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2023 Best Online Forensic Science Degrees

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 8/28/2023
2023 Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Forensic Science Badge

Forensic science bachelor's degrees take students into the world of evidence-based investigations. They involve a deep look at the criminal justice system, the individuals involved, and the crimes committed, both digitally and physically. Online degrees in forensic science can focus on specializations, such as forensic accounting, forensic psychology, or they can look more broadly at criminal justice, with an emphasis on forensic science. Online degrees in this field allow students to study remotely, tailor their education to their working schedule, and eventually enter a career in forensic science. 

Below is a list of the best online bachelor's degrees in forensic science. View our methodology for more details about our list or learn more about OnlineU.

2023 Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Forensic Science Badge
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Online Forensic Science Bachelor's Degrees You May Be Interested In

2023 Best Online Forensic Science Degrees

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 Columbia Southern University 100 100 $52,800
# 2 #2 American Public University System 99 $49,354
# 3 #3 University of Maryland Global Campus 96 $46,672
# 4 #4 Oakland City University 95 $45,808
# 5 #5 Columbia College - SC 94 $44,941
# 6 #6 Liberty University 83 $40,903
# 7 #7 University of Arkansas Grantham 69 $37,972
# 8 #8 DeVry University 66 $37,292
# 9 #9 Stevenson University 64 $36,968

#1 Columbia Southern University

  • Locations: Orange Beach (AL)
  • Annual Tuition: $6,600
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A

Columbia Southern University is a medium-sized, private institution with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration - Forensics. This is a flexible, online program built to prepare students with an understanding of criminal psychology and reconstructing crime scenes through investigative procedures. It requires 120 credit hours; however, with 90-transferable credits allowed, students may complete the program in as little as four to 10 weeks on a full-time schedule. Classes will include Criminology, Police and Community Relations, and Judicial Process — all through the online learning management system, Blackboard.

CSU offers online students academic support, career services, and access to a digital library. Graduates of this program may go on to explore careers as criminal investigators or forensic psychologists.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Avg. Aid Package: $3,552
  • Repayment Rate: 94%
  • Salary Score: 100
  • Avg. Starting Salary: $52,800
  • Avg. Graduation Rate: 22%
  • Retention Rate: 62%
  • Recommend Rate: 78%
  • School Type: For Profit
  • Undergraduate Online: 14,364 enrolled
  • Graduate Online: 5,670 enrolled
  • Certificate Online: 177 enrolled

#2 American Public University System

  • Locations: Charles Town (WV)
  • Annual Tuition: $7,324
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A

The American Public University System offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Digital Forensics that involves the recovery, investigation, examination, and analysis of material found in digital devices, often in relation to mobile devices and computer crime. Through this 120 credit program, students take fully online classes — such as Criminalistics, Criminology, and Constitutional Law — which all culminate into an eight-week capstone project. Most students commit to a full-time schedule in order to graduate in four years.

APU is a large, private university that uses Brightspace to deliver and manage online coursework. Further online resources for students include personalized career guidance and academic advising. Career advancement beyond graduation may include forensic analysts or computer forensics investigators.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Avg. Aid Package: $5,493
  • Repayment Rate: 87%
  • Salary Score: 99
  • Avg. Starting Salary: $49,354
  • Avg. Graduation Rate: 40%
  • Retention Rate: 87%
  • Recommend Rate: 69%
  • School Type: For Profit
  • Undergraduate Online: 37,335 enrolled
  • Graduate Online: 7,914 enrolled
  • Certificate Online: 1,816 enrolled

#3 University of Maryland Global Campus

  • Locations: Adelphi (MD)
  • Annual Tuition: $12,336
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A

Earning a Bachelor of Science in Investigative Forensics from the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) means studying cybersecurity procedures and digital forensics side-by-side. Students can take this particular program online through Learning Experience Online or in a hybrid format, each method requires 120 credit hours. The entire program may take four years to complete on a full-time schedule. Courses include Digital Forensics in the Criminal Justice System, Ethical Hacking, and Network Forensics.

