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Forensic scientists draw on different scientific disciplines, including biology, physics, and chemistry, to help law enforcement investigate criminal and civil cases. An online master's in forensic science prepares students for advanced certification and career advancement.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that forensic science technicians will experience 14% job growth between 2019 and 2029, a rate much faster than the national average.
Below, readers can explore a list of the top five online master's in forensic science programs. This page also offers information about potential courses in a master's program and career paths for graduates.
What Are the Best Online Master's in Forensic Science Programs? Here Are Our Top Five:
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|1||University of Florida||Gainesville, FL|
|2||University of Central Florida||Orlando, FL|
|3||Florida International University||Miami, FL|
|4||National University||La Jolla, CA|
|5||Stevenson University||Stevenson, MD|
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2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Forensic Science Programs
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University of Florida
|Gainesville, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 90%||
UF maintains its flagship campus in Gainesville, serving over 52,000 students. The university powers distance education with the Canvas platform and oversees programs like a fully online master's in forensic science. After completing this 32-credit program, graduates are prepared for leadership roles in police departments, hospitals, clinical chemistry laboratories, and pharmaceutical companies.
Required coursework covers topics like biological evidence and serology, applied statistics for data analysis, and forensic toxicology. Students personalize the curriculum through 14 elective credits. Elective options include classes like blood distribution/splatter and natural medicinal products.
Program applicants need a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA on upper-division coursework. All prospective students must submit GRE scores. UF accepts up to 15 transfer credits earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
University of Central Florida
|Orlando, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
UCF delivers more than 90 remote online programs through the Canvas platform. Distance learners may pursue an entirely online master's degree in forensic science; this program is designed for recent college graduates and experienced criminal justice professionals. Learners can complete a thesis or non-thesis track.
The curriculum ranges from 32-34 credits, with non-thesis students taking classes like atomic spectroscopy and applied analytical chemistry. Thesis students complete a concentration in forensic analysis or forensic biochemistry. Individuals who choose the forensic analysis pathway learn to collect, control, and assess ignitable liquids and explosives.
Prospective students need a regionally accredited bachelor's degree earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA and adequate GRE scores. UCF's forensic science program only offers fall admission.
Florida International University
|Miami, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
FIU champions flexible academics by providing over 100 online certificates and degrees, including a master's in forensic science. This program caters to learners currently working in law enforcement agencies and medical examiners' laboratories. Students can complete this accelerated, cohort-based program in 16 months.
The program's curriculum includes classes like organizational behavior, chemistry and analysis of drugs, and accounting for managers. Distance learners also examine professional ethics in the contexts of quality assurance and control within a crime laboratory. Students gain hands-on experience by completing a semester-long internship.
Program applicants must have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Prospective students do not need to submit GRE scores. Additional admission requirements include a statement of purpose and two recommendation letters.
|La Jolla, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||
NU serves about 17,000 students, many of whom pursue distance learning through the Blackboard Learn platform. NU's offerings include an online master's degree in forensic sciences, which allows students to pick from two specializations: criminalistics and investigation. Learners in the program can complete all coursework online or take some courses at one of NU's 20 campuses across California and Nevada.
Courses in the program span four weeks. The criminalistics specialization includes coursework in advanced trace evidence and DNA analysis. Alternatively, students who specialize in investigation learn about law and criminal procedure and how to conduct major casework.
To gain admission, program applicants need a regionally accredited bachelor's degree earned with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Candidates with a GPA from 2.0-2.49 may qualify for admission if they submit adequate GMAT/GRE/MAT scores.
|Stevenson, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 56%||
Founded in 1947, Stevenson focuses on accessible and career-relevant education by providing 30 fully online certificates and degrees, including a master's in forensic science. Forensic science graduates gain the skills needed to work as latent print examiners, crime scene investigators, and forensic toxicologists.
The program's foundational courses include serology and immunology, DNA analysis, and physical evidence at crime scenes. All learners complete a biology or chemistry concentration. The curriculum also includes an optional practicum.
All program applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in a natural science-related field. Prospective students also need a minimum 3.0 GPA. The university accepts up to six transfer credits.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Forensic Science Program?
Most forensic science programs feature intensive laboratory experiences, providing skills in evidence-based practice and research.
A master's in forensic science takes about two years and requires 30-40 credits to complete. Graduates of this program can advance their career and qualify for additional certification in forensic science fields. Students enrolled in an online master's in forensic science need skills in critical and analytical thinking, math and science, and criminal law and ethics.
Though program details differ by college, common concentrations for a master's in forensic science include the following:
- Forensic biology
- Forensic chemistry
- Forensic physical analysis
- Environmental forensics
- Criminal justice
Most forensic science programs feature intensive laboratory experiences, providing skills in evidence-based practice and research. Lab experience allows students to practice the forensic techniques needed in various careers.
Programs may also require an internship or practicum. Some programs provide internship placements for students, while others require students to find their own placements. Students may also join forensic science professional organizations while in school for peer networking and fellowship opportunities.
