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2022 Best Online Master's in Forensic Science

By Holly Johnson | Updated 8/1/2022
2022 Best Online Master's Degrees in Forensic Science Badge

A forensic science master's degree is a critical stepping stone for students wishing to advance their career in this field. These online programs explore this specialization by melding scientific analysis with an understanding of criminal scenarios. Online students are conveniently positioned to study at their own pace, which allows them to work at an entry-level job in a law enforcement organization, law office, or private laboratory as they study. Upon graduation, advanced roles as consultants, analysts, or investigators may be achieved through the connections earned in their online master's degree program. 

Students may want to look at similar alternative options, such as a master's in forensic psychology or criminal justice, each with their own specialized coursework within the criminal justice system. 

View our methodology for more details about rankings or learn more about OnlineU.

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2022 Best Online Master's in Forensic Science

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 Champlain College 91 91 $76,851
# 2 #2 Concordia University - Saint Paul 87 $69,006
# 3 #3 West Virginia University 81 $59,928
# 4 #4 Carlow University 77 $56,682
# 5 #5 Stevenson University 77 $56,472
# 6 #6 Michigan State University 74 $53,283
# 7 #7 Arizona State University 73 $53,158
# 8 #8 Nova Southeastern University 71 $51,292

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2022 Online Colleges Offering Master's Degrees

Ranking Details

#1 Champlain College

  • Salary Score: 91
  • Median Starting Salary: $76,851
  • Locations: Burlington (VT)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

Champlain College is a medium-sized, nonprofit institution with designations of academic excellence from top government organizations, including the US National Security Agency. They offer a Master of Science in Digital Forensic Science that's aimed at turning students into scientists using hands-on investigative techniques focused on real-world scenarios. They also teach over 30 scripting languages and cloud and software applications. Career outcomes include digital forensics examiner, analyst, or consultant.

The program is 100% online using Canvas, a distance learning platform. Classes include Mobile Device Analysis, Scripting for Digital Forensic, and The Practice of Digital Investigations. Up to 36 credit hours are required including a capstone research thesis, which invites students to develop their own investigative methodology. Students may take two to three years to complete the program on a part- or full-time schedule.

#2 Concordia University - Saint Paul

  • Salary Score: 87
  • Median Starting Salary: $69,006
  • Locations: Saint Paul (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Master of Arts in Human Services - Forensic Behavioral Health from Concordia University - Saint Paul (CSP) is a full-time, 100% online program — where students learn how mental health interacts with forensics and how intervention can improve the lives of those caught in the criminal justice system. Students will engage with coursework such as Risk Assessment in Human Services and Forensic Behavioral Health Law for the Human Service Professional. The program requires 36 credit hours and generally takes two years to complete. A capstone project is mandatory in which students create a 50-page thesis on a behavioral topic related to forensics. Students can explore careers as a correctional caseworker, crisis intervention specialist, or detoxification specialist, among others.

As a medium-sized, nonprofit college, career services and tutoring are included for all of CSP's online students, as well as access to the distance learning program known as Blackboard.

#3 West Virginia University

  • Salary Score: 81
  • Median Starting Salary: $59,928
  • Locations: Morgantown (WV)
  • Accreditation: HLC

West Virginia University's (WVU) Master of Science in Forensic and Fraud Examination takes on the study of financial crimes through the lenses of business, law, taxation, and data technology. The program consists of 30 credit hours, where students encounter core classes such as Fraud Data Analysis, Advanced Fraud Investigation, and Private Company Valuation. The final project asks students to study two real-life cases and present their findings in written and oral formats. Students may complete the entire program in around two years, with post-graduation career opportunities — including specialized accountants for government agencies or auditors for private firms.

WVU is a large, public university with academic advisors ready to help students navigate their fully online education process. All online coursework is taught through the Blackboard learning management system.

#4 Carlow University

  • Salary Score: 77
  • Median Starting Salary: $56,682
  • Locations: Pittsburgh (PA) (and 2 others)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The Master's in Forensic Accounting & Fraud Investigation from Carlow University is a fully-online 14-month program where students will learn to conduct digital financial investigations. Over the course of 30 credit hours, the program will explore White Collar Crime, Fraud & Forensics Community Experience, and Anti-Money Laundering. All coursework can be completed in two years on a full-time schedule. CelticOnline is used for all distance learning courses.

