Top Online PhD in Forensic Psychology Degree Programs

Forensic psychology is a sub-discipline of general psychology that deals with studying psychological principals in the context of crime and the legal process. Someone who has graduated as a forensic psychologist will work with people who are in one way or another involved in the legal system. These include judges and attorneys, but also defendants, plaintiffs, victims and perpetrators in civil and criminal cases. In most cases, professionals will complete a doctorate degree in general psychology and then complete a certificate in forensic psychology in particular. Indeed, doctorate degrees that are specifically orientated to forensic psychology are incredibly rare in this country.

The programs are designed to ensure the principles of psychology can be applied properly to the criminal and justice system. Graduates are not, however, law enforcement professionals. This means that no physical training is required of them. Instead, they learn about the links between criminal and civil justice and psychology, providing counsel and testimony in court and other proceedings. For instance, they can be involved in profiling serial killers, determining whether a victim is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, and advising on whether a battered wife attacked someone in a form of self defense.

The specialization of forensic psychology is still very rare. As a result, few details are available in terms of how many forensic psychologists work in the country at present. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are currently some 160,200, although these include those who do not yet hold a doctorate degree, as well as psychologists in other disciplines. However, according to, forensic psychologists earn an average annual salary of $60,943. When bonuses are included, salaries for forensic psychologists from $37,130 at the bottom end of the scale to $117,967 at the top. They have also reported high levels of job satisfaction.

SEE ALSO: What is a PsyD in Clinical Forensic Psychology?

As stated, doctorate degrees in forensic psychology are extremely rare. Indeed, there are just two programs in our country that are offered online.

Let’s review these programs in a little more detail.

Sponsored Content

1. Walden University

At Walden University, students can gain a greater understanding of the mental health problems that are responsible for a lot of criminal behavior. They will look at advanced forensic psychology research methods and look at methods of evaluating programs that are designed for populations, such as juvenile offenders, the mentally ill, recently released offenders and the incarcerated. With this specialization, graduates are able to truly comprehend the programs and systems that exist in order to push for a positive change in community settings and the legal system. Graduates often become consultants or researchers in areas such as nonprofit, education, criminal justice and law enforcement.

Most of these programs require 106 quarter credits to complete, comprising of:

  • 81 credits for core courses
  • 5 credits for elective courses
  • 20 credits for the dissertation
  • 4 four day sessions for Ph.D. residencies

Some of the courses that are included in the core course requirements are:

  • Psychology of personality
  • Psychology in the courts
  • Criminal behavior

Elective courses focus on a certain specialization of psychology. These include:

  • General psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Organizational psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Social psychology

The program costs $93,705 in its entirety without transfer credits.

To be admitted to the program, students must:

  • Present their academic record.
  • Provide a goal statement.
  • List their relevant work experience in a professional resume.
  • Hold a master’s degree.
  • Have three years of academic or professional experience in a related field.

2. Fielding University

At Fielding University‘s School of Psychology, students can take part in the only program of its kind in the country. What makes it unique is firstly that the clinical psychologist program has been accredited by the APA. Secondly, it does not require any specific, physical location in order to be able to take part in the program. Fielding only serves adults and uses a distributed delivery for many of their classes and any training experiences and residential sessions are delivered in the community where the students lives. While a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, students can choose to complete a concentration in forensic psychology.

Fielding understands that demand for forensic psychologists is rising significantly. This expertise is now required in trial consultation and evaluation. As such, graduates of the Fielding program can evaluate:

  • The risk and potential for violence
  • The competency of someone to stand trial
  • What someone’s mental status was when an offense was committed
  • Suitability for child custody
  • Police psychology
  • The effects that the media have on trial outcomes and violence as a whole
  • What psychological factors are of importance in eye-witness identification and interrogation

Students must complete a number of core courses, including:

  • Forensic Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology Lab
  • Special Topics in Forensic Psychology Lab

They must also choose four units from:

  • Forensic Psychology: Police and Public Safety Personnel
  • Forensic Assessment in Civil Court
  • Forensic Assessment in Criminal Cases
  • Forensic Assessment in Child Custody and Parental Rights
  • Forensic Neuropsychology Assessment

Furthermore, they must:

  • Complete a dissertation, or
  • Have a first author published research paper.

*Indicates school is a Featured Partner. Click here for disclosure on Featured Partners. 

Sponsored Content