2020 Best Online Master's in Forensic Science Degrees

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 3/9/2020
2020 Best Online Master's in Forensic Science Badge

The 12 best value online master's programs in forensic science programs can be found at these colleges and universities. Graduates of the #1-ranked school, the University of Rhode Island, reported a median salary of $99,600. Florida International University, ranked #2, offers an annual tuition of only $14,400 for its Professional Science Masters in Forensic Science. Graduates of Florida International University reported an average mid-career salary of $97,224.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 University of Rhode Island $15,390 $99,600
# 2 #2 Florida International University $14,400 $97,224
# 3 #3 DeSales University $11,625 $94,500
# 4 #4 University of Central Florida $11,117 $94,282
# 5 #5 West Virginia University $14,475 $95,473
# 6 #6 University of South Florida Online $11,586 $89,758
# 7 #7 University of New Haven $28,200 $90,221
# 8 #8 Nova Southeastern University $11,700 $79,814
# 9 #9 National University $11,934 $73,100
# 10 #10 California University of Pennsylvania $9,468 $66,500
# 11 #11 Saint Joseph's University $13,305 $63,800
# 12 #12 Saint Leo University Online $10,620 $57,600
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo

2020 Online Colleges Offering Forensic Science Degrees - Ranking Details

#1 University of Rhode Island

  • Annual Tuition: $15,390
  • Median Salary: $99,600
  • Locations: Kingston (RI)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The Cyber Security Professional Science Master’s (PSM) program at the University of Rhode Island offers working professionals the flexibility they need to advance their education. The online graduate degree offers tracks in Forensics or Security. There is no thesis or culminating project requirement. Instead, students participate in research opportunities as part of the program curriculum. The program also requires an internship, which students can usually complete at their current job. Students can expect to take classes such as Professional Skills for Cyber Security, Advanced Topics in Network and Systems Security, and Advanced Digital Forensics. The online component of this master’s degree can be accessed through the Brightspace learning management system. Through Brightspace, students can submit their assignments, take quizzes, participate in group discussions, and track their grades. Online students have access to technical support and other virtual resources such as library services, academic advising, and accessibility services. To apply, students must have a bachelor’s degree in a closely related subject, with at least a 3.0 GPA. Applicants must submit an application, a statement of purpose, transcripts, and two letters of recommendation for consideration; GRE scores are not required.

#2 Florida International University

  • Annual Tuition: $14,400
  • Median Salary: $97,224
  • Locations: Miami (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Professional Science Master’s (PSM) in Forensic Science degree at Florida International University combines technical forensic science with business administration and management coursework. The program is suited for STEM-focused professionals looking to start or advance their careers in crime labs, medical examiner’s labs, or in the field of law enforcement. Students in this online forensic science program have access to cutting-edge lab instruments and state-of-the-art research facilities. The PSM degree at FIU is a 16-month program facilitated in a cohort format. Coursework includes classes in forensic biology, chemistry and analysis of drugs, statistics, and organizational behavior. Students can expect to participate in classroom discussions, watch lectures, complete assignments, and read and synthesize lesson materials using the Canvas learning management system. A final project with an internship at a private or public organization is required for graduation. Those with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution can apply to FIU’s PSM program by submitting an online application, academic transcripts indicating at least a 3.0 GPA, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Students may need to attend an interview as an additional step in the admissions process. There are a number of services available to online graduate students, including success coaches and tutoring, IT support, career development opportunities, and virtual library access.

