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Earning a bachelor's in forensic science online gives students skills in areas like evidence collection, forensic analysis, and crime scene reconstruction.

Most bachelor's degrees require around 120 credits and take about four years of full-time study to complete.

Graduates from a bachelor of forensic science online program can pursue in-demand roles like forensic science technician. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for forensic science technicians to grow 14% between 2018-2028, which is much faster than the national average for all careers. These professionals earn a median salary of $58,230 per year.

Top Online Bachelor's Programs in Forensic Science 2020

#1 Hampton University Hampton, VA
#2 Columbia College Columbia, SC
#3 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
#4 Excelsior College Albany, NY
#5 University of Maryland-University College Adelphi, MD

Table of Contents

This guide ranks the best online bachelor's in forensic science programs to help students find the best program for their needs. Students who pursue a forensic science bachelor's degree online have the flexibility to balance their studies with professional and personal responsibilities.

Best Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science Programs

1
Hampton University
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4

Excelsior College 

Albany, NY

About this school

Founded in 1971, Excelsior College offers over 40 online degrees in six areas of study. This college caters to working professionals seeking programs with flexible scheduling and self-paced coursework.

Excelsior's online bachelor's in forensic science requires 120 credits. Students in the program can complete a concentration in homeland security, which features courses in counterterrorism and infrastructure security. Students on a non-concentration track choose criminal justice classes individually, with input from an academic advisor.

All distance learners in the program take courses in criminal justice administration, research methods in criminal justice, criminology, and law enforcement. All students also complete a writing-intensive capstone project. Students must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA to graduate. Program graduates find work as correctional treatment specialists, criminal investigators, and forensic science technicians.

Excelsior charges in-state and out-of-state students the same tuition. Excelsior requires an application form, official transcripts, and an application fee from prospective students. Classes begin every eight weeks. Program applicants can transfer in up to 113 credits. Excelsior accepts credit from previous coursework, professional training programs, professional certificates, and military training.

5

University of Maryland-University College 

Adelphi, MD

About this school

The University of Maryland, formerly known as the University of Maryland University College, provides all distance learners with free electronic textbooks. UMGC students benefit from online, interactive exercises and multi-platform accessibility for coursework. The university offers a flexible schedule, with weekly or bi-weekly due dates for assignments.

Students taking the bachelor of forensic science online must complete 120 credits for graduation. The program has no in-person requirements. Coursework covers criminal procedure and evidence, crime scene investigation, cybercrime and security, and principles of digital analysis.

Students in the program prepare for professional certifications in bloodstain pattern analysis, crime scene examinations, and latent print identification. All courses meet national standards for forensic science and crime scene investigation. Graduates typically find work as civil or criminal investigators.

The university charges different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students. Active military members receive a discounted tuition rate. UMGC does not require SAT or ACT scores. Applicants should submit an application form and official high school transcripts or proof of GED completion. Transfer students should submit official college transcripts.

UMGC accepts up to 70 transfer credits from community colleges or up to 90 transfer credits from four-year universities. Transfer students can also earn credit by examination or for military experience.

Graduation Rate
15%
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Ranking Methodology

Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science Programs Ranking Guidelines

Best Online Programs - Bachelor's in Forensic Science

We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The Advantages of a Forensic Science Education

A graduate of an associate degree program in forensic science may find a job as a forensic assistant or technician, but this degree is much more likely to serve as a beginning step in the journey to a career as a forensic scientist. According to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, forensic science technicians should earn at least a bachelor's degree in a natural science, such as chemistry or biology, or in forensic science.

Successful job seekers often possess an undergraduate degree in a natural science and a master's degree in forensic science.

While bachelor's degree holders are qualified to begin careers as forensic science technicians, the job market is competitive and graduates with master's degrees enjoy the most opportunities. Successful job seekers often possess an undergraduate degree in a natural science and a master's degree in forensic science.

The next section discusses positions available to graduates of online bachelor's in forensic science programs and potential salaries at various points in these careers.

Forensic Science Degree Salary Information

Forensic scientists begin their careers as technicians after graduating with a forensic science degree. While gaining experience, you may decide to apply your skills to a related career within the field. Forensic scientists can work successfully in many jobs both within and outside of law enforcement.

Salary Based On Experience

Crime Scene Investigator

Crime scene investigators analyze crime scenes to determine what and how evidence is collected; photograph the crime scene and evidence; record observations and findings; collect, catalog, and preserve evidence; and reconstruct crime scenes.

Entry Level

$43,000

Mid-Career

50,000

Experienced

$55,000

Late Career

$54,000

Forensic Biologist/Chemist

These technicians use chemicals and laboratory equipment to analyze evidence. They use computers to examine DNA, substances, and other evidence collected at crime scenes, matching evidence to people or other known elements. Most possess master's degrees.

