal considerations pertinent to the professional counselor.

FP6500 Professional and Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychology (3 credits)

This course considers the ethical and legal conflicts or dilemmas within the legal system and includes a discussion of other professional issues such as race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. The course reviews applicable approaches to addressing or resolving these issues, dilemmas, and conflicts as they relate to forensic psychology.

FP6535 Consultation, Triage, & Testimony in Forensic Psych (3 credits)

This course addresses the practical difficulties of the forensic mental health professional working within the legal arena. It will focus on the perceptions, motivations and needs of legal decision makers such as practicing lawyers, judges and juries. It will address the different roles that forensic mental health consultants have in the process as well as specific skills necessary to function as an expert witness. The course will review considerations of the ethical dilemmas of those serving in these areas to include the impact of financial considerations on objectivity and the different positions of advocacy, objective evaluation and testimony and will discuss approaches to resolving these issues when they arise.

FP6540 Forensic Psychology Seminar (3 credits)

This seminar will include a review of a special topic in the field of forensic psychology. During the end of the 2nd year of study, the student will create a Special Topics Paper. Students completing the Special Topics Paper review an issue related to forensic psychology that becomes the focus of their contribution to the seminar.

Concentration Requirements (12 credits)

Assessment Concentration (the following 3 courses plus one other elective)

FP6035 Evaluation & Treatment of Offenders (3 credits)

This course will provide an overview of forensic assessment topics with an emphasis of relevant literature, theory, procedure and tools, including risk assessment, legal competencies and criminal responsibility. Topic areas will include types of intervention with adults and juveniles within the criminal justice setting including special offender populations.

FP6901 Sex Offender Evaluation & Treatment (3 credits)

This course familiarizes the student with the following five areas: etiology and developmental issues of sex offense behavior; sex offender assessment; sex offender treatment interventions; criminal and legal issues related to sex offending; and program evaluation, treatment efficacy, and issues related to recidivism.

FP6520 Forensic Psychological Assessment (3 credits)

This course provides an overview of forensic assessment topics, with an emphasis on the literature, theory, procedures, and assessment tools. Specific areas covered may include risk assessment, legal competency, polygraph use and criminal responsibility.

Treatment Concentration (the following 3 courses plus one other elective)

FP6900 Substance Abuse Counseling (3 credits)

This course reviews key concepts to substance abuse counseling, including theoretical models for understanding and treating chemically dependent clients. Various screening and assessment tools, drug history, and interviewing skills are reviewed to help students assess the severity of addiction and develop an initial treatment plan. Treatment settings and interventions commonly used with chemically dependent clients are reviewed.

FP6901 Sex Offender Evaluation & Treatment (3 credits)

This course familiarizes the student with the following five areas: etiology and developmental issues of sex offense behavior; sex offender assessment; sex offender treatment interventions; criminal and legal issues related to sex offending; and program evaluation, treatment efficacy, and issues related to recidivism.

FP6905 Correctional Psychology (3 credits)

This course reviews the role of psychology and mental health professionals in correctional settings. Students will become familiar with a number of services that correctional mental health professionals provide, as well with general prison/jail security procedures. The study of correctional mental health services will include: conducting intake assessments, providing crisis intervention services, psychiatric services for mentally ill inmates, psychological treatment of emotional disturbance, rehabilitation of offenders, case management, and preparation for release within jail and prison settings. Additionally, the following areas related to general custody procedure will be reviewed: inmate classification, training and coordination with the multidisciplinary staff of jails and prisons, procedures and general security practices. This course will also provide an overview of correctional program development and evaluation.

Law Enforcement Concentration (the following 3 courses plus one other elective)

FP6880 Police Psychology

This course examines the role of mental health professionals in the police and public safety fields. Topics focus on psychological issues underpinning the core constructs of police work including assessments and evaluations of officers, culture of police work, and police policies and procedures. Additionally, the course addresses common stressors of police work, coping mechanisms, and special topics, such as suicide in the police force. The course also covers clinical services provided to officers, legal and ethical issues, and current research in the field of police psychology.

FP6902 Issues in Psychological Profiling

This course is intended to introduce the student to the basics of offender profiling as well as different methodologies and issues facing the field. The focus of this course will cover techniques of criminal profiling. Additional content areas include career paths in criminal profiling including professional organizations and affiliations relevant to criminal profiling, legal considerations, and professional ethics.

FP6906 Interrogation & Interviewing: History & Techniques

This course examines the current practices and techniques of interviewing and interrogation. Students will get a comprehensive understanding of the historical precedents set in this ever-changing field. The application of interviewing and interrogation is prevalent in a vast array of forensic settings including criminal investigations, psychological autopsies, behavioral analysis, workplace violence investigations, and military applications. The goal of interviewing and interrogation regardless of setting is information solicitation. Students will learn about the current practices and techniques of soliciting information which are most accepted by the relevant scientific community. Specific areas to be covered include learning the difference between interviewing and interrogation, interpretation of verbal and physical behavior, memory and false confessions, causes of denial, why people confess, how best to use evidence in the interrogation, psychological theoretical models of confession, and legal aspects. This course will also focus on the ethical considerations involved in interviewing and interrogation.

