Best Online Forensic Science Degrees of 2022

Forensic science is more than just fingerprints and crime scene analysis. You can also specialize in crime scene photography, investigation, and forensic chemistry.

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by Marisa Upson

Updated August 24, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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Forensic science and crime scene investigation are vital aspects of successful criminal investigations. Fingerprints and bullet casings may seem like foolproof evidence on TV, but it takes a trained eye to analyze and match evidence found at a crime scene and then skillfully prepare that evidence for trial.

Crime scene investigation involves working in the field, while forensic science typically takes place in a laboratory. Graduates in these fields can find work as forensic medical examiners, crime scene investigators, and crime laboratory analysts. This page covers common career paths, degrees and requirements, admissions information, and the best forensic science colleges. Read on to learn more.

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What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science Program?

Online bachelor's in forensic science and crime scene investigation programs may appeal to people who enjoy using the scientific method to analyze minute details and share their findings.

Students learn about the U.S. criminal justice system, crime resolution procedures, police accountability, and legal processes. They also take courses in core subjects such as biology, chemistry, and psychology.

Programs are generally 120-134 credits, and full-time students typically take four or five years to complete their degree. Students can also expect a capstone experience in their final semester. A web-based experience can provide the same coursework as an in-person program, making this option suitable for students who are working or have additional commitments. Students can also take part in virtual labs and crime scenes. These programs typically award a bachelor of science.

Popular Online Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Science

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science Degree Program?

Depending on a student's chosen concentration, a bachelor's in forensic science and crime scene investigation program features many courses. Students may focus on the minutiae of crime scenes themselves or work on laboratory analysis. Courses can expand beyond science to cover government policy and even photography.

Fingerprint Analysis

Students learn about latent fingerprints. Coursework covers different methods used to lift prints effectively to analyze and prepare them for a forensic setting. Additionally, students learn about various factors that can affect fingerprint analysis.

Forensic Chemistry

Forensic chemistry courses introduce students to the basic chemical principles used to apply forensics to criminal investigations and litigation. Students learn about fundamental statistics, chromatography, and instrumentation used to examine evidence related to substances, volatiles, and debris found at a crime scene.

Criminal Investigation

This course covers constitutional requirements for investigations and techniques used for crime scene analysis, including the use of subpoenas and interviews to collect evidence. Students learn the proper steps to take to document and preserve evidence, as well as the continuum of force officials use to arrest suspects.

Crime Scene Photography

Photographic evidence is essential to the field, and students in this course learn to apply photographic principles to forensic science. Coursework focuses on aerial, macro, and underwater photography, as well as the function and use of digital cameras. Students need to have their own cameras for online courses.

Forensic Biology

Courses in forensic biology teach students about the proper procedures used to analyze biological evidence, either at a crime scene or in a lab. Students discuss the ethics of forensic science and learn how to be an expert witness in legal cases. Coursework may also cover toxicology, bone and DNA analysis, and working with blood spatters.

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What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science Degree?

Career Outlook

With a projected increase of 16% from 2020-2030, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of forensic science technicians to grow much faster than the average occupation in the U.S. These workers made a median annual salary of $61,930 in May 2021.

However, the field is fairly small, employing about 17,200 workers in 2020. Despite the rapid projected growth rate, only about 2,700 new jobs are projected to be added to this field between 2020-2030. Individuals who go on to earn a master's degree in crime scene investigation can improve their marketability to employers.

Learn more about forensic science careers and see where an online bachelor's in forensic science and crime scene investigation degree can take you.

Career Paths

Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians collect and analyze evidence used for criminal investigations. They may work in laboratories or at crime scenes. Professionals often work regular business hours, though crime scene investigation may involve unusual hours and require travel to various locations.

Forensic Medical Examiner

Also called forensic pathologists, these individuals are medical doctors who perform autopsies on deceased people to determine the cause of death. They also collect other evidence that might be present in the deceased's cells, tissues, or fluids. To qualify for this position, individuals must first earn a bachelor's degree, followed by a medical degree and residency, and then additional certification.

Blood Spatter Analyst

These individuals often work on cases featuring violent crimes. They focus on the small details of particular blood splatters, sometimes working with very little blood or evidence. They analyze and collect evidence at a crime scene and take samples back to a lab for further study.

Forensic Ballistics Expert

Ballistics experts examine guns and bullet casings during criminal investigations, collecting and analyzing evidence. They may need to search for tiny details or imperfections in a weapon or its ammunition. Experts also work out bullet shots, their angles, and gunpowder stains. They must then prepare their findings in reports and potentially act as expert witnesses.

Polygraph Examiner

Polygraph examiners assess the credibility of individuals tested with a polygraph machine. Graduates may be able to work for the CIA, but they need to become federally certified. Examiners must have excellent social and interpersonal skills and prove that they are trustworthy.

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Continuing Education

Forensic science is a highly competitive field. For this reason, and to gain further specialized knowledge, many forensic professionals continue their education and pursue an advanced degree. A few common continuing education paths include the following degrees and certifications:

  • Master's in Forensic Science: Students learn about advanced scientific forensic protocols, building on the foundation covered in their bachelor's program. Learners may also focus their education on specializations like criminalistics and toxicology.
  • Master's in Crime Scene Investigation: This program is designed for students seeking careers as crime scene technicians, special agents, and investigators.
  • Professional Certification in Forensic Science: Several organizations offer professional certification that can help advance careers in specialty areas. These include certifications in trace evidence, fire debris analysis, and drug chemistry. Other options are forensic photography and bloodstain pattern analysis.

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science Program?

Most online bachelor's in forensic science programs have the same admission requirements as their on-campus counterparts. Minimum GPA requirements typically fall in the 2.0-3.0 range, though online programs may offer greater flexibility. Additionally, some programs require two years of experience for standard admission. Institutions usually request the following materials.