UMGC is a large, public university with resources allocated for online students, such as academic support and lifetime career services. Career outcomes for students may involve joining the private or public sector as computer forensics investigators or cybersecurity analysts.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 46%
  • Avg. Aid Package: $4,663
  • Repayment Rate: 91%
  • Salary Score: 96
  • Avg. Starting Salary: $46,672
  • Avg. Graduation Rate: 15%
  • Retention Rate: 52%
  • Recommend Rate: 58%
  • School Type: Nonprofit (Public)
  • Undergraduate Online: 35,971 enrolled
  • Graduate Online: 10,876 enrolled
  • Certificate Online: 1,539 enrolled

#4 Oakland City University

  • Locations: Oakland City (IN)
  • Annual Tuition: $24,300
  • Acceptance Rate: 71%

Oakland City University (OCU) is a small, private institution with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Investigative Forensics. The majority of this four-year, 120-credit-hour program exposes students to the concepts of investigation in the criminal justice system. However, the minor in investigative forensics helps focus the scope of learning to look at criminal investigation, investigative photography, and advanced crime scene investigation. OCU graduates in criminal justice can look into careers as public policy specialists, private investigators, or crime and intelligence analysts.

Students may treat this as a full-time program with some completing the requirements in 24 months. Moodle is the primary system for distance learning students, who also have access to a wide range of resources, such as academic support, career advising, and counseling.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Avg. Aid Package: $24,722
  • Repayment Rate: 87%
  • Salary Score: 95
  • Avg. Starting Salary: $45,808
  • Avg. Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Retention Rate: 67%
  • Recommend Rate: N/A
  • School Type: Nonprofit (Private)
  • Undergraduate Online: 19 enrolled
  • Graduate Online: 41 enrolled
  • Certificate Online: N/A

#5 Columbia College - SC

  • Locations: Columbia (SC)
  • Annual Tuition: $19,890
  • Acceptance Rate: 87%

The Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice - Forensic track from Columbia College - SC is an overarching program focused on law enforcement relating to terrorism, homeland security, and emergency management. The concentration looks closer at forensics with courses in FBI Fingerprinting, Forensic Toxicology, and Crime Scene Investigations. Graduates may work as customs agents, U.S. Secret Service agents, or forensic investigators.

Columbia College is a small, public school offering online tutoring services and online coursework through Canvas. Up to 38 credit hours are required for this bachelor's program, but this includes all transferable credits. Full-time students with an existing foundational education in criminal justice can complete the program in one to two years.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Avg. Aid Package: $14,018
  • Repayment Rate: 88%
  • Salary Score: 94
  • Avg. Starting Salary: $44,941
  • Avg. Graduation Rate: 60%
  • Retention Rate: 68%
  • Recommend Rate: N/A
  • School Type: Nonprofit (Private)
  • Undergraduate Online: 332 enrolled
  • Graduate Online: 49 enrolled
  • Certificate Online: 1 enrolled

#6 Liberty University

  • Locations: Lynchburg (VA)
  • Annual Tuition: $11,700
  • Acceptance Rate: 30%

Liberty University (LU) has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Crime Scene Investigation requiring 120 credits — 75% of which are transferable. The core education surrounds criminal justice, but those enrolled in this program are considered forensic science degree students. Students learn how to analyze forensic laws and conduct criminal investigations in order to seek an advanced career as a forensic scientist. Additionally, LU is a large, private institution featuring an online writing center for remote students.

