Online Forensic Science Degrees
Forensic science is a multidisciplinary approach to analyzing crime scenes and evidence. An online bachelor's degree in forensic science covers applications of chemistry and biochemistry, physics, computer science, and psychology in criminal investigations. Professionals trained in forensic science are in high demand, and graduates can work in 11 different specializations of the field. Some of these careers require only a bachelor's degree to enter, but others require a master's degree or doctorate.
Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Forensic Science Bachelor's Degrees
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Recommend Rate|
|# 1||Purdue University Global||$14,358||70% (406 reviews)|
|# 2||Southern New Hampshire University Online||$9,600||63% (423 reviews)|
|# 3||DeVry University||$18,197||60% (214 reviews)|
|# 4||Arizona State University||$24,413||67% (107 reviews)|
|# 5||Grand Canyon University||$17,800||52% (505 reviews)|
|# 6||Walden University||Not Provided||52% (666 reviews)|
|# 7||Liberty University||$11,700||57% (316 reviews)|
|# 8||Waldorf University||$8,700||100% (16 reviews)|
|# 9||Columbia Southern University||$6,600||78% (183 reviews)|
|# 10||Maryville University||$28,470||36% (36 reviews)|
|# 11||Eastern Kentucky University||$19,948||25% (4 reviews)|
|# 12||Florida Tech - Online||$12,240||65% (79 reviews)|
|# 13||Touro University Worldwide||$14,600||69% (13 reviews)|
|# 14||University of Arkansas Grantham||$8,280||57% (93 reviews)|
|# 15||American InterContinental University||Not Provided||70% (202 reviews)|
|# 16||Abilene Christian University||$36,300||100% (1 review)|
|# 17||Florida State University||$18,786||100% (1 review)|
|# 18||National Louis University||$11,010||0% (3 reviews)|
|# 19||Salem University||$16,700||100% (1 review)|
|# 20||Bay Path University||$35,081||100% (1 review)|
|# 21||DeSales University||$38,700||0% (1 review)|
|# 22||SUNY College of Technology at Canton||$12,580||Add Review|
|# 23||Trine University||$32,810||Add Review|
|# 24||The University of Tennessee - Martin||$15,788||Add Review|
|# 25||Florida International University||$18,963||77% (13 reviews)|
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Forensic Science
The broad category of forensic science bachelor's degrees contains a variety of curriculum paths. Some colleges offer a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science, but most of the popular online programs listed above are either a B.S. in Criminal Justice with a concentration in forensic science or a B.S. in Psychology with a concentration in forensic psychology. The first degree tends to focus on physical evidence collection and testing, while the second emphasizes the mental processes behind criminal behavior.
Most online bachelor's degrees take 120 credit hours and four years of full-time study to complete. Some programs are also offered part-time. Besides classwork, most forensic science degrees include many hours of lab work. Programs may culminate in a field internship or a capstone course that ties together students' knowledge.
Most online bachelor's degrees take 120 credit hours and four years of full-time study to complete.
Admissions officers don't expect prospective students to have criminal justice experience, but applicants should have a high school diploma with a record of good grades in science courses. Colleges often ask for letters of recommendation from teachers or mentors, and most admissions officers look favorably on a student's community service activities.
Common Courses in a Bachelor's in Forensic Science Program
Crime Scene Investigation
This course covers the fundamentals of processing a scene and gathering evidence. Techniques include photography, fingerprint capture, hair and fiber collection, and witness interviews. Faculty emphasize the importance of the chain of evidence in the criminal justice system.
Professors in this class discuss the uses and limits of chemistry for evidence analysis. Students use common lab equipment to analyze samples of various substances, including fibers, paint, hair, soil, and narcotics. Online students may use a local facility for lab experience or may receive a lab kit for home use.
Students learn the role of forensic science and technology in understanding and prosecuting criminal acts. The curriculum generally ranges from gathering evidence at crime scenes to answering questions in court. Topics can include technology advances through the years, the "CSI effect" on jury expectations, and the role of DNA in correcting miscarriages of justice.
Introduction to Forensic Psychology
Even degrees that focus on natural sciences usually include this class to help students understand criminal behavior. Students learn the history of behavioral analysis in law enforcement and psychology's impact on criminal defense and sentencing reform. The curriculum also introduces the basic methodology for writing psychological profiles to be entered into evidence.
Research Methods in Criminal Justice
Enrollees adhere to the scientific method to design studies and test the results. As a culminating project, they map out a novel research project seeking to answer a question relevant to forensic science. Professors may also share cutting-edge research in the field and discuss the methods the researchers used in their designs.
What Can I Do With a Forensic Science Degree?
Specialists in forensic science usually work for law enforcement agencies or departments, but their work can touch other parts of the criminal justice system. No matter what branch of science they use, their work is designed to discover the truth about a crime wherever it may lead.
