Online Forensic Science Degree Programs

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WHAT IS AN ONLINE FORENSIC SCIENCE DEGREE PROGRAM?

Online Forensic Science degree programs teach students the science that goes into solving a crime. They focus on practices like the ways to investigate crime scenes, collect evidence, and perform lab tests. These programs also teach students the causes and theories of a crime.

Many online forensic science degree programs can help to get a student ready to pursue a career as a forensic scientist. In your program, you will study subjects like biology, psychology, and chemistry. And, you will learn the ways that each of these apply to criminal cases. That includes things like being able to compare fibers under a microscope and being able to analyze DNA. You will also practice the proper ways to detect, collect and process evidence. As well as how to write reports that are specific to the criminal justice field.

The field of forensic science brings together the natural sciences, criminal justice, and law. Forensic scientists are the people who collect, process and report on evidence from crime scenes in order to help learn the facts of the case. A forensic scientist will analyze the physical evidence that comes from a crime scene and then may present these findings in court.

The field of forensic science is very broad and there are many specialties that a student might want to focus on. For example, one might decide to pursue a career in computer forensics. Computer forensics deals with finding evidence found or stored in computers. Another area that a student might choose to focus on is forensic nursing. A forensic nurse is someone who works with crime victims to get medical evidence. They also provide expert testimony that can be used in court. These are just a few of the specialties that are in the field of forensic science.

Online vs. Traditional Forensic Science Degree Program

Criminal investigation is even more complex than the TV dramas portray. If you’re interested in using science to get to the heart of real life mysteries, this field could be a great one for you. Online degree programs in forensics have made it easier and more convenient for students to attend college. For any student with a full time job or responsibilities at home, going to a traditional college campus may be hard to do. However, if you earn your your forensics science degree online, it might not be as hard to do.

Some of the top rated schools offer online degrees in forensic science. They also connect with working students and parents to help them earn their degrees on their own terms. There are an increasing number of online degree programs that are completely online. Most of these are for working professionals that have already completed many of the required field and lab work. In some other cases, hybrid programs that combine in person learning with online learning are available.

Wondering how forensic science can be taught online? Many students think that degree programs involving labs can’t be taught online. And, while it can be more difficult to teach some of the courses for these programs online, many programs overcome this issue with the use of virtual labs. Through technology, virtual labs offer a way to bring crime scenes to life. For instance, you could investigate a virtual cold case and even analyze evidence in a virtual lab. Virtual labs allow students the chance to simulate and study crime scenes on their laptops. This helps students to master the applied science of crime in ways like being able to interpret blood spatter patterns.

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TYPES OF ONLINE FORENSIC SCIENCE DEGREE PROGRAMS

A.S. in Crime Scene Technology

B.S. in Criminal Justice – Forensic Science

M.S. in Forensic Science

An associate’s degree program is designed to prepare students to work in crime scene investigations. They can then choose a specialty in Crime Scene Investigation or Forensic Science. You will learn how the criminal justice system works, and how to use scientific methods to work with and interpret evidence.A bachelor’s degree program delivers a criminal justice core, along with forensic science methods. In this program, you will learn how to collect, analyze and interpret evidence. And, you will explore subjects like arson evidence, DNA, and even voice analysis.A master’s degree covers the science of forensics along with its legal and ethical concerns. In a master’s degree program, you will study areas like CSI, and pattern evidence. A research project and internship in a forensic lab are part of the program.
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Crime Scene Safety
  • Fingerprinting
  • Computer Forensics
  • Crime Scene Imaging
  • Forensic Law
  • Law and Forensic Sciences
  • Crime Scene Processing
  • Forensic Biology

ONLINE FORENSIC SCIENCE DEGREE PROGRAMS

Online Forensic Science degree programs apply the natural and physical sciences to criminal and civil law. They cover the skill areas needed in the field so students can learn a range of things from being able to collect evidence at a crime scene to being able to analyze toxins in the lab. Theory and practice come together to offer an understanding of this complex field.