Carlow also has a Master of Business Administration in Fraud and Forensics, which teaches aspiring business leaders how to investigate and prevent fraudulent activity. While each program differs slightly, career outcomes remain similar with many students going on to become financial fraud investigators or forensic audit experts. Although Carlow is a small, nonprofit institution, they still manage to offer 24/7 online tech support for all distance learners.

#5 Stevenson University

  • Salary Score: 77
  • Median Starting Salary: $56,472
  • Locations: Stevenson (MD)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Stevenson University is a medium-sized, nonprofit institution offering a comprehensive Master of Forensic Science that delves into the tools, technologies, and laws surrounding forensic evidence. Students can choose from a biology or chemistry concentration, with core classes such as Physical Evidence at Crime Scenes, DNA Analysis, and Toxicology. Coursework can be tailored to fit a working individual's schedule, with most students completing the program in one to two years. Stevenson uses Blackboard for their fully online classes.

Similar programs in forensics include the Master of Science in Forensic Studies and Master of Science in Forensic Investigation. Forensic studies focuses on the legal processes as they relate to forensic evidence, while the investigatory program involves analyzing, evaluating, and documenting criminal evidence. Each program has a slightly separate career avenue, although students from each program will be prepared to enter the public or private sector as forensic specialists.

#6 Michigan State University

  • Salary Score: 74
  • Median Starting Salary: $53,283
  • Locations: East Lansing (MI)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Master of Science in Cybercrime and Digital Investigation from Michigan State University is a 30-credit hour program focused on cybercriminology through detailed coursework in Crime Causation, Prevention and Control, Design and Analysis in Criminal Justice Research, and Legislative and Policy Responses to Cybercrime. The program will culminate in a capstone project on Analysis of Contemporary Cyberthreats, where students will complete a research brief on a specific threat. Students can reach graduation in two years on a full-time schedule, leading to advanced placement as a forensic detective, financial investigator, or cybercrime investigator.

MSU uses a flexible online format, with Brightspace operating as their primary learning platform. This large, public institution offers 24/7 tech support and career advisors.

#7 Arizona State University

  • Salary Score: 73
  • Median Starting Salary: $53,158
  • Locations: Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Arizona State University (ASU) provides 100% online coursework through their Professional Science Master's in Forensic Science. Exploring the intersection of forensic lab work, scientific ethics, and the medicolegal fields, this master's degree is meant to elevate working professionals to the next level in their forensic science careers. The 36-credit course load includes Forensic Science and Governance, Applied Biostatistics in Medicine and Informatics, and Advanced Forensic Psychology — all culminating in a final scientific presentation.

ASU is a large, public university that uses LearnX to operate its fully online program, which can take two years to complete. Resources for distance learning students can be accessed on the student portal and include career advice, counseling, health webinars, and crisis intervention. Students could see career advancement as forensic nurses, laboratory managers, or forensic anthropologists.

#8 Nova Southeastern University

  • Salary Score: 71
  • Median Starting Salary: $51,292
  • Locations: Fort Lauderdale (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Nova Southeastern University's (NSU) Master of Science in Criminal Justice program features a concentration in Investigative Forensic Technology. The core coursework delves into the intricacies of the criminal justice system as a whole, while the concentration provides specialized training in forensic tools, procedures, and new technologies. Classes include Firearm, Fingerprints and Other Impression Evidence, DNA Technology, and Crime Scene. Many graduates go on to become forensic specialists at law enforcement agencies.

NSU is a medium-sized, nonprofit institution with a student support center dedicated to technical support services. Canvas is NSU's digital learning management system for online students. Students can earn their degree in around two years on a full-time schedule via mostly online coursework. Overall, thirty credits are required alongside a field-based practicum and thesis project.

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What Is Forensic Science?

According to the National Institute of Justice, forensic science is "the application of sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, and engineering to matters of law." Disciplines in this field of study can include forensic molecular biology (DNA), trace evidence examination, fingerprint examination, forensic toxicology, and more.

You probably know by now that forensic science is a critical element of the criminal justice system, mostly due to the fact it paves the way toward proving a person's guilt or innocence when it comes to a specific crime. If you are interested in entering the field of criminal justice but you want to work behind-the-scenes, read on to learn more about this rewarding degree and career path.

We also have the best online master's programs in similar fields, such as criminal justice and legal studies.

