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 Online Master's in Forensic Science Programs?
University of Florida
|Gainesville, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 88%||
Established in 1905 by the Florida Legislature, the University of Florida Gainesville now boasts a student population of more than 52,000, 16 colleges, and over 1,000 buildings across a 2,000-acre campus. U.S. News & World Report rates UF as one of the top national universities in the country, and the university holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The College of Pharmacy offers an online master's in pharmacy with a concentration in forensic science. The 32-credit program includes 18 credits core coursework and 14 credits of approved elective courses. The curriculum of this master's in forensic science online features classes in biological evidence and serology, forensic toxicology, principles of forensic science, applied statistics for data analysis, and laboratory quality assurance and quality control. Students must also pass a final comprehensive exam to earn their degree. The comprehensive exam is part of a one-credit special topics course, which also includes an oral exam and three days of program review.
Graduates are conferred a master of science in pharmacy, and are prepared for careers in a range of fields including chemistry and crime laboratories, criminal defense firms, pharmaceutical companies, and high school science programs.
Students can transfer up to 15 graduate-level credits towards their master's in forensic science online. No more than nine transfer credits can come from an approved non-UF institution, but the remaining six credits must be earned from a UF graduate certificate or non-degree seeking program.
Florida International University
|Miami, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
Florida International University was founded in 1972 with an enrollment of just 5,667 students. The school now enrolls nearly 57,000 undergraduate and graduate students across more than 200 academic programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctorate levels. FIU holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
FIU's professional science master's in forensic science is offered mostly online through the School of Integrated Science and Humanity. The 32-credit program combines 23 credits of cutting edge forensic science courses with nine credits of professional business coursework. The curriculum includes topics in forensic biology, chemistry and drug analysis, organizational information systems, forensic science leadership, and forensic analysis. The College of Business Administration offers all the business courses for this degree online. Additionally, students complete a one semester internship in a laboratory or some other type of forensic science setting. Graduates are conferred a professional science master's degree (PSM).
The PSM program follows a cohort educational model. Each cohort lasts 16 months and new cohorts begin every fall semester. The program requires students to travel to the Miami, FL campus to take part in summer workshops. Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor's degree in a natural science field with at least a 3.0 upper-level GPA.
This online forensic science master's degree is designed for current lab professionals looking to advance their careers, as well as those interested in careers in DNA analysis, forensic toxicology, and numerous other STEM fields.
University of Central Florida
|Orlando, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 70%||
As one of the largest public universities in the country, the University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL hosts nearly 68,000 undergraduate and graduate students. UCF offers 224 academic programs to its students at the bachelor's, master's, and doctorate levels, as well as numerous programs completely online. UCF holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The online master's in forensic science features three areas of concentration: forensic analysis, forensic biochemistry, and forensic professional. Both the forensic analysis and forensic biochemistry concentrations are 32-credit, research-based programs. The curriculum includes 15 credits of concentration coursework; nine credits of required courses; and eight credits of thesis coursework in which students conduct independent research and write a thesis about their research findings. A 34-credit non-thesis option — the forensic professional concentration — includes 24 credits of approved elective coursework; nine credits of required courses; and one credit of independent study capstone project.
Graduates earn their master's in forensic science online without any campus visits, although UCF may not offer all elective courses online. Full-time students usually earn the degree after two years of continuous enrollment, while part-time students typically complete the program in four years.
Applicants must submit an application, submit a $30 fee, and provide transcripts and GRE or GMAT scores. Transfer students must additionally submit proof of completed composition and mathematics courses, as well as a 2.0 minimum GPA on all coursework.
La Salle University
|Philadelphia, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
Founded in 1863 in Philadelphia, PA, La Salle University began as a private college for boys. The school received full university status in 1984, and today the school is a fully co-educational institution that enrolls more than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The School of Arts and Sciences at La Salle University offers a completely online master of science degree in economic crime forensics (ECF). The program includes two tracks: corporate fraud and network security. Students in the 36-credit degree develop their proficiency in digital forensics and in the detection and prevention of economic crimes. The curriculum includes coursework in computer and internet fraud, principles and practices of fraud examination, corporate ethics and compliance, litigation support practices and procedures, and occupational fraud and abuse. Students must also complete a capstone project in order to graduate.
Graduates of La Salle's MS in ECF are prepared for careers in economic crime, digital forensics, and data and network security. Courses follow a synchronous delivery format. Each course lasts for eight weeks and students can enroll in two courses each semester. Prospective students must submit an application, a transcript that demonstrates a 3.0 minimum GPA, letters of recommendation, and a resume. Applicants must also complete an interview with a faculty member. The program follows a rolling admission policy and does not require the submission of the results of a standardized graduate admission test.
|La Jolla, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 42%||
Established in 1971, National University enrolls students from all 50 states and from 65 countries, and offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs on campus and online. Founded by a retired Navy captain, the university maintains strong ties with the military and remains committed to serving U.S. military service members and their dependents through scholarships and diverse program offerings. The university holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
The College of Letters and Sciences at National University offers a 54-credit online master's of forensic sciences with two specializations: criminalistics and investigation. The criminalistic specialization requires students to have an accredited bachelor's degree in a physical science, such as physics, biology, or chemistry. Students complete coursework in advanced forensic toxicology, trace evidence, forensic serology and DNA, and advanced forensic DNA analysis. Alternatively, the investigation specialization does not require students to have a bachelor's degree in a laboratory science. Coursework in this concentration includes forensic psychology, law and criminal procedure, major case investigation, and advanced criminalistics. This master's in forensic science online requires all students to complete a supervised master's research project, regardless of their specialization.
Each course lasts four weeks, and all coursework can be completed entirely online. Classes start monthly and students can enroll at any time. Transfer students can apply up to 13.5 quarter units of graduate-level courses earned from another accredited school or program, as long as the credits were not used to satisfy another post-baccalaureate degree.
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.
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%
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|
|Scientific R&D Services||$65,710||$49,320||$78,180||$111,420|
|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|
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
- Best Online Master's in Forensic Science Programs of 2018
Ranking School Location 1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL 2 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL 3 Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine Philadelphia, PA 4 Florida International University Miami, FL 5 La Salle University Philadelphia, PA