2021 Best Online PhD in Forensic Psychology [2021 Guide]

An online PhD in Forensic Psychology may be the right fit for you if you’re interested in developing an advanced understanding of the relationship between psychology, criminal behavior, law, and the justice system.

PhD in Forensic Psychology

With your degree, you may be well suited to contribute to the improvement and growth of knowledge and understanding in the field of forensic psychology.

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You may also have the opportunity to help victims of crime cope with their experiences through counseling. You may dive into the mindset of offenders, evaluate their state of mind, and play a role in court proceedings, in treatment during detention, and in release or parole hearings.

Online PhD in Forensic Psychology Programs

Psychologist listening to patients during consultation

A wide array of career options exist with a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology, including positions in counseling, consulting, research, and education.

Providing counseling services as a PhD graduate may include interviewing offenders to understand their mindset at the time of committing a crime and to evaluate the risk of them reoffending. You may also provide treatment to forensic populations, including sex offenders, violent offenders, and white-collar criminals.

Other forms of counseling services may include supporting victims, such as those who have experienced domestic violence and children who have suffered maltreatment. You may help them develop coping skills and process traumatic events.

In some cases, earning a PhD in Forensic Psychology may lead you to consulting positions within the court system, where you may provide expert witness testimony, analyze a suspected offender’s use of the insanity defense, or evaluate whether an offender is fit to stand trial.

You may also act as a consultant for lawyers and attorneys, providing insight on the psychological aspect of cases and supporting the selection of jury members.

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Research is another opportunity that may be available to you with a PhD in Forensic Psychology. There are a number of organizations that contribute to forensic psychology research, and with your degree you may be well suited to join such organizations.

Examples of research positions may include those in nonprofits dedicated to criminal justice reform, child abuse and neglect, or mental health and addictions awareness. Positions in research may also allow you to contribute to existing knowledge on criminal profiling, criminal investigations, and the memory of eye witnesses.

Education is another key career option with a PhD in Forensic Psychology. A doctoral degree may qualify you to become a professor at a postsecondary institution, where you could provide instruction to psychology students.

Online PhD forensic psychology programs will offer courses that prepare you for these various career paths, and many programs also require the completion of a PhD thesis to demonstrate your expertise in the field.

Specific curricula will vary from school to school but will generally include courses that provide you with an advanced understanding of psychology, criminology, and law.

Forensic Psychology Careers & Salaries

Forensic Psychology Careers & Salaries

Common career paths in the field of forensic psychology include clinical counseling, research, and academia.

Clinical counseling may involve the treatment and evaluation of offenders or victims of crime. As a result, counseling may be performed in a traditional office environment or within a jail, prison, or juvenile detention center.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a PhD in Forensic Psychology salary is often much higher than average.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Healthcare Chief Executive $160,950
Clinical Services Director $104,280
Correctional Psychologist in Government Facilities $100,360
Forensic Research Psychologist $88,690
Sociologist $86,110
Clinical Psychologist $79,820
Psychology Professor $78,180
Community Service Director $69,600
Forensic Analyst $60,590
Correctional Treatment Specialist $55,690

Research in the field of forensic psychology may be undertaken at a university, government institution, or private business. For example, research may be performed for police services to contribute to the advancement of forensics.

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Working in academia with a PhD in Forensic Psychology may allow you to participate in the development of curriculum for postsecondary students and provide instruction on forensic psychology topics as a member of faculty.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that career paths in the field of forensic psychology will experience growth over the next decade. This includes psychologists (3% growth), top executives (4%), sociologists (4%), and postsecondary teachers (9%).

PhD in Forensic Psychology Curriculum & Courses

Forensic Psychologists having a discussion

Forensic psychology colleges offer curriculum in PhD level programs that build on the foundation set in bachelor and master degree programs. Generally, courses will range across the spectrum of psychology and criminal justice.