#3 DeSales University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,625
  • Median Salary: $94,500
  • Locations: Center Valley (PA)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The Master of Criminal Justice in Investigative Forensics (MACJ) at DeSales University is a science-based program with a focus on criminal justice, particularly violent crimes. The curriculum for this online forensic science program covers forensic psychology and advanced studies in criminology and crime scene investigation. The faculty consists of experienced, renowned professionals who help students connect law enforcement theories with their practical applications. Classes are primarily taught using the Blackboard learning management system and may be either synchronous or asynchronous, depending on the course and the instructor. Students can work independently within that framework, allowing students who are working professionally to continue to do so while earning their graduate degree. Students working in the criminal justice system will receive a 20% reduction in tuition. The application process requires students to submit an online application, along with a personal statement explaining their professional goals and interests, and three letters of recommendation. Applications are considered year-round, and admission is granted on a rolling basis. Academic resources for MACJ students include professional and peer tutoring, technology support, and accessibility services.

#4 University of Central Florida

  • Annual Tuition: $11,117
  • Median Salary: $94,282
  • Locations: Orlando (FL) (and 7 others)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Master of Science in Forensic Science degree at the University of Central Florida is designed for working professionals seeking a flexible, online option for pursuing advanced study in the field. The program offers concentrations in Forensic Analysis and Forensics Biochemistry, both of which require research and a thesis. A third option, Forensic Professional, requires an independent study project instead of a thesis. UCF also offers an online Master of Science in Digital Forensics degree, which is a cross-disciplinary program that combines coursework in chemistry, criminal justice, legal studies, electrical engineering, and computer science. Classes are delivered entirely online through the Canvas learning management system. The program is primarily asynchronous to accommodate students continuing to work professionally while earning their degrees. Those studying full-time can complete the degree in two years. Students can expect to be supported by their UCF Online Connect Center success coach, dedicated academic advisors, and the IT Help Desk. Students can also take part in any on-campus activities, and are welcome to use the on-campus libraries in addition to the digital library. Graduates of this program can pursue career opportunities in digital forensics and computer and technology crime investigation. To apply, prospective students should submit an online application, official transcripts, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, and a personal essay covering the reasons for their interest in forensics.

#5 West Virginia University

  • Annual Tuition: $14,475
  • Median Salary: $95,473
  • Locations: Morgantown (WV)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The online Master of Science in Forensic and Fraud Examination degree at West Virginia University is offered through the John Chambers College of Business and Economics. The program plays an important role in developing a curriculum for other forensic and fraud accounting programs in the country. Students learn how to recognize financial crimes perpetrated by businesses and individuals. The course covers multidisciplinary skills, including accounting and taxation, business, data technology, and law. In addition to ten online courses taught through the Blackboard learning management system, students complete two required in-person residencies. Coursework includes detailed simulations, lectures, oral and written presentations, and hands-on experiential opportunities. The curriculum prepares students to take the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) exam. Graduates of this program may pursue jobs in public, private, and federal agencies that require specialized accounting professionals. The application process involves the submission of an online application, an updated resume, a statement of purpose, and academic transcripts. Prerequisite coursework in accounting must be completed before students can begin their graduate studies. There are three start dates to the program, and students must apply by the appropriate deadline in order to start in the term of their choice.

#6 University of South Florida Online

  • Annual Tuition: $11,586
  • Median Salary: $89,758
  • Locations: Tampa (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The University of South Florida has a 30-credit interdisciplinary Master of Science in Cybersecurity – Digital Forensics degree. The program is best suited for those with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a closely related field. Designed for busy working professionals, online classes are taught in short eight-week sessions. Students may start in the fall, spring, or summer. This master’s in forensic science online program teaches students how to investigate, collect, and preserve evidence when analyzing network vulnerabilities and attacks. The curriculum includes 15 credits of core courses and 15 credits of digital forensics. The purpose of the program is to help students deepen their understanding of investigative methods and forensic techniques as applied to cybercrime. Academic requirements include courses in data security, cryptography, risk management, and disaster recovery. The program requires a practicum and development of an electronic portfolio of work samples. Admission to the USF online forensic science degree requires a bachelor’s with a 3.0 GPA in upper-division courses, three recommendation letters, transcripts, a resume, a statement of purpose, and a writing sample. In addition to conversations with faculty advisors, students can find resources on academic advising, career preparedness, and online learning on the FloridaShines website.

