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2023 Most Affordable Online Master's Degrees in Forensic Science

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 1/13/2023
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An online master's in forensic science is a law enforcement degree focused on teaching students how to investigate crimes using science, research, and analysis. A range of subjects is taught, including toxicology, botany, and DNA analysis. As with many master's programs, students also develop leadership and communication skills to prepare them for work in administrative and managerial roles. Graduates may go on to work in laboratories or biomedical facilities as technicians or in law enforcement agencies as laboratory managers.

Alternatively, an affordable online master's in forensic psychology explores many of the same techniques but with a focus on the surrounding criminal justice system. You can also check out our overall list of the most affordable online degrees for more inspiration. View our methodology for details about rankings or learn more about us

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Locations Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 Oklahoma State University - Main Campus Stillwater (OK) $5,824
# 2 #2 Stevenson University Stevenson (MD) $11,250
# 3 #3 Saint Leo University Online St. Leo (FL) $11,670
# 4 #4 Arizona State University Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others) $11,910
# 5 (tie) #5 (tie) Champlain College Burlington (VT) $11,925
# 5 (tie) #5 (tie) DeSales University Center Valley (PA) $11,925
# 7 #7 Carlow University Pittsburgh (PA) (and 2 others) $12,726
# 8 #8 University of Central Florida Orlando (FL) (and 7 others) $16,370
# 9 #9 West Virginia University Morgantown (WV) $16,400
# 10 #10 Florida International University Miami (FL) $23,513
Annual Tuition: $5,824
Annual Tuition: $5,824
Annual Tuition: $5,824

Oklahoma State University - Main Campus (OSU) is a public university that offers a Master of Science in Forensic Sciences. This degree requires 32 credit hours, which generally takes full-time students at least two years. Students have four areas of emphasis to choose from: (1) Forensic Investigative Sciences, (2) Forensic Psychology, (3) Forensic Biology/DNA, and (4) Forensic Chemistry/Toxicology. Overall, this graduate degree teaches students how to effectively protect the public through the use of new research, emerging technologies, and cross-disciplinary collaborations.

Canvas is the main learning management system (LMS) OSU students utilize to earn their degrees. All non-thesis tracks can be completed fully online. The majority of required credits are devoted to the core curriculum — including classes such as Survey of Forensic Sciences, The Law and Expert Evidence, and Forensic Statistics. Additional credits are required for a final project if students choose the thesis track. Jobs for graduates may include roles as a crime scene technician, lab technician, or DNA analyst.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Average SATs: 1060 -1280
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 821
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 849
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Stevenson University

Stevenson (MD)
Annual Tuition: $11,250
Annual Tuition: $11,250
Annual Tuition: $11,250

Stevenson University (SU) is a private institution with an online Master of Forensic Science requiring 32 credit hours. Typically, students graduate within two years while studying at a full-time pace. The core of the program teaches students how to collect evidence properly by utilizing the proper instruments and technologies.

All online courses at SU are delivered through the Blackboard LMS, which allows students to study fully online and asynchronously (i.e., at their own pace). Among the major requirements are classes such as Physical Evidence at Crime Scenes, Toxicology, and Crime Scene Investigation. Additionally, this remote degree offers two concentration options: (1) Biology and (2) Chemistry.

SU also features two alternative degree programs that feature similar areas of study: (1) a Master of Science in Forensic Investigation and (2) a Master of Science in Forensic Studies. Upon graduation, alumni are prepared to work as crime scene investigators, forensic toxicologists, and forensic chemists.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Average SATs: 1010 -1190
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 241
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 471
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
Annual Tuition: $11,670
Annual Tuition: $11,670
Annual Tuition: $11,670

Saint Leo University Online (SLU) offers an online Master of Science in Criminal Justice - Forensic Science requiring 36 credit hours. They recommend students study full time in order to complete this program in approximately two years.

At SLU, students use the Brightspace LMS to access the forensic science program's core online courses, which are taught completely online. Courses are offered both synchronously and asynchronously, depending on the instructor. The curriculum explores the skills and knowledge professionals need to work in the field of forensic science, with course titles such as in Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice Administration, Leadership Applications in Criminal Justice, and Public Policy Making in Criminal Justice. Graduates may earn career opportunities as science reporters, crime scene technicians, and lab technicians.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 8,242
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 4,720
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Arizona State University

Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
Annual Tuition: $11,910
Annual Tuition: $11,910
Annual Tuition: $11,910

Arizona State University (ASU) is a public university offering a Professional Science Master's in Forensic Science that requires 30 credit hours. In general, students complete a master's program in around two years while studying full time.