Being a forensic scientist means you will take evidence in order to help solve crimes. That said, forensic science can be a great field for students that have strong skills in science and want to help solve crimes. There are many options for those who want to learn while working or taking care of a family. If you are just starting your education, there are undergraduate programs in forensic science that you can compare. For students that already have a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, there are some graduate level forensic science degrees. Many of these programs allow for students to focus on a particular area of interest in the field.

Many graduate level programs have online courses that are taught at a faster pace. But, there are also many course designed for students who need 2-3 years in order to complete their education. Whether you take an online undergraduate or graduate level course, you will want to be sure of any on campus requirements for labs or tests. Some online programs are 100% available online and offer testing centers throughout the country for students who live outside of the area.

Associate’s Degree Programs

Many schools offer 2 year degree programs in forensic science. The courses in this field are made to give you an introduction to many career paths and areas of study within the field. An associate’s degree in this field can help you with many learning goals. For example, you may develop a range of basic hands on skills. In addition, this degree choice can help you to decide if the field of forensic science is one that you’re truly interested in. Knowing this will help you decide if you would like to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a later time.

An A.A. degree requires general education courses in areas like writing while an A.S. course has more of a focus on math and science. These programs usually ask that a student complete between 60 and 90 credit hours. Some classes that you may take are criminal law and crime scene safety.

Students can begin their career in forensic science after just 2 years with an associate’s degree in criminal justice that has a focus in forensic science. An associate’s degree in forensic science may prepare you to be an assistant or a technician in CSI or computer forensics.

Look for programs like:
  • Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Forensic Science

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Even though many schools offer 2 year degree programs in the field of forensic science, in order to move up in the field, students will want to work towards a bachelor’s degree or higher.

For example, professionals in the field like Forensic Science Technicians must typically earn at least a Bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in this field provides an education in the technical aspects of forensic science but also in areas that relate to the natural sciences. At this level, you will take these general courses in math and science. You will then build on this knowledge as you move deeper into the field of forensics. For instance, courses in organic chemistry will help you gain an understanding in the study of forensic chemistry DNA and more. And courses like math and physics can be used to help figure out the path of a bullet.

There are also some courses that focus on the practice of investigating a crime scene. And most online bachelor’s degree programs in forensic science will include courses that cover this entire process from beginning to end. For example, when you start your career as a forensic scientist you will need to understand how to collect, analyze and report your findings. It is also important to know the latest tools and technology that are being used to analyze this evidence. You could learn the best practices for forensic photography as well as how to properly collect and document evidence, like fingerprints. And, you could find out how to reconstruct a crime scene to learn more about what took place there.

Also, you could pursue an overview of the criminal justice field. Many programs also go into into topics like ethics, legal procedures and the criminal mind.

Look for programs like:
  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Forensic Science
  • Bachelor of Forensic Science/Crime Scene Investigation (CSI).

Master’s Degree Programs

Graduate programs in forensic science build on scientific foundations like biology and chemistry. Students with an undergraduate degree in a science like biology or chemistry can earn their graduate degree in forensic science or a field that is closely related. Students can then use their knowledge in both of these areas to achieve a better understanding of both the science behind and analytical methods relating to a crime. In fact, some forensic science graduates earn their undergraduate degree in the natural sciences and then go on to earn a Master’s degree in forensic science.

Some graduate programs offer the chance to focus on one area of the field. For instance, a digital forensics program takes a closer look at cyber crimes. You’ll examine crimes that take place in a virtual space, using technical knowledge to uncover evidence.

Look for programs like:
  • Master of Science in Forensic Science (M.S.F.S.)
  • M.S. in Criminal Justice – Forensic Science
  • Masters of Professional Studies in Forensic Science

Doctorate or PhD Degree Programs

Doctoral forensic science programs are not as common, but they do exist. Courses at this level often focus on research and new knowledge in the field. The goal of these programs is to help prepare students to work in colleges, labs or the private industry as a lab specialist. They build on the knowledge that is gained from lower level degree programs while also helping to further develop a student’s skill. Through a core of advanced course work, these programs are designed to provide students with many of the important skills that are needed to solve complex problems in the field of forensic science.