This is a four-year degree, which most students complete on a full-time schedule. Courses are conducted fully online through Canvas. Some of the core courses include Crime Scene Photography, Introduction to Forensics, and Crime Scene Management.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Avg. Aid Package: $11,369
  • Repayment Rate: N/A
  • Salary Score: 83
  • Avg. Starting Salary: $40,903
  • Avg. Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Retention Rate: 81%
  • Recommend Rate: 55%
  • School Type: Nonprofit (Private)
  • Undergraduate Online: 34,092 enrolled
  • Graduate Online: 36,337 enrolled
  • Certificate Online: 450 enrolled

#7 University of Arkansas Grantham

  • Locations: Kansas City (KS)
  • Annual Tuition: $8,280
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A

The University of Arkansas Grantham offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice - Computer Forensic Investigation, which blends criminal justice theory with practical law enforcement tactics. The Computer Forensic Investigation concentration allows students to apply those skills to digital crimes through computer analysis. Coursework includes Criminology, Juvenile Justice, and Criminal Justice Ethics. This is a 120-credit-hour and fully online program delivered through the learning management system, Blackboard. Students often take at least 38 months to complete it on a full-time schedule.

UA Grantham is a part of the University of Arkansas, which is a large public institution. They offer career services and include a laptop for each incoming student. Career outcomes typically involve becoming law enforcement officers working on computer forensic investigations.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Avg. Aid Package: $5,279
  • Repayment Rate: 100%
  • Salary Score: 69
  • Avg. Starting Salary: $37,972
  • Avg. Graduation Rate: 22%
  • Retention Rate: 40%
  • Recommend Rate: 56%
  • School Type: For Profit
  • Undergraduate Online: 5,896 enrolled
  • Graduate Online: 1,183 enrolled
  • Certificate Online: 27 enrolled

#8 DeVry University

  • Locations: Multiple Locations
  • Annual Tuition: $18,197
  • Acceptance Rate: 93%

DeVry University is a small, private college offering a robust Bachelor of Science in Justice Administration - Digital Forensics. This concentration involves the recovery, investigation, examination and analysis of material found in digital devices, often in relation to mobile devices and computer crime. Through 122 credits, coursework will include Criminology, Cybercrime, and Digital Forensics, alongside a senior project.

DeVry's bachelor's program can be completed online through Canvas or in a hybrid learning environment that involves some in-person learning. Students can receive academic support online and on campus. Graduates may pursue careers as discovery managers, private investigators, or police officers.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Avg. Aid Package: $5,833
  • Repayment Rate: 82%
  • Salary Score: 66
  • Avg. Starting Salary: $37,292
  • Avg. Graduation Rate: 27%
  • Retention Rate: 50%
  • Recommend Rate: 59%
  • School Type: For Profit
  • Undergraduate Online: 16,922 enrolled
  • Graduate Online: 4,399 enrolled
  • Certificate Online: 75 enrolled

#9 Stevenson University

  • Locations: Stevenson (MD)
  • Annual Tuition: $37,142
  • Acceptance Rate: 61%

Stevenson University's fully online Bachelor to Forensic Science Master's Degree Program combines a master's and bachelor's program for students with 60 existing credits that have already been completed. Both the biochemistry and biology bachelor's degrees can be used to advance into their corresponding forensic science master's degree. The biology program will include courses such as Ecology and Evolution and Genetics, while the biochemistry program will include Cell Biology and Genetics and Calculus. Once students reach the master's level, coursework will shift to include Trace Evidence, Toxicology, and DNA Analysis.

Students may complete either program in as little as four years on a full-time schedule, depending on their transferable undergraduate credits. Career tracks upon graduation can include working as forensic chemists, crime scene investigators, or forensic DNA analysts, to name a few options. Stevenson University is a medium-sized, nonprofit institution that has academic support for online students and a digital library.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Avg. Aid Package: $23,153
  • Repayment Rate: 92%
  • Salary Score: 64
  • Avg. Starting Salary: $36,968
  • Avg. Graduation Rate: 60%
  • Retention Rate: 82%
  • Recommend Rate: N/A
  • School Type: Nonprofit (Private)
  • Undergraduate Online: 241 enrolled
  • Graduate Online: 471 enrolled
  • Certificate Online: 1 enrolled
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Overview of Online Bachelor's Degrees in Forensic Science

Forensic science is an essential part of criminal investigations. Specialists in forensic science usually work for law enforcement agencies or departments but their work can also touch on 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 and aid the courts during trials.