At ASU, students use Canvas for their remote courses, which are 100% remote. During this master's program, distance learners not only learn advanced forensic science techniques but also the ethics and leadership skills they need to succeed at the professional level. Required classes include Ethics in Forensic Science, Advanced Forensic Psychology, and Biostatistics and Data Management. At the end of the program, students are required to complete an applied project in the area of their choice. Graduates may explore roles as forensic engineers, forensic laboratory directors, and forensic nurses.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
  • Average SATs: 1091 -1301
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 33,410
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 10,843
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Champlain College

Burlington (VT)
Annual Tuition: $11,925
Annual Tuition: $11,925
Annual Tuition: $11,925

Champlain College (CC) is a private institution with a Master of Science in Digital Forensic Science requiring between 30 and 36 credit hours. Students studying full time are likely to complete the degree in just two years. Overall, the core curriculum focuses on digital forensic examination through the utilization of digital devices, data, software, and hardware. Students learn to develop methodologies to analyze devices, evaluate digital forensic methods, and understand the legal structures that surround this field.

CC uses the popular LMS Canvas to deliver online coursework. This learning software allows students to finish their degrees 100% online and at their own pace. Required classes include Information Technology and Security, Digital Forensic Science, and Operating System Analysis. An independent research project in the form of a thesis is also required prior to graduation. Career options for alumni often include roles such as digital forensics analyst, computer forensics investigator, and digital forensics consultant.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Average SATs: 1110 -1320
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,669
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 625
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE

Overview of Online Forensic Science Master's Degrees

A forensic science master's degree prepares students to engage in criminal investigations through scientific inquiries. Coursework involves evidence analysis, hands-on laboratory research, and exploring various procedures and principles of criminal justice. Legal studies are also included in a master's in forensic science, allowing students to understand how their findings are applied to criminal court cases. 

Bachelor's degrees are required for acceptance into any graduate program. Students without relevant forensic science credits may be asked to take prerequisite courses before the programs start. Typically, full-time students complete online master's degrees in two years. Outcomes vary based on which specializations a student chooses to pursue, such as biology, forensic technology, and cybersecurity. 

Still undecided? Explore similar disciplines, such as the best forensic psychology master's degrees or perhaps an online master's in criminal justice.

Common Courses

An online forensic science degree encompasses multiple disciplines and practical experience. At the master's level, students learn how to apply scientific practices and principles to evidence found at crime scenes. Core courses are closely related to the chosen concentration. For example, forensic accounting students study fraud and money laundering, while digital forensic science students explore network forensics and operating systems analysis. Practicums may be required regardless of specialization so students can gain real-world experience. 

Below are a few courses commonly found in a forensic science graduate curriculum:

Laboratory Operations

Laboratory research is a core component of any comprehensive forensic science master's degree. In this course, students learn the functions of a forensic lab, such as examining evidentiary materials and analyzing DNA. Laboratory policy is discussed, including defining roles, safety procedures, and human resources. Students also discover essential management and leadership skills used in lab settings.

Drug Analysis

Drug analysis focuses on analyzing and identifying controlled substances. Students learn to define evidentiary issues, isolate samples, utilize chemistry practices, and apply classifications. Findings are then organized and written into reports used by law enforcement and court officials. 

Crime Scene Investigation

Students explore the foundational practices of crime scene processing, including documenting the scene through photographs and sketches, preserving fingerprints, creating plaster casts, identifying tool marks and firearms, and packaging evidence. There's also training in communication and collaboration, preparing students to work alongside forensic scientists.

Funding an Online Forensic Science Degree

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), annual tuition for private colleges and universities has gone up over $4,000 since the 2010-2011 school year. These rising costs make it more challenging to pay for a degree than ever before, leading many students to seek an affordable online forensic science degree. The lower costs for online graduate programs come from in-state tuition rates, digital books, and fewer operational costs associated with instruction. 

Online master's degrees are flexible, leaving time available for part-time jobs. Forensic science students can utilize their free time by working in roles that provide relevant field experience, such as forensic analysts, laboratory technicians, and teacher assistants in university forensic departments. Many schools offer career preparation resources to students seeking work during and after their program.

