Interest in forensic science spiked like never before in the 21st century, and major advances in forensic technology have made it one of the most exciting subfields in criminal justice. Forensic science is challenging, but very rewarding. Many forensic science technicians begin their career with an associate’s degree, but for promotion to more responsibility and higher pay, many choose to go back for a bachelor’s in forensic science.
Getting a degree in forensic science online is a very convenient way to advance a career. An online forensic science degree is not distinguishable from a traditional forensic science degree. Employers will care more about the reputation of the college and the types of courses completed rather than if the classes were taken virtually or not. However, an employer will want to confirm any type of forensic science degree online came from an accredited college. An accredited college is reviewed by a regional accrediting agency to confirm that the programs offer a high value to students. Regional accreditation is also needed to receive any financial aid toward the online forensic science degree.
How We Ranked the Best Online Forensic Science Degrees
Criminal Justice Degree Hub editors know that criminal justice professionals going back to school for their online forensic science degrees have practical considerations in mind. Will I see a return on my investment? Will I be able to get a job? CJDH editors ranked the best online forensic science bachelor’s according to three factors: Cost, Salary Potential, and Student Satisfaction. Data came from College Scorecard, IPEDS, and Niche. Only reputable, accredited colleges were considered for the ranking.
1. Purdue University Global
Purdue University Global offers a BS in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Forensic Psychology or Crime Scene Investigation degree program that can be completed entirely online. PG offers some of the best online Forensic Science degrees available in the country. The degree in Forensic Science online program requires the completion of 180 credit units. Classes for the PG BS in Criminal Justice program requires a student commitment of about 15 hours each week. Purdue University Global Forensic Science degree programs also provide real-world learning through internship opportunities.
Purdue University Global was established in 2018. Purdue University Global’s academic objectives are to deliver quality education online to the adult-education community. Purdue University Global’s student enrollment is approximately 29,000.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – Crime Scene Investigation or Forensic Psychology
2. Florida State University
Florida State University offers a BS in Public Safety & Security degree program with an emphasis on Crime Scene Investigation. This degree in Forensic Science online course requires no campus visits. FSU’s Crime Scene Investigation coursework is considered among the best online Forensic Science degrees in Florida. FSU’s online program approaches forensic science from a physical and social science perspective. Degree graduates find rewarding careers in the fields of security, investigations, intelligence, and law enforcement, to name a few.
Florida State University was established in 1851. FSU is a sea-grant, space grant institution of higher learning and holds the distinction of being the senior member of the State University System of Florida. The school operates on a budget that exceeds 1.6 billion and serves nearly 42,000 students. FSU is the birthplace of cancer medicine known as Taxol.
Degree: BS in Public Safety and Security – Crime Scene Investigation
3. Colorado State University Global
Colorado State University Global offers a BS in Criminal Justice degree program with a concentration in Criminal Forensics that can be completed online entirely. CSU Global’s degree in Forensic Science online requires the completion of 120 credit units. The best online forensic Science degrees prepare students to innovatively investigate and manage a crime scene investigation. Coursework includes Criminology, Laws of Evidence, Ethics, and Criminal Law, to name a few. Additionally, CSU Global’s degree candidates must also complete a capstone project.
Colorado State University was established in 1870, and CSU Global – the distance learning extension sister school in the CSU System – was established in 2007. CSU Global serves over 19,000 students. CSU Global holds the distinction of being the first only 100% online, fully accredited public university in the United States.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – Criminal Forensics
4. Portland State University
Portland State University offers a BS in Criminal Justice degree program with an Advanced Crime Analysis Certificate. This degree in Forensic Science online program includes coursework that includes — Theories of Crime, Crime Analysis, and policing in America, plus an eight credit internship and a culminating capstone project. PSU Online programs are considered among the best online forensic science degrees. Portland State University approves transfer credit requests (from regionally accredited institutions of higher education) on a case-by-case basis.
