Correctional settings compromise the largest provider of mental health services today. Additionally, an impressionable percentage of the United States populations with mental illness come into contact with the criminal justice system during their lifetimes. As the effects mental health has on an individual’s quality of life become more and more understood, knowledge of how to navigate this epidemic becomes more accessible and understandable. Naturally, colleges and universities, as well as passionate individuals, are delving into research and study to aid those that try and fail to succeed in a system that works against them.
Forensic Psychology is the application of the profession of psychology to the legal system in a contemporary, educated and relevant manner. The American Psychology and Law Society defines forensic psychology as follows: “All professional practice by any psychologist working within any subdiscipline of psychology…when the intended purpose of the service is to apply the scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge of psychology to the law and to use that knowledge to assist in solving legal, contractual, and administrative problems.”
Becoming a Doctor of Forensic Psychology
Forensic Psychology doctoral degrees can be obtained in a number of ways. Students may wish to obtain a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Legal Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in Clinical Psychology. Both come with a concentration in Forensic Psychology or Forensic Studies. While obtaining a degree in Legal Psychology is a non-clinical approach, students will still apply their knowledge and study of legal issues to the practical application of forensics. The PhD track allows graduates to overlook and conduct research in academic, professional and government settings. The PsyD approach will place students in a clinical setting in their specialized field of study.
Many of the Forensic Psychology schools on our list offer degree coursework in a distance learning format, while others state their degrees can be completed entirely online. Please check with individual schools for specific requirements, as many programs change annually.
Programs in the Most Affordable Doctorates in Forensic Psychology are ranked by affordability, from lowest tuition rates to highest.
1. Florida International University
Florida International University is Miami’s first and only public research university and offers degrees from the bachelor to doctorate levels. The school was designed as a top-tier research institution and all programs emphasize research as a major component of study, and as the university’s mission. For over four decades the university has served local and global communities through education, research, and of the more than 200,000 alumni, 115,000 live and work in South Florida today.
Florida International University capitalizes on its Miami location in a major litigation center of the southeastern United States. FIU offers a PhD in Legal Psychology with a focus in Forensics. Students are expected to participate in research that explores psycholegal issues throughout the duration of their study under the supervision of faculty. A plethora of research facilities are available to students including two libraries, psychology laboratories, and computer and video facilities. The program is full time and requires students to be actively enrolled and researching year round, including summer. Applicants may apply without a psychology major, however, they must have completed a statistics and research methods course regardless of their background. These requirements are minimum.
2. Montclair State University
Montclair State University is located in New Jersey and offers one of the nations leading PhD in Clinical Psychology programs, with a forensic track. The PhD program aims to develop leaders in the research and practice of clinical psychology and graduates from the forensic track can expect to take roles as high-level employees in private or government organizations. Unlike other programs, Montclair has a special focus on children, adolescents, and families which runs through its core curriculum. The full-time program combines classroom study with research training and field experience. Applicants should have a master’s or bachelor’s degree in psychology or a closely related field though at a minimum those with at least 15 credits in psychology may apply. The latter are encouraged to submit the GRE Psychology Subject Test with their application. The 96-credit hour program also requires a full time, one-year internship in clinical psychology and students must defend a master’s thesis and dissertation.
Montclair was founded in 1908 and is one of the leading institutions of higher education in New Jersey. The Doctoral University is accredited by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of higher education. The University has a total of 11 colleges and universities and serves over 20,000 students from across the globe annually. The campus spans over 250 acres crossing the communities of Montclair, Clifton and Little Falls. In 2017 the State of New Jersey designated the institution as a Public Research University.
3. University of California, Irvine
The University of California in Irvine is the youngest member of the Association of American Universities. Since its founding in 1965, the institution has produced Nobel laureates and is known for its research, innovation, and overall academic achievements. More than 30,000 students attend annually, and the university is proud to be Orange County’s second-largest employer.
University of California, Irvine offers a couple of options for students interested in earning a fully funded forensic psychology degree. Students may choose from a PhD in Psychology and Social Behavior with Certificate of Concentration in Psychology and Law or a PhD in Criminology, Law, and Society. The PhD in Psychology and Social Behavior provides students with a strong foundation in theory and research methods, plus advanced statistics. All students collaborate with faculty on research through the duration of their study. The school offers unique personalized learning opportunities for all students enrolled. There are 31 full-time faculty members serving on average 70 graduate students annually. This strong sense of community is what draws many new students to the program. Applicants must submit GRE exam scores along with their application Though the program is fully funded, applicants should be prepared to cover costs for application and student fees.