Common Courses in Forensic Science Master's Programs

While you typically only need a bachelor's degree and on-the-job training to work as a forensic science technician, you can also choose to pursue a forensic science master's program online or in-person. Doing so can open the door to a broader range of career options within the field of criminal justice, some of which come with higher pay and more job opportunities.

Students who pursue graduate-level forensic science education will move on to more advanced subjects within this field, although courses can vary based on the specialization or concentration chosen. If you're considering this degree, you can expect to take some of the following forensic science courses online or in-person:

Blood Distribution and Spatter

This course helps students learn how blood distribution and spatter are used as evidence at a crime scene. The direction and makeup of this evidence can tell the story of how a crime was committed, thus paving the way for proof of who commited the crime and when. Students will learn blood distribution and spatter theory, as well as how to document and collect this important evidence at the scene.

Crime Scene Investigation

This course builds on crime scene investigation techniques students learned during their bachelor's degree program. Topics covered include recording of evidence at the crime scene, fingerprints and DNA evidence, bloodstain pattern analysis, and specialized scene examinations, to name a few. Students will also learn about the importance of using professional practices at the crime scene, and how documentation of data is crucial for the purpose of criminal justice.

Ethics in Forensic Science

This course introduces students to the codes of ethics faced within the field of forensic science and, more importantly, why they matter. Students will learn about various ethical dilemmas they may face in their careers, as well as how to handle them.

Forensic Genetics

Experts in forensic science must also understand basic genetic principles and how they apply to the field of forensic science. Students will learn techniques involved in DNA profiling, as well as interpretations and applications of forensic DNA analysis. The basic principles of inheritance are also outlined in this course, along with genome mapping and the role of genetics in disease.

Forensic DNA Analysis

This course introduces students to advanced techniques within the field of DNA analysis. Topics covered can include DNA isolation, quantitation, amplification, separation, and more. Students will also learn to read the data they receive from various DNA analyzation tools and how to accurately interpret and report their findings.

Forensic Science Careers

Most individuals who enter this field do so in order to pursue a career as a forensic scientist or forensic science technician. Experts in this field are masters when it comes to the careful collection of evidence, and they typically spend part of their careers at crime scenes and the rest in laboratories, offices, or both.

While you typically do not need an online master's in forensic science to become a forensic science technician, earning a graduate degree in this field can help you stay competitive in the workforce or climb the career ladder to a management position.



The top 10% of earners in this career brought in an average annual wage of $103,430 nationally in 2021 — and even the top 25% earned $80,670

As of May 2021, forensic science technicians earned a median annual wage of $61,930 nationally, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, government figures show that the top 10% of earners in this career brought in an average annual wage of $103,430 nationally in 2021 — and even the top 25% earned $80,670. Meanwhile, jobs in this field are expected to increase by 16% during the decade leading up to 2030, which compares favorably to the 8% in expected job growth among all occupations combined.

Other careers for those who pursue a master's degree in forensic science are outlined below:

Forensic Accountant

Annual Median Salary: $77,250
Job Growth Rate: 7%

Forensic accountants work with numbers just like traditional accountants do, but they are typically employed by government agencies as well as insurance companies, corporate offices, and law offices. These accountants use their knowledge of accounting principles to search for unlawful and hidden transactions, including fraud and other types of illegal activity.

Forensic Chemist

Annual Median Salary: $79,430
Job Growth Rate: 6%

While many chemists only need a bachelor's degree to get started in their chosen profession, research jobs often require a master's degree. With that in mind, a traditional or online master's in forensic science can help you get started as a forensic chemist. These professionals use their knowledge of chemistry in order to solve crimes. For example, they use chemistry techniques to test evidence, including DNA, so they can report their findings. Forensic chemists spend most of their work time behind-the-scenes in a laboratory environment, but they are also frequently called upon to testify in court.

Forensic Computer Systems Analyst

Annual Median Salary: $99,270
Job Growth Rate: 7%

While computer systems analysts typically only need a bachelor's degree, a master's degree in forensic science can help these professionals learn new skills that translate to the field of criminal justice. For example, forensic computer systems analysts use technology and their vast knowledge to track the digital footprints of criminals in order to solve crimes. In addition to earning a master's in forensic science and taking computer science courses, earning a Certified Forensic Computer Examiner credential through the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS) can help you get started in this career.