Students that graduate with this kind of degree often find careers doing things like teaching or in research. If you are interested in more hands on work, then you should consider a master’s degree in forensic science.

Programs usually last 4 to 8 years and normally require a dissertation project to be completed.

Look for programs like:
  • Ph.D. in Forensic Science

WHAT DO FORENSIC SCIENCE DEGREE COURSES LOOK LIKE?

Forensic science courses span all of the natural sciences. They also go the ways in which science can help in order to inform a crime scene. Being able to understand the context for criminal investigations is as important as the science behind them. In order to pursue a career as a forensic scientist either in a crime lab or as a CSI, a forensic science degree is necessary.

For a student that may want to have more options available in terms of where they work, a broader degree program may be the right move. Graduates that earn a degree from one of these broader programs can work in police departments, crime labs, hospitals or even as teachers. Students will likely take several courses in the natural sciences, data analysis and forensics.

In order to really enhance your knowledge in forensic science, you may want to think about going into a degree program at the graduate level. There are some bachelor’s degree programs out there that focus on specific areas, However, it is the master’s level programs that usually offer students more of an opportunity to aim for the higher level careers that can be found in this field.

Some common courses include:

 

 

Physical Evidence: Physical evidence holds the key to crime scene investigation. Most courses introduce the many types and properties of physical evidence and the different methods of testing it. You will also likely take a close look at firearms, fingerprints, hair and DNA profiling.

Law and Criminal Evidence: In this course, you will learn the laws and procedures for collecting evidence at a crime scene. You’ll gain a better understanding of statutes and case law dealing with evidence. And, you will study concepts like due process, search and seizure, and how to evaluate evidence.

Fingerprinting: Research and technology related to fingerprints has evolved, and today’s forensic science experts can learn a lot from prints. A course in this area covers the science of fingerprints and how to detect them on different surfaces. You will also learn the challenges involved in relying on fingerprints as evidence.

Forensic Chemistry: This course teaches how to evaluate toxins in the human body. You’ll learn to detect and identify toxins, plus determine their quantity. You’ll also learn about other substances, their uses and how they affect the body.

Death Investigation: Students will learn about the many different phases of an autopsy, common causes of death and the chemical and physical changes that can help to estimate time of death.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO EARN A FORENSIC SCIENCE DEGREE?

Earning an Associate’s degree in Forensic Science can take between 1 to 2 and a half years depending on the program. For a Bachelor’s degree, it can usually takes 4 to 5 years for full time students. A Master’s degree in Forensic Science often takes around 2 years while a PhD or doctorate degrees can take anywhere from 2 to 7 years. But, program length can vary and the length of the degree can change based on the school.

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FORENSIC SCIENCE DEGREE PROGRAM EXAMPLES

SchoolDegree Level# of Credits RequiredStart DatesMinimum Months to Complete
Miami Dade CollegeAssociate’s60N/A24
Liberty UniversityMaster’s36N/A20
University of FloridaMaster’s32Multiple24

THE COST OF EARNING A FORENSIC SCIENCE DEGREE

Recent data states that the average annual cost of attending a public, four year school is $6,418. Average tuition was higher for private and for profit schools, at $29,775. Compare tuition for these schools that offer forensic science degree programs:

SchoolDegree Level# of Credits RequiredCost Per CreditTotal Tuition Cost
University of Maryland University CollegeBachelor’s120$499$59,880
Colorado Technical UniversityBachelor’s182$305$55,510
Grand Canyon UniversityBachelor’s120$687.50$82,500

TOP SCHOOLS THAT OFFER FORENSIC SCIENCE DEGREE PROGRAMS

According to recent data, there are 267 schools with Forensic Science & Technology programs. From those schools, students were awarded 3,502 degrees in 2017 (the most recent data). The most common degree awarded in this field was the Bachelor’s.

