Best Online Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Science

There are a few different types of online bachelor's degree programs available in the field of forensics. Learn about some of the best and what you can do with a degree in forensic science. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Best Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Forensic Science

Online bachelor's degree programs specifically in forensic science are not very common, but there are plenty of online bachelor's degree programs in various areas of forensics. Some of the best of these programs may rank in the top 10 due to the hands-on experiences they offer, additional concentrations or certificate options, and/or accreditation. Compare some of the best online bachelor's degree programs in the field of forensics below.

1. Maryville University of Saint Louis

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Saint Louis, MO$28,470100%

Maryville University of Saint Louis offers an online Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Forensic Psychology that requires 128 credits. The program provides students with experiential learning opportunities in social science, psychology, and criminal justice. The curriculum is broken into psychology core courses, criminal justice core courses, and social science research courses, which includes a senior project. The program culminates with 150 hours of a hands-on internship experience, which can be done in your area.

2. Champlain College

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Burlington, VT$41,010100%

Champlain College has a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Computer Forensics and Digital Investigations that totals 120 credits and can be completed fully online. Online students in the program have access to coursework 24/7 and are expected to spend 10 to 17 hours per course per week working on the program. Students can choose to pursue specialized certificates in the areas of forensic accounting, computer forensics and digital investigations, or cybersecurity. The program has designations from the U.S. National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3) Air Force Office of Special Investigations for academic excellence.

3. Robert Morris University

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Moon Township, PA$30,30098%

Robert Morris University provides an online BS in Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics that totals 123 credits. The program is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Students in the program take electives and core courses, plus major courses in subjects like sociology, digital evidence analysis and cyberlaw. The program takes 4 years to complete and culminates in a program outcomes assessment.

4. National Louis University

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Chicago, IL$10,71093%

National Louis University offers a BA in Criminal Justice with a major in criminal justice administration that can be completed fully online or a major in forensic social justice that can be completed in a hybrid format. Students in the forensic social justice major take some online courses and some on-campus courses in Chicago and learn about the psychology of criminality. Students in either major must complete a criminal justice internship and may choose from concentrations in public policy, entrepreneurship, leadership foundations, health services administration, or human resource management.

5. New England College

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Henniker, NH$37,91495%

New England College has a 120-credit online BA in Criminal Justice that explores topics in forensic psychology and can help students prepare for a career as a crime scene investigator (CSI) and more. The school is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, boasts a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and over 1,300 online students. Students are allowed to transfer up to 90 credits towards their BS from other institutions.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
6Pfeiffer UniversityMisenheimer, NC$30,234100%
7Tiffin UniversityTiffin, OH$25,00098%
8University of CharlestonCharleston, WV$30,90098%
9Faulkner UniversityMontgomery, AL$21,690100%
10Defiance CollegeDefiance, OH$32,70099%

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Forensic Science Overview

Online bachelor's degree programs in forensic science are most commonly offered as a BS in Criminal Justice with a concentration in crime scene investigation, forensic science, or forensic investigation. However, some online BS in Investigative Forensics degree programs are available as well. Some of these degree programs may be completed fully online, while others may offer students a blended format option where they can complete some courses on-campus if they would like.

These degree programs commonly range from 120 to 182 credits and can be completed in 3.5 to 4 years. Some degree programs may offer multiple start dates and some may have shorter, 8-week courses available. Here we explore some of the common course topics for these degree programs in more detail.

Common Courses for Online Programs in Forensic Science

Like most bachelor's degree programs, online degree programs in the field of forensic science require students to complete some general education courses, major courses, and electives or concentration courses. Although coursework varies by institution and/or the degree, some common course topics for online bachelor's programs in forensic science include:

  • Criminal law
  • Court systems
  • Criminal procedure
  • Victimology
  • Crime scene forensics
  • Forensic photography
  • Criminal investigations
  • Criminal behavior

Crime Scene Investigations

Courses in crime scene or criminal investigations help train students in the investigative process of crime scenes and criminal cases. Students may learn about the methodologies and techniques used to collect evidence or conduct interviews, as well as the legal requirements for a case. Other topics may include crime scene documentation and post-crime scene activities.

Crime Scene Evidence

These courses examine crime scene photography, fingerprint analysis, or firearms analysis in more detail. These courses help teach students the current techniques and methodologies in the field for collecting and analyzing evidence.

Crime Scene Forensics

Students may begin these courses by studying the scientific method and learning about the role of forensic science in criminal investigations. These courses may also allow students to explore gunshot residue tests, report writing and problem-solving.

How to Find the Right Online Bachelor's Degree in Forensics for You

There are several different factors to consider when choosing an online bachelor's degree program in forensic science. The first item students should consider is their career aspirations so that they can choose a program that best prepares them to reach their goals. This may help students determine whether a degree in crime scene investigations is better than one in another area of forensics, such as forensic psychology or digital forensics, and vice versa.

Program Length

Students should also think about the time commitment to complete an online degree and how that fits with their personal schedule. Most online bachelor's degree programs in forensics take 3.5 to 4 years to complete. However, some programs may accept up to 90 transfer credits toward the bachelor's degree, which will likely cut the time it takes to complete the program drastically. Some schools may also offer fast track courses that may give students credit for passing exams and can also cut the time required for the degree.

