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.

What Are the Best Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Programs? Here Are Our Top 3:

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Rank School Location
1 University of Maryland Global Campus Adelphi, MD
2 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
3 Columbia College Columbia, SC
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Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Programs

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Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

University of Maryland Global Campus

Adelphi, MD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 15%

The University of Maryland Global Campus is an online state university offering more than 90 certificates and degrees in some of the most in-demand fields in the country. Designed with working professionals in mind, UMGC uses asynchronous delivery and provides no-cost digital course materials in place of textbooks.

UMGC's 120-credit online bachelor's in forensic science combines theory and professional application to prepare students for criminal justice careers and industry certification exams. Courses cover criminalistics, death investigations, and fingerprint analysis. Students gain hands-on experience through virtual labs and crime scenes.

Admission requires proof of high school graduation or passing scores on the GED. Familiarity with lab work and laboratory procedures, such as preparing samples and using microscopes, is recommended for program success.


Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 50%

Liberty University is a private, Christian university with one of the largest online enrollments in the nation. More than 400 online certificates and degrees are available in a flexible, asynchronous format.

On average, students complete Liberty's online bachelor's in criminal justice in 3.5 years. The 120-credit curriculum offers a concentration in crime scene investigation, with courses in crime scene management, crime scene photography, and criminal investigations. Several theology and biblical courses are required as part of Liberty's foundational core.

First-time college applicants must have completed a high school education. Transfer applicants must supply transcripts. Liberty's generous transfer policy allows students to transfer in up to 75% of required credits. All students in the online bachelor's in crime scene investigation pay the same tuition regardless of residency, with discounts available for military members.


Columbia College

Columbia, SC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 53%

Columbia College is a small, private women's college serving approximately 1,300 students each year. The institution provides every learner with a personalized liberal arts education, resulting in 96% of graduates finding employment within six months. Thirteen coeducational undergraduate programs are available online.

Columbia's 120-credit bachelor's in criminal justice offers both a general track and a forensic track to prepare students for careers in forensic laboratories or crime scene investigation. The forensic concentration requires three courses in DNA, toxicology, and fingerprint recognition and comparison.

Admission to the online bachelor's in forensic science requires a minimum 2.0 GPA and submission of official college transcripts, high school diploma, or GED results. Online tuition rates include e-books and are not impacted by out-of-state residency.

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Program?

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

A web-based experience can provide the same coursework as an in-person program.

Students learn about the U.S. criminal justice system, crime resolution procedure, police accountability, and legal processes, while also taking 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.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Program?

Depending on a student's chosen concentration, a bachelor's in forensic science and crime scene investigation program has a wide variety of possible 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 for criminal investigations and litigation. Students learn about fundamental statistics, chromatography, 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 and Crime Scene Investigation?

With a projected increase of 14% from 2019-2029, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of forensic science technicians to grow much faster than the average occupation in the U.S. These workers make a median annual salary of $59,150.

However, the field is fairly small, currently employing about 17,000 workers. Despite the rapid projected growth rate, only about 2,400 new jobs are projected to be added to this field between 2019 and 2029. Therefore, graduates should expect competition for most jobs. 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.

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 individuals to determine the cause of death, as well as any 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 Splatter 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.

Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation not for you? Check out these related careers.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Programs

Is an online forensic science degree worth it?

Forensic science technicians earn a median pay of $59,150 annually, and the field is projected to grow more than three times faster than 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 many different careers. Graduates can pursue work as forensic scientists, analytical chemists, toxicologists, and more. Jobs are available with a variety of employers, in both the private sector and with government agencies.

How many forensic science majors get jobs?

According to the BLS, the role of forensic science technician has a projected growth rate of 14% from 2019-2029 — much faster than the national average for all jobs. Police and detective positions are projected to grow 5% within the same time frame, and these jobs are expected to be less competitive.

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

According to PayScale, graduates with a BS in forensic science make an average annual salary of $55,100. It is possible to earn over six figures in this field, although these jobs may require further education in the form of a master's degree.

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

Some of the highest-paying positions that require a bachelor's in forensic science are intelligence analyst ($70,470 annually), and laboratory manager ($70,350 annually). Additionally, policemen and detectives earn a median annual salary of $65,170.