Overview of Forensic Psychology Master Degrees

Learn about the degree options for becoming a forensic psychologist.

Analyzing Forensic Psychology Master Degrees

forensic psychologist taking notes

Once, the most common way to start a career in forensic psychology was to get a master's or doctoral degree in psychology, and then take additional coursework related to the legal system. But, thanks in part to recent popular exposure on TV, there has been a rising interest in the field of forensic psychology.

Now a small but growing number of schools are offering forensic psychology master degrees. The programs that exist allow you to complete either a traditional or online degree.

Since forensic psychology is such a diverse field, most forensic psychology master degrees require that you choose a subfield within psychology and specialize in that sub-field. It's important to decide on your psychology specialty early, as well as the specific area of law to which you'll apply your training.

Considerations for a Forensic Psychology Master Degree

Here are some points that you should consider if you want to work in forensic psychology:

  • A master's or doctoral degree in psychology is required, but a specific degree in forensic psychology is not.
  • Forensic psychology master degree programs are few but growing.
  • You must choose a specialty area to obtain a forensic psychology degree beyond the master's level, but forensic psychology master degrees are a good way to start.
  • To become a practicing psychologist, you'll need a doctoral degree.
  • Most forensic psychologists are first clinical psychologists who also study law or criminal justice.
  • A PhD is traditionally more research- and teaching-based, whereas a PsyD generally focuses more on clinical practice. In a clinical context, both degrees typically have the same prestige.
  • Further certification or licensing beyond the doctoral level can be helpful, but is not required.

Forensic Psychology Master Degrees

The coursework for forensic psychology master degrees can vary. Some programs focus on the application of forensic psychology to areas such as organizational and legal consultation, or law enforcement. Others qualify practitioners to become licensed mental health counselors. Since most jobs in the field of forensic psychology require a PhD, you should consider a forensic psychology master degree a steppingstone to further graduate work in psychology.

American Board of Forensic Psychology Certification

If you earn a doctoral degree in forensic psychology, no other licensure is necessary to begin practicing in the field of forensic psychology. However, additional certification may add to your credentials in the job market and help you find a job.

The American Psychology-Law Society states that it is "helpful to become board certified by the American Board of Forensic Psychology." The certification process requires that you pass written, practical and oral examinations, and it's the only forensic psychology post-doctoral certification recognized by the American Psychological Association.

Sources: Argosy University; Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology; American Psychology-Law Society