Clinical/Practical Requirements

Students may also want to consider any practical requirements and/or hands-on learning opportunities that a program may offer. Most online bachelor's degree programs in forensic science can be completed fully online, but some may give students the chance to take hybrid classes if they would like some hands-on experience in the lab. Students may want to research what hands-on experiences are available for a fully online program, such as capstone opportunities and/or online learning tools that allow students to investigate crime scenes.

Accreditation for Forensic Programs

Most online forensic programs are accredited by the institution's regional accreditation body, such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and the New England Commission of Higher Education. However, some forensics programs may have other designations, such as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education from the Department of Homeland Security and/or the U.S. National Security Agency.

Cost and Financial Aid/Scholarship Opportunities

Another very important consideration when choosing an online bachelor's degree program in forensic science is the cost of the program and any financial aid and/or scholarship opportunities. In addition to tuition, students also need to research any additional fees and/or technology requirements they may need to meet. Students should be sure to utilize online tuition calculators where they can enter some personal information to get a better estimate. Many programs offer various ways to save money on the degree, such as discounts for military students, fast-track exams, transfer credits and/or life experience.

Other ways to save on earning an online bachelor's degree includes financial aid and scholarships. All students should fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see what kind of financial aid they qualify for. This may come in the form of grants, scholarships, loans or even work-study programs. Students should also be sure to check for any school-sponsored scholarships and/or may compete for outside scholarships. There are also several national scholarships available specifically for students within the field of forensic science, including:

  • The Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners (AFTE) Scholarship Program- The AFTE is an international organization that provides $2,000 annual scholarships to students pursuing careers in forensic science.
  • The Floyd E. McDonald Scholarship- This scholarship is offered by the nonprofit professional society of the Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists (SWAFS) in honor of a charter member. The $1,000 scholarship is awarded to students in forensic science.
  • The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) Scholarship Program- The ASCLD is a nonprofit organization that awards $1,000 scholarships to forensic science students. However, the number and exact amount of the scholarships vary each year based on funding.

Career Options for a Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Science

Most graduates with a bachelor's degree in forensic science end up working careers in the civil or criminal justice system. These careers are typically involved in criminal investigations and may involve working crime scenes and/or working in a laboratory setting. Some job titles for graduates may include:

  • Forensic project coordinator
  • Forensic analyst
  • Crime scene investigator
  • Evidence technician
  • Forensic scientist
  • Intelligence officer
  • Criminalist
  • Forensic toxicologist

A common entry-level position for graduates with their bachelor's degree in forensic science is that of a forensic science technician. These professionals might work as forensic chemists, crime scene investigators, digital forensic analysts, and forensic biologists. Forensic science technicians generally work full-time and may travel to crime scenes and/or work in a lab. Job duties for these professionals vary on their area of expertise, but usually include:

  • Collecting and storing evidence
  • Analyzing evidence
  • Recreating crime scenes
  • Attempting to link suspects to a crime scene
  • Photographing crime scenes
  • Keeping meticulous notes about observations

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for forensic science technicians was 14% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the national average. The BLS also reported that the average annual salary for these professionals was $62,490 in 2018. While local governments (excluding schools and hospitals) had the highest level of employment for forensic science technicians and offered an average salary of $63,560, the highest paying industry for these professionals was the federal executive branch where technicians made an average of $110,720.

Licensure and Certification

Forensic science technicians generally do not need to have licensure or certification when they begin their career, but certifications are available in a wide range of areas within forensic science to help students specialize and/or further develop their professional career. Certifications include Crime Scene Certification, Latent Print Certification, or Bloodstain Pattern Analyst Certification. These certifications require an exam and are offered by the International Association for Identification. Other areas of certification the IAI offer include:

  • Forensic photography and imagery
  • Forensic video
  • Forensic art
  • Footwear
  • Tenprint fingerprint

How to Advance Your Career

Students looking to advance their careers may consider earning a master's or doctoral degree in forensic science or a related field. These advanced degrees may allow forensic science technicians and other entry-level positions to move into advanced positions as scientists and researchers and/or take on a more managerial position. For example, those with a master's degree in forensic science may work their way up to a lab manager position or drug chemist, while those with a doctoral degree may work as a geneticist or forensic anthropologist.

Professional Organizations in Forensic Science

The field of forensic science has many professional organizations that provide various resources for professionals in the field. These groups may offer membership, events, professional development opportunities, publications, job listings, and/or certifications in forensic science to help advance the field and equip professionals for their career. Find out more about a few of these professional organizations here.

International Association for Identification (IAI)

In addition to the range of certifications that IAI offers for forensic science professionals, the organization also has memberships, professional training, and annual conferences. On its website, students can explore online journals and other resources, including job postings and a research library.

The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD)

Professionals in forensic science may pursue membership to the ASCLD and/or participate in the group's Leadership Academy for training in the field. The ASCLD also has an online resource library, trainings, conferences, and other events for members. The website also includes job postings for the field.

Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists (SWAFS)

SWAFS also offers membership and has a variety of committees members can serve on. The organization has an annual conference and provides scholarships for forensic science students.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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