Entry Level

$49,000

Mid-Career

$62,000

Experienced

$75,000

Late Career

$81,000

Digital Forensics Analyst

Specializing in computer–based crimes, analysts collect and analyze digital data to uncover electronic fraud, scams, and identity theft. They also use data to help solve physical crimes.

Entry Level

$59,000

Mid-Career

$86,000

Experienced

$100,000

Late Career

$99,000

Forensic Accountant

In criminal or civil cases, these accounting specialists examine tax and business records to find evidence of embezzlement, corruption, and other financial crimes. Many employers require master's degrees.

Entry Level

$59,000

Mid-Career

$81,000

Experienced

$93,000

Late Career

$92,000

Choosing an Online Forensic Science Degree Program

Prospective students should research their options carefully when choosing an online forensic science program. An important consideration is a school's accreditation status, as accredited institutions undergo an extensive review to ensure graduates are prepared for successful careers in the field. Accreditation status also affects credit transferability and eligibility for federal financial aid.

Cost is another important consideration. In–state colleges and universities tend to be more affordable, even for online students. Other factors include an online program's class size and whether on–campus attendance is required. Below, you can find a summary of factors to help applicants select the right school.

Program Cost

Given the tight job market in the field of forensic science and the advantage of an advanced degree, cost is an important factor. Many students pursue a bachelor's degree in natural science, followed by a master's in forensic science, so they should consider the costs of both degrees. In addition to tuition, online learners often pay technology fees.

Transfer Policies

A program's cost and completion time can be reduced if a student can transfer credits. Regional accreditation is generally more rigorous, and regionally accredited schools are more likely to accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools.

School Size and Type

Class size can be important to distance learners, as some schools cap admission for a program or specific course. Large classes can also impact teacher availability for student interaction. Students should also consider the type of school. Public schools tend to be regionally accredited, and private schools are sometimes only nationally accredited.

Program Length

Students should take into account whether they will attend school full or part time and whether their program offers accelerated online learning. Online bachelor's degrees typically require 120–134 credits and are completed through 4–5 years of full–time study.

On–Campus Requirements

Some online programs may require on–campus attendance for exams or laboratory experience. Prospective students should evaluate if and how this will work with their schedules, keeping in mind that selecting a program near home may be beneficial.

Accreditation for Online Forensic Science Degrees

Attending an accredited school is important. Regional accreditation organizations are more highly regulated than their national counterparts, and credits from regionally accredited schools are more readily transferable. Additionally, employers are more likely to accept degrees and certificates from regionally accredited schools.

Prospective students should look for regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the New England Commission of Higher Education, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. National accreditation organizations are numerous, and students should look for those recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Prospective students should look for regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the New England Commission of Higher Education, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Accrediting agencies apply to the U.S. Department of Education (ED), a cabinet–level department of the federal government, for recognition. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), a nongovernmental association of colleges and universities, also recognizes accrediting organizations according to its own standards and expectations. The ED and CHEA help prospective students avoid schools that confer credits and degrees other institutions or employers do not accept. A list of all accredited schools is available on the ED and CHEA websites.

Forensic science programs may also receive industry–specific accreditation from the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, which develops standards for forensic science education and accredits high–quality forensic science degree programs.

Forensic Science Concentrations

Some forensic science programs allow you to choose a concentration within forensic science, such as biology or chemistry. A specialization or concentration can help establish your reputation as you begin your career, as it demonstrates that you are an expert in a specific branch of forensic science.

Forensic Toxicology

Forensic toxicologists work in labs testing bodily fluids and tissue samples collected by crime scene investigators or obtained during autopsies. Core coursework in this concentration includes principles of forensic science, applied statistics for data analysis, toxic substances, and forensic medicine. A bachelor's degree in a natural science, such as chemistry or biology, is common.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Forensic toxicologist at a law enforcement agency, private drug testing facility, or medical examiner's office

Trace Evidence

This specialty analyzes crime scene evidence typically resulting from physical contact between a suspect and victim. Trace evidence analysts are often required to obtain a bachelor's degree in chemistry, after which they undergo extensive training under a senior trace evidence analyst. They often obtain master's degrees and/or trace evidence certification.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Trace evidence analyst or examiner at a forensic laboratory or coroner's office within a law enforcement agency

DNA

Forensic scientists specializing in DNA evidence conduct lab analyses and computer examinations of hair, blood, and bodily fluids to identify suspects or victims. Students focus on biology, chemistry, genetics, physics, and criminalistics as part of their forensic science degree programs.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Forensic DNA analyst or forensic science technician working in a medical examiner's office, law enforcement agency, government department, or crime laboratory