4. Drexel University
Drexel University was founded in 1891 and is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Today it is a comprehensive global research university and is ranked among the top 100 research institutions in the nation. It is also one of America’s 15 largest private universities. Additionally, the university is one of Philadelphia’s top 10 private employers and provides major economic support and development in Philadelphia and surrounding communities.
The PhD in Clinical Psychology with a Forensic Track at Drexel trains clinical psychologist using the scientist-practitioner model, which places an equal emphasis on both the application of scientific principles and on clinical research. The program prepares students for entry-level practice in professional psychology. The Forensic psychology track teaches students how to assess and intervene in order to inform legal decision-makers and attorneys on questions in family, civil, and criminal law, and Drexel offers a particular focus on juvenile and criminal issues. Students are required to complete one 800-hour forensic psychology practicum, a forensic psychology-focused thesis and dissertation, and at least two years of research in the field. The program is fully accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).
5. University of Wyoming
The University of Wyoming was founded in 1886 and is a nationally recognized land-grant research institution with global reach. The four-year, land-grant university offers the largest study-abroad scholarship endowment of any other institution of its kind in the United States. Students study in 50 countries each year at over four hundred domestic and study abroad sites.
The university offers a PhD in Legal Psychology, which leads graduates to careers in forensics. Students typically have focus on areas such as the role of race and ethnicity in legal decisions, jury decision-making, or forensic interviewing. Students work closely with other faculty to perform research in similar areas. All students are required to participate in the one-credit Psychology/Law pro-seminar which they enroll in each semester. The must also be active members of the Psychology and Law Research Lab. The full-time PhD program encourages students to publish their findings in professional journals or present at professional conferences annually.
Cost per Credit: $210
6. University of Nevada, Reno
The University of Nevada in Reno was originally founded in 1874 in Elko, Nevada, 300 miles northeast of its current location. From its humble beginnings, and through top-notch leadership, the university enrolls over 17,000 students annually. Keeping student success in mind, the university opened a $36 million dollar Student Achievement Center in 2016 which aims to unite and optimize all the on and off campus services that are vital to student success.
The prestigious PhD in Interdisciplinary Social Psychology offers a specialization in Law and Justice for students interested in forensic psychology doctorate programs. The interdisciplinary nature of the program by natures weaves together psychological and sociological scholarship with a foundation in understanding contextualized perspectives. Because of the university’s approach, students are trained to be leaders in their fields, including forensic psychology. The PhD program has been running since its founding in 1962. Students wishing to apply must do so by January 1st each year, for the following year’s admission.
Cost per Credit: $275
7. University of Texas, El Paso
Since its founding in 1914, and the second oldest institution in the UT system, the University of Texas at El Paso has become a national model for creating and successfully executing competitive research and academic programs across disciplines. Today the institution is the only public research university in the United States with a Mexican-American student population majority. The Carnegie high-research-activity defined university enrolls more than 25,000 students a year, with an 80% Hispanic student population. The research institution is dedicated to offering innovative solutions and top-tier research opportunities to all students enrolled, and in part to fulfill this mission, the school began construction on an $85 million interdisciplinary research building in 2017.
The Legal Psychology PhD program at the UTEP is one of the best programs of its kind found in the southwest United States. With an emphasis on application to the legal system, students conduct basic research alongside their academic study. Students are trained in both basic and applied experimental methodologies. Some areas of particular interest include forensic interviewing of children and adults, malevolent personality patterns, mental health and the criminal justice system, and the psychology of terrorism and prejudice/racial bias. Qualified faculty comes from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Corrections, and various other state and national foundations.
Cost per Credit: $299
8. Sam Houston State University
Sam Houston State University, named for Sam Houston, was founded over 130 years ago and is located in Huntsville, Texas. Its motto, “The Measure of a Life is its Service” influences each of the university’s seven colleges, all of which promote service learning in addition to academics and research. In addition, the school also has an extensive online presence for undergraduate students and professionals. The university is titled a Community Engaged Institution by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.
The PhD in Clinical Psychology aims to produce scientists and practitioners who are equally experienced in research and clinical practice. The program works on a unique mentor model where students are admitted to the program under the supervision of a primary research mentor. This mentor services as the students first-year research assistantship supervisor. Within the Clinical Psychology PhD, students are trained to become legally informed clinicians through the program’s forensic emphasis. This means all graduates are prepared to offer forensic assessment and consultation in the legal system should they choose.