Even with lower tuition costs, students should consider ways to save money in college. Fortunately, online students have the opportunity to live off-campus, which usually means cheaper rent and food. Using a monthly budget to map out costs is one of the most helpful ways to prevent overspending. This simple tool allows students to calculate exactly how much cash to put toward their education and living expenses.

Financial Aid

While not ideal, securing funding through financial aid for a graduate degree is necessary for the majority of students. Most affordable forensic science degrees offer federal financial assistance through the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form allows students to apply for student loans, work-study programs, and grants — all through a single online application. Schools, governments, and private organizations use the income information from this form to determine how much funding is provided.

Loans are available from the federal government and private lenders. Federal loans offer fixed interest rates that aren't based on credit, income-based repayment plans, and, in some cases, loan discharges based on unforeseen life circumstances. Credit unions and banking institutions distribute private loans. They're often more expensive because they're based on a student's credit rating, which is often not fully matured, resulting in higher interest rates. 

It's important to remember that all student loans must be paid back with interest, leading to student debt that can take decades to pay off. However, there are several opportunities to receive loan forgiveness. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is one such program designed for government employees. 


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 62% of forensic science technicians work for local government agencies, making the PSLF an excellent way for forensic science graduates to apply for loan forgiveness. 

What Can You Do With an Online Forensic Science Degree?

Graduates of a forensic science master's degree have several options in the workforce and academia. Students can continue their education through doctorates in forensic science, where they'll focus on research in areas such as body decomposition and toxicology. Thesis projects are required in PhD programs, which encourages a deeper understanding of the subject matter. 

Job opportunities stemming from an online forensic science degree typically include roles in law enforcement, whether in the laboratory, behind a computer screen, or out in the field. Some entry-level roles include evidence and fingerprint technicians, as well as more advanced roles such as forensic psychologists and forensics managers. Master's graduates are equipped with enough knowledge to pursue all these positions. However, their chances of employment increase by having already earned practical experience before graduation. 

Below are some potential career opportunities for graduates with forensic science master's degrees:

Criminal Investigators

Median Annual Salary: $86,280
Job Growth: ~0%

Criminal investigators hold titles such as police detective and crime scene investigator. They're among the first law enforcement officers on-site for serious crimes and may even check for signs of life or secure deceased bodies. Once safety is established, they approach victims to conduct interviews and gather information about the incident. Criminal investigators are higher ranking than police officers, although their work often compliments one another. 

Forensic Science Technicians

Median Annual Salary: $63,740
Job Growth: 11%+

The role of forensic science technicians is to collect evidence from crime scenes, such as weapons, blood, and fingerprints, and preserve them for analysis. Photo and video equipment may also be used to document the environment so that the integrity of the crime scene is maintained. The evidence is taken to a laboratory where chemical tests are performed to determine illegal substances classifications and DNA. 

Digital Forensics Analysts

Median Annual Salary: $98,740
Job Growth: 8-10%

Digital forensics analysts have many of the same broad responsibilities as forensic science technicians, except the crime scenes they work in are in cyberspace. They gather and analyze electronic data, such as digital media and computer logs, and physical data containing digital information, such as cellphones and data storage devices. They also act as cybersecurity experts, investigating network security incidents and analyzing digital security protocols. 

FAQs About Online Forensic Science Degrees

How Do I Choose a Master's in Forensic Science?

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a master's degree in forensic science is affordability. Tuition costs are on the rise and many students worry about crippling debt. An affordable master's in criminal justice or forensic science can help ease the burden of debt by allowing students the freedom to concentrate on pursuing their dream career.

How Long Is a Forensic Science Master's Degree?

Master's degrees generally take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Part-time students may graduate in up to five years or more. The U.S. Department of Education considers students as full-time if they're earning at least 12 credits per term. Keep in mind, each school decides the minimum enrollment requirements to receive federal financial aid.

Can I Get a Forensic Science Master's Degree Online?

Forensic science degrees at the graduate level are available 100% online. Courses may be delivered synchronously through scheduled class discussions and group projects, or asynchronously, where students study entirely on their own. Even through flexible schedules, assignments always have deadlines that must be adhered to. 

Is a Forensic Science Degree Worth It?

Earning a forensic science master's degree requires a lot of technical know-how, excellent organizational skills, and not to mention a willingness to handle some unpleasant material. Students with the determination to learn laboratory research and study the justice system will be rewarded with high-paying careers that combine law enforcement and scientific inquiry. Although financial aid is an issue with any graduate program, there are plenty of ways to mitigate debt by pursuing budget-friendly, online master's degrees.

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