Application

Most colleges accept online applications through their website or online portal. Many schools also accept applications through online undergraduate admissions application systems, such as the Common App. This allows candidates to apply to multiple colleges at once. College application forms usually ask for general information, including an applicant's school and family information, extracurricular activities, and awards.

Test Scores

Applicants may need to submit their ACT or SAT scores. These college entrance exams test a prospective student's college readiness. Score requirements vary significantly among schools, and some colleges are test optional. Additionally, some state universities require higher test scores for nonresident applicants.

Letters of Recommendation

Most schools typically require 2-3 recommendation letters. Students should consider asking teachers, counselors, mentors, or employers who can speak to their strengths and academic abilities. Consider asking for recommendations at least two months in advance to make sure you receive them before the application deadline.

Essays

A college application essay or personal statement allows admissions officers to get to know the person behind the test scores and academic achievements. It also allows applicants to show off their writing talents. Students applying through the Common App receive open-ended essay prompts that they can choose from to help them get started.

Official Transcripts

Students must request official transcripts from their high school. If transferring from a community college, applicants must submit all official transcripts from any postsecondary institutions attended. Many online bachelor's in forensic science programs accept transfer credits. Some programs accept up to 90 credits, which can save money and significantly reduce the time to degree completion.

How Do I Choose an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science Program?

Cost

Tuition for online bachelor's in forensic science programs typically ranges from about $240-$640 per credit. In-state students attending public colleges tend to find the lowest tuition rates. However, some colleges do not charge nonresident fees for online students. Additional online program costs may include technical fees and any on-campus requirements. Prospective students can compare online vs. on-campus program costs before applying.

Program Format

Colleges offer online bachelor's in forensic science programs in various formats, including synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous learning typically requires weekly scheduled virtual online classes. Asynchronous learning allows students to study at their pace while meeting set assignment deadlines. Learners may also attend full time or part time. Some accelerated online bachelor's programs lead to a degree in less than four years.

Location

Because of the hands-on nature of forensic science, some programs require students to complete on-campus lab courses. Additionally, programs may end with an in-person practicum or field experience where students participate in simulated crime scenes. Students should consider looking into a program's requirements before deciding if going to college online or on-campus is the better option.

Accreditation

Colleges, universities, and programs gain accreditation from third-party accrediting bodies. These agencies ensure a school and program offer the highest educational standards. The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission accredits online and on-campus forensic science programs. Students should also confirm that the school holds institutional online college accreditation.

Student Support

Student support services play a critical role in students' success. When researching programs, consider if a school offers career services, academic advising, and admissions support for online learners. College mentorship programs can provide students with an advisor who can offer career and academic advice. Additionally, some colleges help students find local internship opportunities, an important consideration in a bachelor's in forensic science program.

2022 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science Programs

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

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Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

#1

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
Full Time | $390
Part Time | $455

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree-Completion Program | No
Institution Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

A nonprofit Christian school, Liberty offers an online bachelor's in forensic science. The curriculum features general education, religion, and criminal justice coursework. Learners study crime scene photography, crime scene management, and criminal investigations. Graduates can pursue careers as crime scene investigators, forensic analysts, and crime scene technicians. 

Program participants receive free electronic textbooks. Applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA. Liberty does not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores.

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#2

University of Maryland Global Campus

School Information
Location Adelphi, Maryland
Graduation Rate 15%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 90% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $306
Out of State | $499

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree-Completion Program | No
Institution Accreditation | Middle States Commission on Higher Education

UMGC offers an online bachelor's in forensic science. The core curriculum includes general education courses and major classes. Degree-seekers explore criminal procedure and evidence, cybercrime and security, and fingerprint analysis. The bachelor's in forensic science qualifies graduates to work in crime scene investigation.

Students benefit from prior lab experience and knowledge of how to prepare samples, operate specialized equipment, and use microscopes. Applicants do not need to submit standardized test scores.

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#3

Colorado State University-Global Campus

School Information
Location Aurora, Colorado
Admission Rate 99%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $350
Out of State | $350

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Institution Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

CSU-Global offers an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice with a specialization in criminal forensics. Specialization courses introduce learners to forensic psychology, investigative and forensic interviewing, and investigative forensic photography. Graduates often become investigators, criminal examiners, and crime scene analysts.

The program offers accelerated courses. Applicants submit high school transcripts or GED scores. For full admission, candidates need two years of professional experience.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Forensic Science Programs

Is a bachelor's in forensic science worth it?

Forensic science technicians earned a median pay of $61,930 annually in May 2021, and the field is projected to grow twice as fast as average. If you enjoy problem-solving and engaging in critical thinking, a forensic science degree could be well worth your investment.

What can I do with a bachelor's in forensic science?

A bachelor's in forensic science can lead to careers as forensic scientists, analytical chemists, and toxicologists. Jobs are available with various employers, in both the private sector and with government agencies.

How many forensic science majors get jobs?

According to the BLS, forensic science technicians have a projected growth rate of 16% from 2020-2030. The BLS projects police and detective positions to grow 7% within the same time frame, and these jobs are projected to be less competitive.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in forensic science?

According to April 2022 Payscale data, graduates with a BS in forensic science make an average annual salary of $62,000. It is possible to earn over six figures in this field, although these jobs may require a master's degree.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's in forensic science?

Some of the highest-paying positions that require a bachelor's in forensic science are intelligence analyst ($72,580 annually on average) and laboratory manager ($72,060 annually on average), according to Payscale. Additionally, the BLS reports that police and detectives earned a median annual salary of $66,020 in May 2021.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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