Homeland Security Concentration (3 of the following 4 courses plus one other elective)

FP6906 Interrogation & Interviewing: History & Techniques

This course examines the current practices and techniques of interviewing and interrogation. Students will get a comprehensive understanding of the historical precedents set in this ever-changing field. The application of interviewing and interrogation is prevalent in a vast array of forensic settings including criminal investigations, psychological autopsies, behavioral analysis, workplace violence investigations, and military applications. The goal of interviewing and interrogation regardless of setting is information solicitation. Students will learn about the current practices and techniques of soliciting information which are most accepted by the relevant scientific community. Specific areas to be covered include learning the difference between interviewing and interrogation, interpretation of verbal and physical behavior, memory and false confessions, causes of denial, why people confess, how best to use evidence in the interrogation, psychological theoretical models of confession, and legal aspects. This course will also focus on the ethical considerations involved in interviewing and interrogation.

FP6902 Issues in Psychological Profiling

This course is intended to introduce the student to the basics of offender profiling as well as different methodologies and issues facing the field. The focus of this course will cover techniques of criminal profiling. Additional content areas include career paths in criminal profiling including professional organizations and affiliations relevant to criminal profiling, legal considerations, and professional ethics.

FP6903 Psychology of Counterintelligence

This course will examine the history and status of espionage and terrorism with a special focus on the psychological constructs underpinning motivations and actions. The phenomenon of non-state actors, volitional and ideational motivations, and current relevant scientific studies examining the role of psychological factors will be reviewed. Potential future concerns such as the role of terrorism and intelligence within online virtual worlds will also be explored.

FP6904 Operational Psychology

Operational psychology is the application of psychology and scientific inquiry to the activities of national defense. This course examines the history, current trends, and future of operational psychology as a public service. Topics include roles of forensic mental health professionals in the military, government, and national security with a focus on psychological and ethical underpinnings of this field.

Concentration Electives (choose 1 of the following)

FP6525 Psychology of Victim

This course presents an intensive study, both theoretical and clinical, of the victim. This course will concentrate on the psychological impact of emotional, physical, sexual, or environmental victimization. Students will become familiarized with evaluation and treatment issues in working with victims. Additionally reviewed will be the manner in which social, legal, judicial, and treatment systems interact with victims. Special topic areas may include victim populations such as child victims, domestic violence survivors, war trauma, and political refugees.

FP6035 Evaluation & Treatment of Offenders

This course will provide an overview of forensic assessment topics with an emphasis of relevant literature, theory, procedure and tools, including risk assessment, legal competencies and criminal responsibility. Topic areas will include types of intervention with adults and juveniles within the criminal justice setting including special offender populations.

FP6530 Program Development and Evaluation

This course is designed to explore the planning, development, implementation, evaluation and analysis of forensic programs and their operation: prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, training, custody programs, and the services provided to offender and victim populations. The course will focus on the application of scientific and empirical models to examine elements necessary for functional program design and the assessment of forensic programs, their organization, operation, cost-benefit analysis and management.

PC6000 Counseling Theory

The basic theories, principles, and techniques of counseling, as well as applications to a variety of therapeutic settings, are explored. This course also focuses on personal theory construction, bias embedded in theory, cultural diversity, and ethical considerations.

PC6104 Counseling Skills 1

This course provides an integration of counseling methods and strategies. The topics covered are interviewing, goal setting, creating a therapeutic alliance, and session structuring. Course includes an introduction to more advanced adult psychotherapy skills. Students will be introduced to three related methods of listening, focusing and interviewing with clients. Students will work with client vignettes and practice applying the learned skills to a variety of diagnoses and client situations.

PC6505 Group Counseling

This course provides a broad understanding of group development, dynamics, and counseling theories. Group leadership styles are discussed, in addition to basic and advanced group counseling methods and skills. Several different approaches to conducting group counseling are reviewed.

Concluding Comments

Argosy assigns each student to an Academic Counselor, who assists and advocates for that student throughout the degree program. This is an important benefit as many online students run with risk of getting lost in the crowd. Having a designated person that you can turn to with questions or to assist in resolving issues is an important and key factor to successful online education.

The coursework for this degree program appears to be well-rounded and to cover all the relevant areas for forensic psychology practice. Although students are not eligible for licensure as a masters-level psychologist upon completion of this online program, the coursework appears to cover all the same areas as would be expected in an on-campus masters program in clinical forensic psychology. This online degree would certainly provide someone with a solid grounding in forensic psychology, and with the information and skills to be better equipped to understand the specific concerns and issues of various forensic populations.

I really like the areas of concentration set out in the program. There are more choices here that one would typically find in on-campus masters programs and all the courses in each area of concentration appear to provide a good breadth and depth to the information covered.

The lack of a residency requirement (as would be the case with any fully online degree program) means that anyone from anywhere can complete this program. As online education grows, we are sure to see an increase in the international representation of the students who complete these degrees. For students from countries where forensic mental health services are in a stage of infancy, this degree may be a very viable option.