School2017 Degrees awarded2019/20 Tuition (out of state unless *)
University of New Haven154$40,440*
Farmingdale State College134$18,448
University of Central Oklahoma117$18,640*
Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale106$21,008*
American Public University System103$7,324*
Virginia Commonwealth University96$35,904
Palm Beach State College91$8,732
St Petersburg College84$9,286
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice80$15,420
George Mason University71$36,024

CHOOSING AN ACCREDITED FORENSIC SCIENCE DEGREE PROGRAM

Accreditation is a concern for many students in forensic degree programs. And, students are smart to seek out these types of programs since they are usually more concerned with the outcomes that can help to promote a student’s success.

Accreditation may help ensure the quality of a forensic science program. There are many agencies that deal with forensic program accreditation. For example, you could look for a degree program accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). They assess Bachelor’s and Master’s programs in forensic science. They also accredit programs in the natural and computer sciences that offer a concentration in forensic science.

FEPAC requires programs to cover a curriculum that makes sure students are well versed in forensics. Among other subjects, programs that follow FEPAC rules must teach the natural sciences as well as courses like genetics.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A FORENSIC SCIENCE DEGREE?

The most current census data states that there are over 1 million Forensic Science and Technology graduates in the work force. That includes graduates of forensic science programs. This field is expanding, with a one year growth rate of 1.78%.

Forensic science is part of the life, physical, and social sciences. Careers in this area are projected to grow 7% from 2018 to 2028 – faster than average for all jobs. Roles like Forensic Science Technician are growing even faster. There are many reasons for this increase. For one, state and local governments may need to hire more of these techs to process a high numbers of cases. In addition, changes in science and technology have made forensics more accurate and useful. So, they may be more in demand in order to assist law enforcement agencies and the courts.

Wondering what you have in common with the average forensic science graduate? More females (72.2%) hold degrees in this field than males do. And, the average age of a graduate in the work force is 39.6 years old.

TOP SALARIES BY STATE FOR FORENSIC SCIENCE DEGREE HOLDERS

The following information is for Forensic Science Technicians. Salary and employment numbers will differ for other career paths.

StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Illinois450$87,660
California2,110$85,280
Massachusetts90$79,440
Connecticut90$73,970
New Hampshire40$70,960

JOBS FOR A FORENSIC SCIENCE DEGREE

Forensic Science Technician

Forensic Science Techs help solve crimes because they are able to collect and analyze evidence. They may have a more general role, or else they can focus on specific areas like CSI or lab analysis. At crime scenes, they analyze and document the site, and they also gather evidence like fingerprints and body fluids. In the lab, they analyze evidence using chemical, biological, and microscopic methods.

Median Salary: $58,230 per year

Job Growth Through 2028: 14% (Much faster than average)

Typical Entry level Education: Bachelor’s degree

Laboratory Assistants

Lab Assistants work with medical scientists to help them conduct lab tests and experiments. They set up and maintain instruments and equipment, like microscopes. They prepare live samples, like blood or bacterial cultures. Also, they may conduct lab tests and record their findings.

Median Salary: $44,500 per year

Job Growth Through 2028: 7% (Faster than average)

Typical Entry level Education: Bachelor’s degree

Chemical Technician

Chemical Techs help chemists to perform research and test chemicals. They perform other tasks like set up and maintain lab instruments, prepare chemical solutions, and interpret the results of experiments. Many work in testing labs.

Median Salary: $48,160 per year

Job Growth Through 2028: 2% (Slower than average)

Typical Entry level Education: Associate’s degree

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EducationDynamics maintains business relationships with the schools it features.

Sources for school statistics is the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. The financial aid information on this site is for informational and research purposes only and is not an assurance of financial aid.