As technology and methods in the field advance, forensic science professionals can go to conferences and read professional journals to update their knowledge. Some employers and professional certifications require a certain number of continuing education hours per year, which can be done by attending seminars and webinars.
Crime Scene Investigator
CSIs collect and document physical evidence from crime scenes and ensure its safe passage to laboratories. They often assist medical examiners during autopsies to document evidence and contribute to toxicology reports. Many CSIs are sworn police officers who specialize in this field, but others are civilians — the requirements vary by department.
These are the crime laboratory technicians who analyze and interpret physical evidence. They must be organized and meticulous because any procedural misstep can impede an investigation or trial. Criminalists typically specialize in a particular field of forensic evidence such as toxicology, forensic DNA, or explosive residue and debris. The American Board of Criminalistics offers certification exams in eight specialties.
Digital Forensic Analyst
These analysts examine data from computer and mobile devices to use as digital evidence and detect both traditional and cybercrime. They are trained to recover deleted computer files, track people's locations using a phone's GPS information, and interpret security camera footage and audio recordings. Depending on their expertise, a digital forensic analyst might join one of several professional organizations for career development and support.
Forensic Document Examiner
These analysts are experts in writing instruments and technology, writing materials, and handwriting. They might authenticate a document by analyzing its ink, restore a damaged document to legibility, or compare handwriting samples to convict or exonerate a suspect. The American Board of Forensic Document Examiners provides continuing education on methods and materials and also certifies examiners.
Police officers start their careers on uniform patrol and can pass exams to gain increasing responsibilities such as crime scene investigation. A bachelor's degree generally isn't required to work at a local police department but is usually required for a job as an agent with the U.S. Department of Justice. A degree can also boost an officer's promotion package if they apply to be a detective. Uniformed officers have median yearly salaries of $65,540, and detectives earn median wages of $86,940 a year.
How to Choose an Online Bachelor’s Program in Forensic Science
Is an Online Forensic Science Bachelor’s Degree Worth It?
There's no answer to this question that suits every person. You need to weigh the factors that are most important to your lifestyle when deciding whether to pursue a bachelor's degree in forensic science. This degree may lead to a fulfilling job in a growing field but be sure to consider all the pros and cons before choosing to pursue it.
- Forensic science professionals report moderate to high levels of job satisfaction. They tend to point to the importance of their work as a major factor in happiness with their career choices
- Most forensic science jobs provide the opportunity to practice a variety of skills, including developing technical knowledge, critical thinking, problem-solvi
- The 16% job growth rate for forensic science technicians is twice the average rate for all U.S. occupations, but the actual number of these jobs is small — the BLS expects only 2,700 new positions from 2020-2030. Jobs in some specialties may be more in demand than others.
- According to a recent scholarly study, professionals who work at crime scenes tend to have higher levels of stress and greater potential for burnout than their lab-based colleagues. This includes CSIs who collect evidence.
You may also consider the virtue of studying forensic science online. Colleges have offered distance learning programs in the sciences for decades, and many students are drawn to the flexibility of asynchronous coursework. However, others prefer the interaction of a classroom and the ability to question professors in real time in classrooms or laboratories.
Frequently Asked Questions About Online Forensic Science Degrees
What Degree Is Best for Forensic Science?
The best degree depends on your career goals. For example, if you want to work as a forensic chemistry technician after college, you might choose a B.S. in Forensic Science and take as many chemistry electives as you're allowed. You can even choose a broader B.S. in Chemistry and apply for jobs in forensic science.
If you want to be a forensic psychologist, a good option is a B.S. in Forensic Psychology or psychology with a concentration in forensic or criminal psychology. You'll need to earn a doctorate to practice as a psychologist, but your B.S. may cover some prerequisite courses that you'd otherwise need to take before embarking on the doctoral degree. A B.S. could also allow you to work in the field sooner.
Is a Degree in Forensic Science Hard?
Every student has different aptitudes and abilities, so there's no blanket answer to this question. To succeed in a forensic science degree program, you'll need to demonstrate knowledge of various sciences through tests and lab work. You'll also need to write papers on the criminal justice system, diversity and inclusivity, and criminal justice ethics, which may be challenging. Some student reviews discuss professors with unclear expectations, but this concern isn't limited to this major.
Are Forensic Scientists in Demand?
The short answer is yes, but the big picture is more complicated. BLS projects a 16% increase in forensic science technician jobs through 2030 thanks to a backlog of cases in jurisdictions around the country.
However, even though this rate is twice the average for all U.S. jobs, the small number of total positions means that only 2,500 jobs on average will open each year over the next decade.
Many of the existing forensic science jobs are in high-density cities, but others are in less densely populated states such as Arizona.