Material Scientist

Annual Median Salary: $100,090
Job Growth Rate: 6%

Chemists and material scientists use their knowledge and expertise in order to plan and carry out various research projects in a number of fields. They often prepare solutions and compounds for use in laboratory settings, and they may conduct tests on materials and other substances. Like other scientists, material scientists learn how to write technical reports that accurately document their findings, and they often present their research to other colleagues in their field.

Detective or Criminal Investigator

Annual Median Salary: $66,020
Job Growth Rate: 7%

Educational requirements for police detectives and criminal investigators vary, although requirements for a four-year degree in criminal justice or a related field are common. Detectives must also complete the training academy requirements for their state or municipality, and they must undergo on-the-job training as well. That said, earning a master's in forensic science online can help criminal investigators and detectives enhance their skills considerably for the purpose of data analysis and evidence collection.

Is Getting a Masters in Forensic Science Worth It?

Pros

You can help bring criminals to justice. Individuals who pursue degrees in forensic science are uniquely positioned to bring criminals to justice using real, indisputable evidence that can be proven in the court of law.

Use your skills and knowledge to exonerate the innocent. Just like forensic evidence can be used to bring criminals to justice, this degree and other criminology degrees can help innocent people escape the consequences of being wrongly convicted of a crime.

Qualify for a broader range of criminal justice careers. Earning a master's degree can position you to qualify for a larger number of career opportunities inside and outside of the field of criminal justice.

Cons

Many jobs in forensic science only require a bachelor's degree. Forensic science bachelor’s programs are sufficient to become a forensic science technician, so you may not need a graduate degree at all.

Another graduate degree program could help you earn a higher salary. Also note that many criminal justice jobs feature lower pay than other careers. In fact, the best online master's degree programs feature incredible return-on-investment when you compare the cost of tuition and fees to current salary data.

Advanced courses required for a master's in forensic science are notoriously difficult. If you choose this degree program, get ready to study around the clock. Common courses for this degree program include ones that are known for being difficult, such as chemistry, calculus, biology, toxicology, and more.

FAQs About an Online Master's in Forensic Science

Can You Do Forensic Science Online?


You can definitely choose to pursue a degree in forensic science online, and that's true whether you want to pursue a traditional, four-year degree or you want to earn a master's degree in forensic science. You can even choose to specialize in a related field, including the pursuit of an online master's in forensic psychology.

Note that many schools offering this graduate degree online do so with the same curriculum they extend to students who attend courses in-person. Generally speaking, an online degree is equivalent to an in-person one. Students who opt to pursue a master's of forensic science online do so with the help of message boards, online webinars and lectures, virtual testing, and other digital tools and resources.

Is Forensic Science Hard?


Because of the focus on math and science in this field, a forensic science career is not the easiest one to pursue. If you plan to earn a degree in forensic science, you should plan on taking courses in chemistry, toxicology, biology, anatomy and physiology, and advanced mathematics.

How is Calculus Used in Forensic Science?


It's easy to believe you won't need math in a forensic science career, but this is actually not the case. The fact is, forensic scientists and crime scene investigators use mathematical principles, like calculus, to calculate various pieces of evidence at a crime scene. For example, they may examine blood spatter and use math to determine the distance between a victim and a perpetrator when a crime was committed.

What Degree is Needed for a Career in Forensic Science?


There are many different degree options to consider within the field of forensic science, although they are mostly variations of the Bachelor of Science (BS) with a concentration in Forensic Science. For example, one could pursue a BS in Biochemistry with a concentration in Forensic Science, a BS in Genetic Engineering with a concentration in Forensic Science, a BS in Forensic Chemistry, or a BS in Forensic Biology.

There are also many graduate-level degree options within this field, including a Master of Science in Forensic Science, Master of Science in Forensic Biology, Master of Science in Forensic Psychology, among others.

Is Forensic Science a Good Career?


Only you can decide if forensic science is a good career choice. However, there are plenty of reasons to believe this career path is a rewarding one for most people.

For example, data reported to CareerExplorer shows that forensic science technicians experience a high level of job satisfaction. Since job openings for forensic science technicians are expected to increase twice as fast (16% compared to 8%) as job openings for all occupations nationally through 2030, you can also expect to find ample job opportunities if you choose to pursue a career in this field.

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