Portland State University was established in 1946. This public institution of higher learning was originally chartered for returning veterans after WWII. The school’s 50+-acre urban campus is home to more than 22,000 students studying for degrees offered by PSU’s nine academic divisions. Portland State University holds the distinction of being the only public school in an urban setting in the entire state.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – Certificate in Advanced Crime Analysis
5. Kent State University
Kent State University (KSU) offers two of the best online forensic science degrees — a Bachelor of Technical & Applied Studies (with a Fraud Examination concentration) and a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (with an Applied Computer Security & Forensics). These degree in forensic science online programs prepare graduates for careers in software development, networking, cloud storage, and forensic analysis, to name a few. Each of KSU’s Forensic Science online programs requires the completion of 120 credit units.
Kent State University was established in 1910. Kent State University operates 8 campuses, which serves nearly 40,000 students in the state of Ohio. US News recognizes KSU among the top 200 national universities in the country. Kent State University is considered among the largest institution of higher learning in Ohio and internationally known for anti-Vietnam activism, mainly due to tragic events at that time.
Degree: Bachelor of Technical and Applied Studies – Fraud Examination; BS in Information Technology – Applied Computer Security and Forensics
6. University of North Carolina at Pembroke
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke offers a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) in Criminal Justice Studies degree program that is available completely online. UNC Pembroke’s degree in Forensic Science online program prepares degree candidates for careers in the fields of corrections, police work, and the legal justice system in general. UNCP’s Criminal Justice online degree program allows students to select from four specialties — Sociology, Management, Substance Abuse, and Forensics. UNCP’s forensic programs are recognized among the best online forensic science degrees nationwide.
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke was established in 1887. The school’s 150+-acre campus is home to more than 7,600 students and is a graduate degree-granting institution of higher education-member school of the University of North Carolina system. The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is affiliated with North Carolina’s largest recognized tribe — the Lumbee Tribe.
Degree: BIS in Criminal Justice Studies – Forensics
7. Liberty University
The Helms School of Government offers Liberty University’s BS in Criminal Justice degree program with a specialization in Crime Scene Investigation. Liberty University’s best online forensic science degrees require students to complete 120 credit units; which, on average, can be completed in 3.5 years. Liberty’s degree in forensic science online program allows for the transfer of up to 75 percent of the degree’s requirements. Coursework includes Criminal Investigations, Crime Scene Management, and Crime Scene Investigation Photography, among others.
Liberty University was established in 1971. Liberty University is affiliated with the evangelical Christian Church. LU’s 6,500± acre suburban campus in Lynchburg is home to more than 14,000 students studying from Liberty University’s seventeen colleges/schools. Liberty University’s online student enrollment exceeds 100,000 in both graduate and undergraduate programs.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – Crime Scene Investigation
8. Miami Dade College
Miami Dade College offers an online Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Public Safety Management degree program with an emphasis on Crime Scene Investigation. Miami Dade’s degree in forensic science online requires the completion of 120 credit units and typically four years to graduate. The best online forensic science degrees prepare students with the skills necessary to participate in the management of a crime scene investigation. Coursework includes Criminal Evidence, Crime Scene Safety, and Advanced Crime Scene Technology, to name a few.
Miami Dade College was established in 1959 as a junior college. Miami Dade operates nearly 30 campuses and outreach facilities in the county. Together, all the campuses of Miami Dade College serve more than 165,000 students. Miami Dade’s main campus is the Wolfson Campus; located in Downtown Miami, aka Magic City. Miami Dade College is the large college in Florida and the 2nd largest in the nation.
Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science in Public Safety Management – Crime Scene Investigation
9. Utica College
Utica College (UC) offers two online forensic science degree programs — the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Intelligence Analysis and a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Fraud & Financial Crime Investigation. Utica College’s best online forensic science degrees require students to have either 57 earned college credits or to hold an associate’s degree. The degree in forensic science online offers two specializations — Fraud prevention and Detection and Financial Investigation. Students studying six credit each session typically finish the degree in less than three years.
Utica College was established in 1946 as a private institution of higher learning. The school’s suburban campus in upstate New York is home to more than 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students studying from more than 60 degree programs at the baccalaureate and masters level. Highlight — Utica College began as an extension facility of Syracuse University.