Digital Forensics

These specialists investigate digital data used as evidence in criminal cases and often testify in court. Core courses include cybercrime, cyberlaw, malware and software vulnerability analysis, network security, forensic management of digital evidence, computer ethics, and database design.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Digital forensics analyst or forensic computer examiner at a law enforcement agency or private firm

Fingerprint Analysis

Working in the field and lab, analysts retrieve fingerprint samples at crime scenes and compare them with fingerprint databases. They often testify in court. Coursework includes biology, genetics, criminal procedure, judicial practice, crime scene investigation, and physics. Professional certification is a common employer requirement.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Fingerprint analyst or latent print examiner at a law enforcement or government agency

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Forensic Science?

The typical online bachelor's program in forensic science takes 4–5 years of full–time study. The length of time it takes to earn a degree can be shortened with transferred college credits or, if the program allows, credit for life or work experience.

A student in an asynchronous program may be able to accelerate the pace of their online learning, or, conversely, work more slowly if desired.

Whether an online format is asynchronous or synchronous can also affect completion time. Asynchronous coursework is student–paced and done anytime, while synchronous classes are attended virtually at set times. A student in an asynchronous program may be able to accelerate the pace of their online learning, or, conversely, work more slowly if desired. A specialty or concentration area may also dictate graduation timing.

Courses in an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science Program

Your forensic science program will begin with foundational courses in chemistry, biology, physics, and human anatomy. These classes may require you to complete lab work on campus, making it essential to research the requirements of each available program before choosing a school. Other courses include law and criminal justice, which allow you to bridge the gap between the legal and scientific branches of forensic science.

Some programs allow you to choose a concentration within forensic science, such as biology or chemistry.

Some programs allow you to choose a concentration within forensic science, such as biology or chemistry. A specialization or concentration can help establish your reputation as you begin your career, as it demonstrates that you are an expert in a specific branch of forensic science.

Depending on your specific online forensic science degree, you may need to complete an internship as part of your education. Internships provide valuable on–the–job experience, allowing you to create professional contacts within the forensic science community. Also, an excellent recommendation from your internship supervisor can help you earn your first job after graduation.

Introduction to Investigative Forensics

Students are introduced to the definition of forensic science and its practical applications. They learn to apply the scientific method to forensic evidence, ethical practices, and legal issues. Potential topics include distinguishing between reality and popular misconceptions of investigative forensics, disciplines within the field, case law, and ethical codes.

Criminology

This class explores theories of biological, social, and psychological causes of criminal behavior. Topics include topologies, criminological models, and criminality such as white–collar crime, violence, property theft, and public offenses. Students learn multidisciplinary approaches to analyzing the outcomes and effectiveness of criminal justice policies and procedures.

Principles of Digital Analysis

This course is a study of the technical and legal issues facing criminal investigators. Students learn to determine the most effective and appropriate response strategies; apply best practices to the collection, handling, and analysis of digital evidence; and appropriately communicate complex information accurately, ethically, and comprehensively.

Fingerprint Analysis

Students learn to analyze friction ridges in fingerprints, acquiring skills expected of entry–level fingerprint specialists. These include observing surfaces for viable latent prints; evaluating how to process and collect them; analyzing, comparing, assessing, and verifying print evidence; and conveying findings. Topics include processing and comparison methodologies and legal aspects.

Firearms and Toolmarks Analysis

Students in this class study toolmark evidence, including toolmarks imparted by firearms. Topics include practical analysis of evidence, comparison methodologies, historical and mechanical foundations of toolmarks, and legal issues. This course prepares students for entry–level jobs in the firearms and toolmarks field.

Forensic Science Membership Associations

American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors

A professional society of crime laboratory directors and forensic science managers, ASCLD works to promote standards in the field. The society provides members with networking opportunities, a newsletter, job listings, a membership directory, resource library, awards and scholarships, meetings, trainings, and a published journal.

American Board of Criminalistics

The ABC is composed of regional and national organizations that represent forensic scientists. Members seek to establish professional levels of knowledge, skills and abilities, defining a mechanism for achieving these levels, recognizing those who demonstrate attainment, and promoting growth within the profession.​

Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences

The CSFS provides professional development resources to those in the forensic science field through publications, awards, scholarships, job listings, and discounts on insurance and books. The CSFS offers various levels of membership for students, professionals, associates, and affiliates.

Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations

The CFSO advocates for a single forensic science voice in matters of mutual interest to its member organizations, such as increasing federal funding for public crime laboratories and medical examiner offices and influencing public policy at the local, state, and federal level.

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