To become a forensic scientist, you'll need to earn at least a bachelor's degree in forensic science. These degrees go by different titles that often reflect a specialization within forensic science, such as crime scene investigation or digital forensic analysis. Regardless of these distinctions, however, most programs result in a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree.

Forensic Science Program Requirements

Online bachelor's in forensic science degrees typically require the completion of 120-124 credit hours. Most students need four to five years of full-time study to complete all of the program requirements. Part-time students may need longer. 

Besides classwork, most forensic science programs require many hours of lab and field work. Programs may include an internship or capstone course that ties together students' knowledge and provides an opportunity to gain real-world experience.

If you're not sure about pursuing a forensic science degree, you may want to consider programs in related fields. Learn more about online bachelor's degrees in criminology, cybersecurity, or law enforcement.

Common Courses in an Online Forensic Science Bachelor's Degree

Online forensic science programs are designed to teach students about criminal procedure and applied research methods. Some concentrations focus on more specific areas of criminal procedures. For example, forensic biology programs teach students to evaluate biological evidence, such as blood and saliva, and determine DNA findings. 

Below, we've listed several examples of courses that undergraduates are likely to encounter in a forensic science program:

Crime Scene Investigation

This course covers the fundamentals of processing a scene and following legal methods for evidence collection. Techniques include photography, fingerprinting, hair and fiber collection, and witness interviews. Faculty emphasize the importance of the chain of evidence in the criminal justice system.

Forensic Chemistry

Professors in this class discuss the uses and limits of chemistry for analyzing evidence. Students use common lab equipment to analyze samples of various substances, including fibers, paint, hair, and soil. Online students may use a local facility for lab experience or may receive a lab kit for home use.

Forensic Criminology

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

A forensic psychology class is designed 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

Learners use the scientific method to design studies and test the results. As a final project, they map out an original 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 researchers used in their designs.

What Can You Do With a Forensic Science Degree?

Depending on the program, courses, and electives you choose, a bachelor's degree in forensic science can prepare you for a number of different career paths. You might spend most of your time at crime scenes, collecting evidence and searching for information. Then again, you may work in a crime laboratory, where you'll process and analyze evidence.

Forensic Science Careers

We've listed a few forensic science jobs below that graduates can attain once they've earned a bachelor's degree in forensic science. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) places these jobs in the broad category of forensic science technicians, who earn a median annual salary of $61,930 and can expect a job growth rate of 11% through 2031.

Crime Scene Investigator

CSIs collect and document physical evidence from crime scenes and ensure its safe passage to a crime laboratory. 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. Job requirements vary by department.


These are the crime laboratory technicians who analyze and interpret forensic evidence, including trace evidence. They must be organized and meticulous because any procedural misstep could damage an investigation or trial. Criminalists typically specialize in a particular field of forensic evidence, such as toxicology, ballistics, or explosive residue and debris. The American Board of Criminalistics offers certification exams in eight specialties.

Digital Forensic Analyst

These forensic analysts examine data from computer and mobile devices to use as digital evidence and detect both traditional crime and cybercrime. They are trained to recover deleted computer files, track people's locations using 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.

Is a 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 and goals 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 of the pros and cons before choosing to pursue it.

Potential Benefits

  • 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 their happiness with their career.

  • Earning a bachelor’s degree in forensic science prepares individuals to earn higher levels of education in this area, such as a Master’s of Science in Forensic Science or Forensic Psychology. An advanced degree may qualify you for higher-paying positions in the field of forensic science.

Potential Drawbacks

  • The BLS predicts an 11% job growth rate for forensic science technicians, but the actual number of these jobs is small. The BLS expects only 2,500 new positions each year from through 2031. Jobs in some specialties may be in greater demand than others.