  • Advanced Study of Forensic Psychology: In this course, you’ll analyze trends and current events in the field and profession of forensic psychology, including case studies related to delinquency, restorative justice, expert witness testimony, and investigative techniques.
  • Crime, Psychology, and Law: This course includes an in-depth exploration of best practices in the field of forensic psychology and the interrelationship with criminal justice, law enforcement, and criminal profiling.
  • Violence, Risk, and Threat: This course is an examination of assessment tools and techniques in the evaluation of various participants in the forensic psychology sphere, including adult offenders, young offenders, and adult and child victims of crime.
  • Advanced Research Methods: You’ll receive an in-depth review of advanced research practices in the execution of psychological research, including methodologies for qualitative and quantitative research.
  • Psychology in Courts: This course assesses the role of forensic psychology in the court system, with a focus on the skills and knowledge required to act as an expert witness.
  • Forensic Populations: You’ll study various forensic populations and the methods used to assess and treat individuals in those groups, including violent criminals, sex offenders, and those suffering from mental health or addiction issues.
  • Police Psychology: You’ll examine the role of forensic psychology professionals in police departments, ranging from the counseling of police officers and law enforcement workers to the evaluation of suspects and offenders.
  • Forensic Mental Health: This course presents an in-depth review of the mental health system as it relates to forensic psychology, including an assessment of current issues and challenges in the criminal justice system for mentally ill offenders.
  • Psychopathic Behavior: This course explores psychopathic personalities, including a look at potential causes, common characteristics, and treatments.
  • Investigative Psychology: This course provides an overview of best practices related to criminal investigations and psychological evaluation, including a look at criminal profiling methodologies.

In most PhD forensic psychology programs, coursework will be complemented by extensive research and the completion of a PhD thesis.

Admissions Requirements

PhD in Forensic Psychology student studying at home

Admission requirements for forensic psychology PhD programs may differ from one school to the next, but some common criteria include those listed below.

  • Undergraduate degree: To qualify for graduate programs, you should hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited postsecondary institution. Programs may require a minimum GPA.
  • Master’s degree: Most programs will require you to have earned a master’s degree from an accredited university with a minimum GPA, preferably earned in a psychology discipline.
  • Test scores: Not all schools require GRE scores for admission, but some schools may still require that your test scores meet a minimum threshold.

Other admission criteria may include the passing of an English language proficiency test, an online application, letters of recommendation, and a complete resume or CV.

Accreditation

PhD in Forensic Psychology Accreditation

Regional accreditation is a status granted to schools whose curriculum meets a specific standard of academic quality. Accreditation status is an important consideration in the hiring process of organizations and the application process for advanced education.

Many state licensing boards require doctorate degrees to be obtained from an APA accredited institution in order to be eligible for licensing as a forensic psychologist. APA accreditation is specific to programs accredited by the American Psychological Association for the purpose of licensing psychologists.

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You can search for regionally accredited programs via the US Department of Education‘s website.

Forensic Psychology Licensing Requirements

Forensic Psychologist working in her office

In most cases, forensic psychologists are required to hold an active license in order to provide clinical counseling services in their state of practice.

While licensing criteria varies from state to state, you are generally required to:

  • Have a PhD or PsyD from an APA accredited university
  • Accrue a specific number of work hours
  • Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)

Each state has specific thresholds and expectations for each stage in the licensing process. This may include varying requirements for the number of hours worked and different passing scores for the EPPP.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

PhD in Forensic Psychology Financial Aid

There are financial aid options available to qualifying students that may help reduce the financial aspect of a PhD. For instance, federal and state aid may be available in the form of grants and loans.

Additionally, due to the high volume of research undertaken in many forensic psychology doctoral programs, you may be eligible to receive financial aid packages directly from the university you’re attending.

In some cases, universities will offer PhD students a stipend to cover living expenses and tuition costs during the enrollment in a doctoral program. Aid package offerings vary from school to school and may come with specific eligibility criteria.

You can apply for financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid on the US Department of Education’s website. You may find information about aid packages offered by universities from various school websites.

What Does a Forensic Psychologist Do?

Forensic Psychologist in a consultation with client

You may have wondered what a forensic psychologist does. As a forensic psychologist, you may participate in research within a government institution, academic setting, or private business.

Other key responsibilities may include providing counseling services to offenders or victims of crime, acting as a consultant in criminal investigations, and evaluating the state of mind of an offender or accused individual.

You may also have the opportunity to counsel witnesses in preparation for trial, contribute to the development of public policy within the criminal justice system, and perform advanced crime analysis.

Where Do Forensic Psychologists Work?

Forensic Psychologist talking to her client

Due to the broad scope of work available in the field of forensic psychology, your work environment may vary depending on your employer or client.

As a forensic psychologist, you may work in clinical office settings, or you may work in the community at jails, prisons, detention centers, youth centers, or police detachments. You may also perform key responsibilities in the courtroom, such as providing expert testimony in regards to an accused person’s state of mind or fitness to stand trial.

How to Pick a Doctorate Program in Forensic Psychology

Depending on your interests and career goals, you may choose a doctorate program that either emphasizes the general study of forensic psychology or concentrates on areas such as criminal justice, crisis management, social-personality, legal issues, or victimology.