#7 University of New Haven

  • Annual Tuition: $28,200
  • Median Salary: $90,221
  • Locations: West Haven (CT)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The University of New Haven offers a customizable 30-credit Master of Science in Investigations. This 100% online forensic science degree can be tailored to a student’s interests and career ambitions by adding a concentration in Criminal Investigations, Digital Forensic Investigations, and Financial Crimes Investigations. The curriculum includes 21 credits of required core courses and nine credits in the concentration. Core courses focus on forensic science, criminal procedures, and investigative techniques. Specialized courses include classes such as death investigations, cybercrime, transnational investigations, dark web investigations, and sports corruption. Students learn strategies for investigating organized crime, cyber threats, white-collar crime, insurance fraud, illegal international gambling, and money laundering. Designed for working professionals, online classes delivered through the Blackboard platform give students 24-hour access to course content, discussion groups, and chat rooms. Prospective students apply online and submit official transcripts. Classes are taught by experienced faculty with doctoral degrees and licenses in the classes they teach. Correctional officers and sworn police officers may qualify for a 50% tuition break.

#8 Nova Southeastern University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,700
  • Median Salary: $79,814
  • Locations: Fort Lauderdale (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Nova Southeastern University offers a 30-credit Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Investigative Forensic Technology that is 100% online. Students take 15 credits in the program core, 12 credits in the concentration, and a 3-credit elective. Core courses in criminal justice cover legal issues, program evaluation, investigative processes, and criminal justice policies. The Investigative Forensic Technology concentration consists of classes in firearms, fingerprint and forensic analysis, crime scene investigations, DNA technology, and crime lab management. Asynchronous classes are accessible via the Canvas learning platform and give students the freedom to take classes when and where they find it most convenient. Prospective students submit an online application, goal statement, two recommendation letters, and transcripts confirming an earned master’s degree or a bachelor’s with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Law enforcement officers, first responders, veterans, and active-duty military personnel may qualify for a Valor Award with a 20% tuition reduction. Throughout their program of study, online students may access student support, such as academic advising, veterans' services, and career development.

#9 National University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,934
  • Median Salary: $73,100
  • Locations: La Jolla (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

National University offers a 54-quarter credit Master of Forensic Sciences with two concentrations: Criminalistics and Investigation. Online classes are four weeks long, which allows students to learn one subject at a time. Students take eight core courses (36 quarter credits) in crime scene investigation, forensic pathology, photography, fingerprint analysis, digital evidence, and pathology. The program culminates in a faculty-supervised research project. The 18-quarter credit Criminalistics concentration focuses on forensic evidence analysis. The 18-quarter credit Investigative concentration teaches advanced investigative techniques. The program is geared to law enforcement officers looking to hone their investigative skills. Asynchronous classes are flexible, making it possible for students to work full-time while earning a graduate degree. Prospective students should apply online and submit official transcripts verifying an earned degree with a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA, or a 2.75 GPA in the 2.75 or the last 90 quarter hours. Provisional admission may be granted to applicants with a 2.0 to 2.49 GPA. The Criminalistics concentration requires a degree in laboratory science. Student success is supported by 24/7 tech assistance. National University’s unique Student Concierge Services can answer questions about admissions, academic programs, financial aid, and graduation.