  • According to a 2021 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. 

  • Since technology is always improving and new scientific discoveries are constantly being made, forensic science technicians must commit to continuous learning to keep up with new information. 

How To Choose an Online Forensic Science Bachelor's Program

Selecting a college program is a major decision, so it's important to have as much information as you can before you enroll. One thing you'll want to check on is each school's accreditation status. All of the schools on our list of the best online forensic science degrees are accredited. This means that each school has been reviewed by an authorized, independent authority to make sure that it meets national standards for educational excellence. 

Not only is it an assurance of a quality education, attending an accredited school can also make it easier to qualify for financial aid or to transfer credits to another school. A bachelor's degree from an accredited college may also be required to be accepted into a master's program.

In addition to institutional-level accreditation, individual programs can earn accreditation. The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) is the accrediting agency for forensic science degree programs. For a program to be accredited by FEPAC, it must be designed to meet forensic science industry standards. 

You may also want to consider the benefits of enrollment in a forensic science online program. Colleges have offered distance learning programs in the sciences for decades, and many students are drawn to the flexibility of online coursework. Asynchronous courses that allow you to access course materials and complete assignments on your own schedule are especially appealing for some students. However, others prefer the interaction of a classroom and the ability to question professors in real time in classrooms or laboratories.

What Else Should You Consider?

Of course, there are several other factors to consider before choosing a forensic science degree program. Cost is one of them, and tuition is only one part of the total cost of a degree. You'll also need to add in fees, books, and other supplies. 

According to the College Board's 2022 report, the average annual tuition fee for four-year public schools is $10,940 and for four-year private schools is $39,400. The report also states that students spend an average of $1,240 on books and other supplies each year. 

If you're looking to save money, keep in mind that online students don't need to pay for college room and board or transportation, which can lead to considerable savings. Applying for financial aid can also help you reduce costs. Another option is to complete 45-60 credit hours at a less expensive community college and then transfer credits to a four-year university to complete your undergraduate degree. 

Each school's application deadlines and admissions criteria may influence your decision as well. Some colleges are more selective about the students they accept. Depending on the college's admissions criteria, you may need to have earned a high school GPA of at least 2.5 or possibly higher. The most selective schools often set earlier application deadlines, so you may need to apply up to a full year in advance of the fall semester when you plan to start attending classes. 

If you're looking for ways to save money on your education, be sure to check out our lists of the most affordable online criminal justice bachelor's degrees, criminal justice master's degrees, forensic accounting bachelor's degrees, and forensic science master's degrees.

FAQs About Forensic Science Degrees

Is Forensic Science a Good Career?

If you’re interested in science and have a desire to help victims of crime, forensic science may be a great career option for you. Overall, forensic science technicians rate their job satisfaction quite highly, putting the field in the top 34% of occupations in terms of career happiness. After earning an online degree in forensic science, you can pursue a career that is satisfying and fulfilling.

Is a Degree in Forensic Science Hard?

Every student has different aptitudes and abilities, so what is easy for some may be more difficult for others. To succeed in a forensic science degree program, you'll need to demonstrate your knowledge of various sciences through tests and lab work. You'll also need to write papers on investigative forensics, the criminal justice system, and criminal justice ethics, which may be demanding. 

Are Forensic Scientists in Demand?

The short answer is yes, but the big picture is more complicated. The BLS projects an 11% increase in forensic science technician jobs over the next eight to ten years due to advances in science and technology as well as a backlog of cases in jurisdictions around the country. However, only about 2,500 jobs will open each year, resulting in a total of 19,600 positions by 2031. 

What Degree Is Best for Forensic Science?

The best degree for forensic science depends on your career goals. If you want to be a forensic scientist involved in crime scene investigations, you'll want to pursue a bachelor's degree and possibly a master's degree in forensic science. However, you can also be part of forensic investigations with a different degree in the broader field of forensic science, such as forensic psychology or forensic accounting.

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