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Each school has different entry requirements, specializations, and graduation requirements. So, you may want to research various schools in order to find ones that offer the best fit for your lifestyle, career goals, and work or family responsibilities.

What Can You Do With a PhD in Forensic Psychology?

Forensic Psychologist having a consultation with a patient

With a PhD in Forensic Psychology, you are particularly qualified for positions in research, academia, and counseling.

Research in the field of forensic psychology may be performed for private businesses, law firms, postsecondary schools, or government institutions, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In most cases, a doctorate is required to become a faculty member and a professor at a postsecondary institution. As a professor, you would be able to develop a curriculum and provide instruction to forensic psychology students.

Another common career path for PhD graduates is to become a licensed forensic psychologist. As a psychologist, you may be able to provide clinical counseling services to offenders and victims of crime.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Forensic Psychology?

Doctorate in Forensic Psychology student studying in a cafe

Obtaining a doctorate in forensic psychology typically takes 3 to 5 years to complete, depending on the school you choose to attend and if you can enroll full-time or part-time.

The type of doctorate you’re interested in obtaining may also impact your completion time. For example, if you choose to obtain a PhD in Forensic Psychology, it may take slightly longer than it would to earn a PsyD.

Some schools may offer accelerated forensic psychology doctoral programs. This route may allow you to take higher course loads and complete your degree in less time.

Is a PhD in Forensic Psychology Worth It?

Forensic Psychologists having a group consultation

Yes, a PhD in Forensic Psychology is worth it for many students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, life, physical, and social science jobs are set to grow at 5% over the next 10 years, faster than the average for all occupations.

Common forensic psychology careers in this field include forensic psychologist, researcher, postsecondary teacher, crime analyst, and sociologist. While earning your PhD in Forensic Psychology is a significant undertaking, most careers in this field offer higher than average annual salaries and have a positive job outlook over the next several years.

Universities Offering Online PhD in Forensic Psychology Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs in psychology online or in a hybrid format.

Fielding Graduate University

Fielding Graduate University campus

Fielding Graduate University is one of the few colleges in the nation that offers an online Doctorate in Clinical Psychology with an optional concentration in Forensic Psychology. In the program, students learn about conducting forensic psychology evaluations and being trial consultants. There are also clinical practicums and internships required.

Fielding Graduate University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Northcentral University

Northcentral University campus

Northcentral University’s PhD in Psychology program won’t lead to students gaining their licensures, but it will allow them to take concentrations in Trauma and Disaster Relief. The program helps students understand the psychological issues of victims, survivors, and witnesses of all forms of trauma to help them overcome them.

Northcentral University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Pacific University

Pacific University campus

Students in Pacific University’s psychology doctoral program who select the forensics concentration will learn to apply research and clinical expertise to the legal field.

They’ll take courses in psychopathy, child welfare, adult forensic psychology, juvenile forensic psychology, correctional psychology, sexual deviancy, and neuropsychological assessment. An internship is also required.

Pacific University is by the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities.

University of Arizona

University of Arizona campus

The Doctor of Psychology in Criminology and Justice Studies program at University of Arizona prepares students to work in or with law enforcement by teaching them everything they need about criminal behavior, criminal justice, and corrections.

They’re taught to use the principles of psychology to create innovative solutions to complex, real-world issues.

The University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Walden University

Walden University campus

Students in Walden University’s PhD in Forensic Psychology program can skip up to six courses if they already have a masters degree in a related field. Additionally, 53 previously earned credits can be transferred into the program. There are six specialization options, including criminal justice and legal issues in forensic psychology.

Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your PhD in Forensic Psychology Online

Getting Your PhD in Forensic Psychology Online

Much like an accredited PhD in Educational Psychology online, an accredited PhD in Forensic Psychology online program may provide you with a number of rewarding career opportunities in research, academia, and clinical psychology.

The diverse career options available to you with a PhD may allow for flexibility in your career path. You may also have the opportunity to work closely with students, witnesses, offenders, victims, jury members, and law enforcement professionals, among others.

Earning a PhD in Forensic Psychology may also supply you with a good return on your investment, offering diverse work, above-average salaries, and positive career growth.

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Brenda Pyzik
WRITTEN BY
Brenda Pyzik
Brenda has a bachelor’s in sociology from the University of Waterloo, with a minor in legal studies. She obtained a graduate certificate in human resource management from Georgian College. Brenda focuses on employment, business, and training and development.