#10 California University of Pennsylvania

  • Annual Tuition: $9,468
  • Median Salary: $66,500
  • Locations: California (PA)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

California University of Pennsylvania has a 36-credit Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Studies: Forensic Linguistics degree that full-time students can complete in two years. Students are trained to analyze threatening communications, fraudulent documents, and language structure in suspicious messages. The curriculum uses actual criminal case studies to teach students about the field of sociolinguistics, author profiling, and criminology. This online forensic science degree is developed in consultation with criminal profilers with experience at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. Regular admission to CalU requires an online application and a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA. Those who do not have a 3.0 GPA need to include their resume and a 500-word essay for possible provisional admission. Courses can be accessed 24/7 via D2L, a platform that supports online learning. The program culminates in a capstone experience that may involve immersive activities such as completing an internship, writing a thesis, or studying abroad at Scotland Yard. Students may receive up to six credits for prior learning at the FBI Academy or other certification academy. Faculty bring expertise in criminology, forensics, and socio-psychological dimensions of human behavior. CalU online courses are asynchronous, making them accessible 24/7. For questions related to matters such as registration and financial aid, the Global Online Office can also assist.

#11 Saint Joseph's University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,305
  • Median Salary: $63,800
  • Locations: Philadelphia (PA)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Saint Joseph’s University offers a 30-credit Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Intelligence and Crime Analysis degree that can be completed in two years. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and students have a choice of six start dates during the year. The curriculum entails four core criminal justice courses, four courses specific to the major, and two electives. Core courses cover research methods, criminology, ethics, and professional writing. Classes in the concentration include law enforcement intelligence analysis, policy, and processes. Examples of electives include white-collar crime, forensic auditing, and homeland security. Students learn how to analyze criminal trends, pinpoint high crime areas, and apply research findings to crime prevention. Flexible courses can be conveniently accessed 24/7 via SJU’s Blackboard online learning platform. Admission to the program requires an online application with a fee, letter of intent, resume, two recommendation letters, official transcripts, and a bachelor’s degree with a 2.8 GPA. The program provides access to support services, such as selecting classes with the help of an advisor, chatting online with a reference librarian, or considering options with a financial aid counselor.

#12 Saint Leo University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $10,620
  • Median Salary: $57,600
  • Locations: St. Leo (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Saint Leo University Online offers a 33-credit Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Forensic Science degree with six start dates throughout the year. Classes are taught in short eight-week terms. With department approval, students can earn an accelerated degree in less than two years. This interdisciplinary online forensic science degree is designed for professionals in criminal justice-seeking career mobility. Emphasis is placed on the application of academic theory to real-world problem-solving in forensic settings. Students take five criminal justice courses to build a foundation in ethics, policy-making, and organizational leadership. Courses in the major cover topics such as forensic death investigations, laboratory analysis of evidence, evidence admissibility in court, and crime scene investigations. Classes are accessible 24/7 by logging on to Lions SHARE, an online D2L platform. Admission requires an online application, a bachelor’s degree with a minimum of a 3.0 GPA, official transcripts, and a statement of professional goals. Hands-on experience can be obtained through capstone projects and internships with local or federal agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration. Faculty have worked as federal agents, detectives, and FBI advisors. Student support such as virtual activities and career guidance is offered through the WorldWide Student Services department.

Online Master's in Forensic Science Overview

The master's degree in forensic science is a two- or three-year degree. Students who are taking full-time courses take two to three per academic semester or quarter. To qualify for a spot in one of these programs, students must have a bachelor's degree and, oftentimes, some experience in forensics or law enforcement.

Earning a master's degree in forensic science is ideally a hands-on endeavor. Students will put their problem-solving skills to the test, sorting out actual crimes based on given evidence, learning how to interrogate or question people, and learning how to look for evidence that may not be obvious. There may be some technical training, working with forensics analysis software and general equipment. Students will get specialized experience by taking on an internship or relevant part-time job or by completing a master's thesis on a topic of their choice.

A master's degree in forensic science can make it easier to get your foot in the door at federal or state investigative agencies, which are usually very selective about whom they hire. Still, having experience is key, and even with a master's degree, some graduates will have to start in entry-level positions. Many investigators were originally police officers. Federal agencies are also more apt to hire people who have master's degrees, as they work on some of the most challenging and high-profile crimes. With experience and the education provided by a master's degree, a forensic scientist can choose to work privately, as there are many private investigation agencies that work on everything from violent crimes to missing persons.

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