Most online master's in forensic science programs culminate in a capstone project. These projects often require original research conducted under the supervision of a faculty advisor. To earn their degree, students must complete a written and/or oral thesis report and present it to a panel of qualified faculty for review.
Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Forensic Science Programs
Most master's in forensic science programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's in chemistry, biology, forensic science, or a similar field. Colleges may also set GPA requirements, such as a minimum 3.0 in major coursework.
While requirements differ depending on the institution, many universities require GRE scores. Students should also consider gaining work experience before applying.
Learn more about graduate admissions through this guide.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Forensic Science Program?
Coursework in a master's in forensic science program often builds on foundational material covered in a bachelor of science program. Students delve into advanced scientific topics like forensic biology and forensic chemistry. Some courses also discuss the legal and ethical responsibilities of forensic science professionals.
- Forensic Toxicology
This course studies drugs, including identification and analysis of their effects. Students learn about practical processes related to toxicology in a laboratory and explore the scientific theories behind this field. This class often uses case studies to offer real-world examples.
- Forensic Botany
Students in this class delve into the study of plants and plant material, particularly how they relate to crime scene investigation. Learners gain practical experience examining different plant materials and learning about their environmental significance. The course also explores how plants and plant material can act as critical pieces of physical evidence.
- Ethics in Forensic Science
This course provides a deep discourse on the ethical responsibilities of forensic scientists in criminal justice contexts, such as gathering evidence or testifying in court. Students learn about their responsibilities as professionals, scientists, and criminal justice advisors, as well as the ethical and legal standards they must meet in the workplace.
- Laboratory Leadership
Students in this class learn practical leadership and management skills needed for overseeing teams of forensic scientists in different settings. This course encourages teamwork through group projects and helps students evaluate their own managerial strengths and weaknesses.
- Quantitative Methods in Forensic Science Research
This class teaches advanced practical methods in forensic science research and stresses the importance of quantitative methods. Students learn about crime scene analysis, including standard and emerging technologies in forensic science investigations. Degree-seekers learn to work as individuals and as part of a team.
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What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Forensic Science Degree?
A master's in forensic science allows students to advance their current career, earn higher salaries, and gain management positions. However, readers should remember that job outlook can differ based on factors like location and level of experience.
The BLS projects that forensic science technicians will experience 14% job growth between 2019 and 2029. The BLS projects 7% job growth for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians during the same time period.
See where a master's in forensic science can take you. Learn more about forensic science careers here.
- Laboratory Manager
Laboratory managers oversee day-to-day operations in a lab, including developing safety procedures and maintaining safety standards for workers. These professionals can work in universities, pharmaceutical companies, medical facilities, and research laboratories. Laboratory managers coordinate between research teams and address issues with research projects.
- Forensic Scientist
Forensic scientists investigate crime scenes and collect physical evidence, including fingerprints, blood samples, and weapons. These professionals transport the evidence to a lab, where they catalog and analyze collected samples and help investigators make informed conclusions about the case. Forensic scientists often testify in court to explain their findings.
- Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians analyze lab samples of substances like blood and tissue. These professionals can work with law enforcement, hospitals, and research facilities. Technologists and technicians log data from medical tests and create reports for doctors and other professionals.
- Chemist or Materials Scientist
Chemists and materials scientists explore how different substances interact at a molecular level. These professionals lead complex research projects with teams of researchers, sometimes with different specialties. Chemists and materials scientists typically work in a laboratory setting, analyzing substances and writing up technical reports.
- Biological Technician
Biological technicians work with biological materials in a laboratory setting. These scientists can work in law enforcement and research facilities. Biological technicians collect and run tests on samples and help maintain and clean laboratory equipment. Professionals in this field need excellent communication skills to write up their research findings in a clear manner.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Forensic Science Programs
- Is a master's in forensic science worth it?
A master's in forensic science can help professionals advance their current forensic science career or find a new career in the field. In general, professionals with a master's degree typically earn higher salaries than their counterparts with only a bachelor's degree. A master's in forensic science also gives applicants an edge when applying for a new job.
- What can I do with a master's in forensic science?
An online master's in forensic science prepares students for careers in criminal justice and law enforcement, chemical and biological research, medical laboratories and testing centers, and pharmaceutical companies. This degree opens doors to managerial positions and higher pay grades. Graduates can pursue careers like laboratory manager and chemist and materials scientist.
- Is it hard to become a forensic scientist?
An online master's in forensic science degree requires about two years of study and features 30-40 credits. In general, forensic science technicians only need a bachelor's degree in forensic science to get started. However, a master's degree allows professionals to gain managerial positions and earn higher salaries than their counterparts with only an undergraduate degree.
- How much money can I make with a master's in forensic science?
Salary outlook depends on job title, location, and experience. Median annual salaries in forensic science range from $35,620-$97,350. Candidates should always research their specific role and location to determine fair compensation rates.
- What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in forensic science?