Cost per Credit: $364
9. Walden University
Walden University is an accredited four-year institution dedicated to serving adult learners from all 50 states plus over 150 countries from around the world. The institution offers degrees from the bachelor to doctorate levels from the health sciences to criminal justice, to psychology, and more.
The school of Psychology offers a PhD in Psychology with a focus in Forensic Psychology for students who wish to enroll in an online PhD program. The fully online degree program prompts students to explore mental health issues that may drive criminal behavior. Graduates go on to become leaders in research or as teachers or consultants in their fields. The program works helps students gain a competitive advantage in the field of forensic psychology because of its specific focus on the subject. Students may also transfer up to six credit hours from a related master’s degree, saving students time and money after enrollment.
Cost per Credit: $585
10. University of Arizona
Surprisingly, the University of Arizona has existed long before Arizona was a state. The first graduating class completed their study in 1895; the class consisted of two students total. Since its humble beginnings, the university today is a long-time partner with NASA and a state leader in the sciences and arts.
The institution has a competitive Clinical Psychology PhD program with a concentration in Forensic Psychology. The program follows a clinical science training model and prepares students to practice clinical psychology as practical and research leaders in their field. The program was accredited by the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS) in 2010, and it has also accredited with the American Psychological Association since 1962. All students, once admitted to the program, are automatically funded as either a Research Assistant or a Teaching Assistant, or they are funded on a Fellowship. This departmental support is available for students for up to five years while they work towards their forensic psychology degree.
Cost per Credit: $600
11. Widener University
Widener University stands strongly on three foundations of success: academic excellence, career preparation, and civic engagement. The school was originally founded as a military college though today it serves students from all walks of life from around the globe, and offers over sixty-degree options from the bachelor to doctorate levels. With a post-graduate average salary of $52,000 Widener ranks over $18,000 than the national average.
The Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology is proudly home to the longest-running doctor of psychology (PsyD) program in the nation. The school offers two graduate level Forensic Psychology degrees: Clinical PsyD with a Concentration in Forensic Psychology or a PsyD/Masters Joint Degree in Criminal Justice. Students in both programs benefit from learning through a wide range of contemporary and evidence-based approaches. The school is in accordance with the NCSPP scholar-practitioner model. Graduates go on to be leading clinicians in the field.
Cost per Credit: $886
12. Pacific University
Pacific University was founded in 1849 and prides itself in being a diverse community offering undergraduate to professional programs to students from around the world. The school is located in the quiet Portland suburb of Forest Grove, Oregon, a town that combines the convenience of a big city with the remnants of a strong history as a farming community. The institution is the oldest chartered university in Oregon and has a long and celebrated history of excellence.
Pacific University’s School of Professional Psychology offers a PsyD in Clinical Psychology with a Forensic Track. The forensic track prepares students for clinical and academic work in the field in order to assess and treat forensic and correctional populations. Additionally, the program puts equal focus on learning the psychology and law behind forensics. All students who choose the forensic track must compete for a forensically focused internship and postdoctoral training opportunities. They also complete a thesis and dissertation and complete at least two of the three required clinical training experiences.
Cost per Credit: $965
13. Spalding University
Founded in 1814 and located in Louisville, Kentucky, Spalding University, boasts a truly dynamic and diverse student population and actively promotes inclusion by supporting otherwise marginalized communities and individuals. Spalding is “a community of learners made up of artists, veterans, activists, parents, religious leaders, LGBTQIA community members, and athletes.” The private institution serves int he tradition of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.
The Clinical Psychology doctorate degree was among the first PsyD programs in the nation and has been accredited by the American Psychological Association since 1989. The specialization in Forensic Psychology is grounded in evidence-based practice and prepares graduates to…. The 120-hour degree program includes practicum and internship courses on top of academics, clinical and research opportunities. Though not fully funded, the school does offer a number of fellowship opportunities annually. The assistantships are awarded annually and about 25% of full-time doctoral psych students participate. Students may complete the program full or part-time.
Cost per Credit: $975
14. Palo Alto University
Founded in 1975, Palo Alto University is a nonprofit, private institution originally known as the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology. Because of its long history as a psychology -centered university, the school offers some of the best psychology-based degree programs in the world. The PhD in Clinical Psychology program at Palo Alto University is a competitive program that serves both researchers and clinicians. Students use evidence-based clinical models for study while maintaining social and community-centered psychologist responsibilities in order to prepare them for holistic service as leaders in their field.