Degree: BS in Criminal Intelligence Analysis; BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
10. SUNY Canton
The State University at New York (SUNY) Canton offers a Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech) in Criminal Investigation degree program that can be completed entirely online. SUNY Canton’s degree in forensic science online is among the best online forensic science degrees available. Coursework covers Latent Impressions, Investigative Interviews, and Forensic Photography, among others. SUNY Canton’s forensic science degree program emphasizes a hand-on learning program, and is less theoretical.
The State University at New York (SUNY Canton) was established in 1906. SUNY Canton’s 550+-acres is home to more than 3,100 students studying degrees offered in Engineering Technology, Business, Liberal Arts, Health, Criminal Justice, and Science. Highlight — SUNY Canton is a part of the Associated Colleges of St. Lawrence Valley, which allows students to cross-register at SUNY Potsdam and St. Lawrence, and Clarkson.
Degree: Bachelor of Technology in Criminal Investigation
Is Forensic Science a Good Major? Is Forensic Science Hard?
Classes delve into the investigative process, evidence analysis, laboratory quality control and assurance, and forensic biology. Forensic science has engaging courses that help a student learn how different evidence is used to solve crimes. Students with a strong understanding of scientific principles will do best in this type of major.
Forensic science majors are ideal for those who excel in courses such as biology, computer science, calculus, and chemistry. There is a strong math component within forensic science majors with many programs requiring courses like statistics for graduation. Forensic science is best suited for an individual with a scientific mind that is highly organized and pays close attention to detail. Quality control is an important part of forensic investigations and mistakes throughout the process can be very detrimental to solving and prosecuting crimes.
Should I Get a Forensic Science Bachelor’s Online?
A degree in forensic science online will follow a similar schedule as a traditional degree. Most bachelor’s degrees require 120 credits for graduation. These credits can be completed online on a part-time or full-time basis. Online colleges often have an accelerated option for students who wish to finish in three years or less. Online forensic science degrees are also perfect for those who have work or family commitments. Classwork can be scheduled at convenient times such as weekends and evenings. Some schools offer a hybrid option to forensic science degree seekers. Within this format, a portion of the classes is done online with some in-person meetings required.
A Bachelor of Science in Forensics can be a stepping-stone for pursuing higher degrees. Many high-level careers in the field of forensics require a master’s degree for consideration. The bachelor’s degree prepares students by including classes that focus on computer science, biology, chemistry, criminal justice, and mathematics.
What Can I Do with a Forensic Science Bachelor’s?
Forensic science jobs are available for bachelor’s degree holders. Entry-level positions include crime scene technician jobs. Many graduates of the program choose to apply to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Within the department, the graduate may fine a job as a crime scene technician, fingerprint examiner, evidence analyst, computer forensics analyst, and detective. Any type of medical examiner job will require a higher degree from a graduate-level program.
Crime scene technician jobs involve ensuring evidence collection is done properly. All rules and regulations must be followed as a crime scene are processed. Forensic science technician jobs also involve analyzing the data collected at a crime scene.
Forensic science jobs also leave room for specializations. Once a position is secured, additional training can be received. For instance, a person can pursue a job as a computer forensics analyst and will know data retrieval methods, operating system basics, data encryption, and digital evidence protection. Additional specialized jobs in the field of forensic science are:
- Ballistics expert
- Blood splatter expert
- Crime scene photographer
- Forensic accountant
- Crime lab analyst
How Much Can I Make with a Forensic Science Bachelor’s?
A forensic science technician’s salary is highly competitive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the starting salary for forensic science technicians in 2018 was more than $35,000. The median wage of a forensic science degree salary is $58,230. Employers offering the highest wages in the industry were state and local government agencies. The job outlook is positive too with the industry growing by as much as 14 percent each year. Annual mean wages are highest for forensic science technicians in locations nearby cities. The top paying metropolitan areas for the job are Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington DC.
Additional careers in forensic science for bachelor’s degree holders offer lucrative salaries. A forensic accountant will investigate business accounts for litigation purposes. The average salary of a forensic accountant is more than $61,000 annually. Police detectives are another type of job secured by forensic science degree holders and they earn an average of $63,380 per year.