It's hard to deny that there's a psychological component to criminal justice. Understanding the minds and behavior of criminals can make you a valuable asset to law enforcement organizations, attorneys and policymakers alike, and forensic psychology degree programs can help you earn that understanding through psychological study of the motivations, patterns and impacts of criminal behavior.
Forensic psychologists typically follow their education through to the terminal degree, whether it's a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), for aspiring scholars and educators, or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) for private sector practitioners. Some forensic psychologists may have just a master's degree, but positions at this level are less common.
The more flexible curriculum used in online degrees for forensic psychology students can help you more easily fit the undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate segments of your education into your existing schedule. If you're not ready to commit to campus-based education for your whole time in school, check out online forensic psychology degrees.
Best Colleges for Forensic Psychology Degree Programs
We wanted to find out which schools were the best colleges for forensic psychology degree programs, so we pulled tons of data from the archives of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and broke it down into eight categories. Click the button to get some details on our methodology, and read on below for our list of the top five schools for forensic psychology.
Our No. 1 school took the top spot in the distance education enrollment category, with more than 41 percent of students taking at least some of their courses in the virtual classroom. On-campus flexibility is on the menu here as well, thanks to a selection of weekend and evening courses and alternative payment plans for tuition expenses.
The campus-based forensic psychology programs at Tiffin include an undergraduate major in forensic psychology and an M.S. in criminal justice with a forensic psychology concentration. While there are no fully online degrees for forensic psychology students at Tiffin University, the Ohio institution does offer an online Master of Science (M.S.) in general psychology and an online M.S. in criminal justice with a concentration in criminal behavior.
The City University of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice ran away with the No. 1 ranking in our affordability category, charging students a 2015 average of $6,810 for tuition and fees. The New York City school also reported the largest percentage of forensic psychology students among its student body, awarding more than 550 degrees in forensic psychology alone.
The selection of forensic psychology degree programs at John Jay is among the most diverse in the country. Along with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Master of Arts (M.A.) in forensic psychology, students may choose an 18-credit postgraduate certificate or four-year graduate program that leads to a joint M.A. and Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in the field.
This Vermont school is the smallest on our list — fewer than 500 degrees were awarded here in 2015 — but academic opportunity is high. Castleton University posted the highest admission rate of any school we surveyed, granting enrollment to nearly 97 percent of applicants, and its affordable cost of tuition and fees gave it the No. 2 spot in that category.
If you're looking for the first step on your path to a forensic psychology career, Castleton has you covered. The B.A. study plan in psychology features an available undergraduate concentration in forensic psychology that includes courses in social psychology, criminal psychology, psychological testing and juvenile delinquency.
The B.S. in forensic psychology at the College of Saint Rose is offered through the department of psychology but closely resembles a double major in psychology and criminal justice. Students are free to choose the basic degree plan or opt for one of two specialized tracks: a clinical concentration that provides additional psychology training or a legal concentration designed to better prepare you for law school.
Honors students at this Albany, New York, institution also have the option to enroll in a research concentration that provides a strong foundation for academic work at the graduate and post-graduate levels. Saint Rose also had the top graduation rate among schools that made our list, as well as a comfortable admission rate of nearly 82 percent.
Student-faculty ratio numbers are a good guideline for how much time professors can spend on collaboration and mentorship with individual students, and the Florida Institute of Technology stood out above the rest in that category. The 8:1 student-faculty ratio at this Atlantic coast school represents a lighter load per professor than any other school on our list.
The B.A. study plan in forensic psychology aims to help students develop an understanding of crime prevention and analysis techniques while learning what it means to work as a liaison between law enforcement, social services and legal agencies. The curriculum for the senior year of the program includes an intensive field internship and research project.
Forensic Psychology Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
A bachelor's degree in forensic psychology may qualify you for some entry-level positions in the field or bring unique perspective to your law enforcement career, but a master's, doctorate or professional degree is typically necessary to work officially as a forensic psychologist. Here's some detail and career info for each degree level.
Career Outlook for Forensic Psychology Majors
If you know in advance how the career market is expected to look once you finish your education, it might give you a little extra preparation for taking on the employment challenges that can arise during your first year out of school. Here's a quick look at job projections for forensic psychologists.
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Forensic Psychology
Scholarships for forensic psychology students are typically offered by law enforcement agencies or charitable foundations, such as the CIA Undergraduate Scholarship Program for students who plan to work with the agency after graduation. Here are a few additional financial aid options available at the national, regional or institutional level.
Renewable for four years for freshmen and three years for transfers if recipient maintains acceptable academic performance.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed October 2017, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- What is forensic psychology?, American Psychological Association, accessed November 29, 2017, http://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/psn/2013/09/forensic-psychology.aspx
- School pages, accessed November 29-30, 2017: Forensic Psychology Degree Online, Southern New Hampshire University, https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/ba-in-psychology/forensic-psychology; Forensic Psychology Concentration, PsyD in Clinical Psychology, William James College, http://www.williamjames.edu/academics/clinical/psyd/concentration-forensic-psychology.cfm; General Program, PhD in Forensic Psychology, Walden University, https://www.waldenu.edu/doctoral/phd-in-forensic-psychology/curriculum/general-program; Forensic Psychology, Tiffin University, http://www.tiffin.edu/forensicpsych; MS in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Forensic Psychology, Tiffin University, http://www.tiffin.edu/graduateprograms/mscj/forensicpsych; Online Master's Degree, Tiffin University, http://university.tiffin.edu/online-courses/graduate; Forensic Psychology (BA), John Jay College of Criminal Justice, http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/forensic-psychology-ba; Graduate Programs, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/graduate-programs; Forensic Psychology Program Requirements, Castleton University, http://www.castleton.edu/academics/undergraduate-programs/psychology/forensic-psychology-program-requirements/; Forensic Psychology, The College of Saint Rose, https://www.strose.edu/forensic-psychology/; Forensic Psychology Degree, Florida Institute of Technology, http://web2.fit.edu/programs/7146/ba-forensic-psychology;
- Application Steps & Generic Requirements, American Board of Professional Psychology, accessed November 29, 2017, https://www.abpp.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3297
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed November 29-30, 2017: Psychologists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm; Forensic Science Technicians, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm;
- Professional organization pages, accessed November 29, 2017: Join APA, American Psychological Association, https://join.apa.org/; Benefits of Membership, American Psychological Association, http://www.apa.org/membership/benefits.aspx; Become a Member, International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology, http://www.aa4cfp.org/index.php?submenu=member&src=gendocs&ref=memberInfo&category=Main;
- Undergraduate Scholarship Program (CIA), American Psychological Association, accessed November 29, 2017, http://www.apa.org/about/awards/cia-ugradsch.aspx?tab=1
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.