Admission to the Forensic Track at Palo Alto University is competitive. Students begin with the dissemination of forensic psychology through the Forensic I course as an elective. From there they may continue along the track by maintaining a “B” average or higher. The program is selective and student work is closely monitored by the department director. The PhD in Clinical Psychology is accredited by the American Psychological Association.
Cost per Credit: $990
15. University of Denver
Fortuitously located at the junction of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains, the University of Denver is proudly rooted in exploration, both geographically and through rigorous and competitive academic and research opportunities. The school was founded in 1864 as Colorado Seminary and today serves students from all walks of life seeking education from the bachelorette to doctoral levels in the arts, sciences, and in forensic psychology at the graduate level. The accredited forensic psychology program at University of Denver is one of the most comprehensive programs in the nation.
The PsyD in Clinical Psychology offers a Forensic Focus. Broad based training acclimates students to the basis of general practice while the forensic focus allows students to specialize in order to take courses focused on forensic applications. The curriculum requires combined research and clinical study within areas such as history of psychology, system models, and cognitive bases of behavior models. Students must also complete a clinical competency exam, a doctoral paper, and participate in a competitive internship.
Cost per Credit: $1104
16. Nova Southeastern University
Founded in 1964 with humble beginnings, today Nova Southeastern University is one of the most accomplished private, not-for-profit institutions in the country. Not only is it the top intuition of its kind to meet the US Department of Education’s criteria to be considered a Hispanic-serving Institution, NSU is also a research university with ‘high research activity’ as classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It is also one of only fifty universities awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification. The school has campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The university offers two forensic psychology degree programs: a PhD Psychology degree in Clinical Forensic Psychology (CFP) concentration and a PsyD in Clinical Psychology. Each specialization is competitive and admits a limited number of students during the first or second year of study. The forensic psychology concentration requires students to complete a set of electives, an approved practicum related to the concentration, and faculty approved research activities. The concentration emphasizes clinical psychological skills applicable in the criminal justice system.
Cost per Credit: $1110
17. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) is an accredited, not-for-profit institution with multiple campuses across the United States and online. Campuses are located in Irvine, Los Angeles and San Diego, California as well as Washington D.C., Dallas, Chicago and New Orleans. The institution, founded in 1979, offers an intrinsic path to psychology in areas both clinical and research-based. The PsyD in Clinical Forensic Psychology can be completed at the three California campuses or partially online. The program is rooted in a commitment to service, community, and innovations so students are expected to participate in research and internship activities on top of clinical and academic requirements.
The forensic psychology doctorate program at TCSPP follows the Engaged Practitioner Model of Education. Students attending full time can expect to earn their degree in five years and will be prepared to find entry-level positions as licensed clinical psychologists in a variety of areas, including those that deal with criminal, civil and forensic law. All students complete their training at one of The Chicago School Counseling Centers both located in Southern California.
On campus & Online
Cost per Credit: $1310
18.William James College
On May 7, 2015, the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, founded in 1974, officially adopted the new name of William James College. Though the name changed, the college has stayed true to its commitment to combining classroom instruction with creatively integrated psychological theory, research and clinical practice. The Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program is accredited by the American Psychological Association. The university awards degrees at the graduate level.
The PsyD in Clinical Psychology at William James offers a concentration in Forensic Psychology. The concentration aims to expand on general clinical knowledge and training by offering opportunities for training in civil matters like child custody evaluations, employment lawsuits, discrimination, involuntary civil commitment and more. The comprehensive concentration uniquely also provides opportunities for education in correctional and police psychology.
Cost per Credit: $1310
19. Fairleigh Dickinson University
Fairleigh Dickinson University is the largest private university in New Jersey. The non-for-profit institution was founded in 1942, achieved four-year status by 1948, and today is an accredited multi-campus institution. Degrees are offered from the bachelorette to doctoral degrees, including clinical or school psychology. Campuses are located in New Jersey, Oxfordshire, England, and the Vancouver Campus in British Columbia, Canada.
The PhD program in Clinical Psychology is accredited by the American Psychological Association and follows the scientist-practitioner model of training. Both research and clinical practice are required in addition to course curriculum to earn the competitive forensic psychology doctorate degree. Students begin study with a focus on theory, research and practice of psychotherapy before converging into the forensic psychology focus. During the final year of the three-year program, students begin their dissertation research with faculty assistance. To participate in the forensic track students must complete one of the required clinical practicums during their first year of study and complete two additional required PSYC courses.
Cost per Credit: $1610