Forensic science is a field that benefits from rapid developments in technology, leading to growth in specialty areas like computer forensics. In fact, forensic science technician is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you are considering a career in forensics, an online forensic science master's degree may help find your niche in this expanding field.

What are the best forensic science programs of 2020? Here are our top 5:

Rank School Location
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

What Are The Best Online Master's in Forensic Science Programs?

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

National University

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.

5

Stevenson University

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 Else can I Expect from an Online Master's in Forensic Science Program?

Most students pursuing an online master's degree in forensic science will have a bachelor's in one of the natural sciences -- chemistry, biology, or physics -- although that is not always necessary. Coursework will vary between programs, but forensic science graduate education helps students develop problem-solving and analytical skills, and covers how to study crime scenes.

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CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN FORENSIC SCIENCE

Forensic science programs emphasize different courses based on their focus, but most have similar core courses. Below, we've highlighted a few common courses you would encounter in most programs.

  • Crime Scene Investigation: This course trains students in techniques and procedures for properly approaching, protecting, and investigating a crime scene, and usually includes discussion of the legal and scientific principles of crime scene searches and seizures.
  • Forensic Biology: In addition to providing an overview of methods for characterizing body fluids and other biological materials, forensic biology trains students in advanced forensic applications of molecular biology DNA techniques, such as polymerase chain reaction.
  • Forensic Chemistry: This course familiarizes students with advanced methods for analyzing forensic samples, like glass, fiber, paint, and explosive residues. It also may provide a background in statistical analysis of data.
  • Forensic Psychology: This course explores the application of clinical psychology in a legal setting, covering topics like eyewitness testimony, criminal psychopathology, the insanity defense, and criminal profiling.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN FORENSIC SCIENCE?

Generally, to earn an online master's degree in forensic science, you need to complete at least 32 units. This takes a full-time student approximately two years to accomplish. However, there are many factors that can affect the time needed to earn a degree. Accelerated programs often allow students to take multiple classes per semester, significantly reducing the time needed to graduate. Additionally, schools may give credit for work experience or courses completed at another institution.

Students may also take classes on a part-time basis, which will lengthen your duration in school, but may be more convenient for working professionals with a full-time job. Schools using a cohort model for classes (specific class time, group learning) rather than an individual model (at your own pace) can slow down your progress if you are unable to complete a class as scheduled.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Forensic Science Degrees

The best online forensic science master's degree programs are accredited by proper regional or national bodies. Recognized accreditation of a school or program is often required to obtain tuition reimbursements, financial aid, qualify for licensing exams, or transfer credits to another institution. Accreditation means all aspects of an institution -- faculty, departments, programs, and curricula -- have been reviewed and have met the standards of the accreditation agency.

Schools can be regionally or nationally accredited. Programs with national accreditation are often considerably less expensive and will accept transfer units from a wider selection of schools. However, the majority of U.S. colleges are regionally accredited, and they tend to have stricter qualifying standards. Program accreditation is also necessary to guarantee the quality and rigor of the online forensic science master's degree program that interests you. The most widely recognized accreditation body for forensic programs is the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) -- an affiliate of the American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS).

Accreditation shows that the institution and program have met rigorous standards set by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Both are agencies that establish and implement educational policies and standards so that schools meet the same criteria for excellence. Each agency holds schools accountable and advocates for quality education, ensuring that your degree is worth the investment. A list of all accredited schools and their agencies can be found on CHEA's website.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Forensic Science Graduates

Forensic science attracts people from all backgrounds, but most will share certain traits. Successful forensic science graduates are observant, detail-oriented, logical, and patient. They are often good communicators or public speakers. These characteristics can be beneficial in the following occupations:

Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians include everything from blood splatter experts to DNA analysts. Many technicians specialize in crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis. Most forensic science technicians write reports and need good communication skills.

Median Annual Salary: $56,750
Projected Growth Rate: 27%

Detective

Detectives and criminal investigators gather facts and evidence of possible crimes. While it is possible to become a police officer without a degree and work your way up to detective, most federal agencies, such as the FBI and DEA, require agents to have a degree, preferably a graduate degree.

Median Annual Salary: $61,600
Projected Growth Rate: 4%

Arson Investigator

Arson investigators are usually firefighters with advanced degrees in chemistry, fire science, or forensic science. They collect and analyze evidence from scenes of fires and explosions, reconstruct the scene of a fire or arson, interview witnesses, and document and analyze evidence.

Median Annual Salary: $56,130
Projected Growth Rate: 6%

Computer Forensic Analyst

Computer forensic analysts work with law enforcement agencies to retrieve information from computers and other types of data storage devices, which are often damaged or corrupted by hacking or viruses.

Median Annual Salary: $92,600
Projected Growth Rate: 18%

Laboratory Manager

Laboratory managers oversee the forensic staff who run the tests and analyses. They maintain equipment and ensure that staff members follow safety regulations and operational protocols. An advanced degree is usually required for this supervisory position.

Median Annual Salary: $50,930
Projected Growth Rate: 16%

MASTER'S IN FORENSIC SCIENCE SALARY

A number of factors determine what you'll earn as a forensic scientist, such as the which industry you work in and your education and experience levels. Private industry tends to pay higher salaries than nonprofit employers. Employees with graduate degrees tend to earn higher salaries. Nevertheless, you can expect to make more the longer you stay in a position and gain valuable experience. The following table uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to illustrate the typical salary arc of a forensic scientist based on industry.

Industry Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees Median Salary for Late-Career Employees
Private Industry $66,430 $39,180 $88,380 $115,250
Scientific R&D Services $65,710 $49,320 $78,180 $111,420
Testing Laboratories $64,520 $41,260 $82,268 $106,070
Federal/State/Local Government and Law Enforcement $61,150 $43,880 $74,290 $96,690
Colleges & Universities $49,550 $36,320 $59,400 $66,910
Hospitals $48,910 $23,640 $72,590 $86,120

Financing Your Online Master's in Forensic Science Program

Paying for an education is a concern all students have, and the first step to figuring out how much you can afford is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students who complete the FAFSA and meet the general eligibility criteria receive a federal aid package that is an assortment of loans, grants, and scholarships. If you work full-time, you should also consider contacting your human resources department as well. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement in their benefits package as a way to attract and retain talented employees.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.