Forensic scientists help police officers and other law enforcement professionals solve crimes. These professionals analyze crime scenes, collect and analyze evidence, and testify in court. In addition to visiting crime scenes, they also work in laboratory and office settings. Other responsibilities often include keeping detailed records and maintaining the chain of evidence.
In addition to a passion for law enforcement and criminal justice, forensic scientists need strong analytical skills. They should also pursue professional development opportunities throughout their career. Professional development plays a significant role in the field, as new technological advancements can influence how forensic scientists perform their job. These professionals also need a meticulous nature, as mistakes with evidence can keep criminals from facing justice.
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Featured Online Programs
Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.
For students seeking the most affordable forensic science bachelor’s degrees, online programs feature many benefits. Distance learning programs often have fewer costs, and online students can continue working while earning their degree. Graduates with an online bachelor’s in forensic science may qualify for a promotion or a raise. Additionally, students hone transferable skills in critical thinking and communication.
|What is forensic science?
||A criminal justice subfield, forensic science involves the collection and analysis of evidence that law enforcement professionals use to solve crimes. This evidence can reveal criminals’ identities and motivations.
|Can I study forensic science online?
||Many reputable colleges and universities offer online bachelor’s in forensic science programs. Online students receive the same quality of education as on-campus students and typically follow the same curriculum.
|How long does it take to earn a bachelor’s in forensic science online?
||First-time college students often need four years to earn a bachelor’s degree. Associate degree-holders usually graduate in two years.
|What is the difference between forensic science and forensic psychology?
||Forensic scientists study crime scene evidence to determine how a crime occurred. Forensic psychologists analyze criminals’ motivations to understand the reasons behind crimes.
|What is the difference between forensic science and criminology?
||Forensic science focuses on crime scene evidence. Criminology involves the entire criminal justice system. Criminology professionals study why crime occurs and how to prevent it.
Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Forensic Science Programs 2021
The following colleges and universities offer some of the most affordable forensic science bachelor’s online degrees. Each program features rigorous courses, excellent career resources, and low tuition rates. The ranking also details financial aid opportunities, including institutional scholarships. Prospective students can visit each program’s website for additional information.
Columbia College's most affordable forensic science bachelor's online degree confers a BA in criminal justice and allows learners to select a forensic science concentration. Courses within the concentration include forensic toxicology, forensic DNA, and crime scene investigation. Online learners can supplement the degree with a criminal justice leadership certificate.
The Office of Career Services offers walk-in or scheduled in-person appointments at the Columbia, South Carolina campus. The office facilitates information sessions, on-campus interviews, and hiring events with prospective employers and organizations. Degree-seekers can build connections with potential employers through these and other events.
Columbia College does not charge an application fee. Admission requirements include a personal statement and high school or undergraduate transcripts. The college uses a 2.0 undergraduate GPA cutoff for transfer credit. Columbia College does not require ACT or SAT scores, but incoming students must submit them to qualify for institutional scholarships.
Located in Defiance, Ohio, DC features an online bachelor's in forensic science that emphasizes the latest scientific knowledge and the skills necessary to interact with law enforcement professionals. The program includes a required chemistry minor. DC forensic science alumni work at well-known employers such as Nestlé, Mercy Medical Center, and the Cleveland Clinic.
Current students network with future peers by joining DC's chapter of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association. The Pilgrim Library website offers access to career resources that include Optimal Resume, College Central, and LinkedIn.
Admission requirements include a high school or GED diploma. DC recommends but does not require standardized test scores. Incoming learners can receive up to $21,000 in institutional scholarships if they achieved excellent high school grades and earned a minimum 17 ACT or 939 SAT score.
University of Maryland - Global Campus
Prospective students researching online forensic science bachelor's programs should consider UMGC's investigative forensics bachelor's degree. The 120-credit program allows learners to take all courses entirely online. Major coursework includes crime scene investigation, cybercrime and security, and fingerprint analysis. The curriculum also applies the latest national guidelines so that graduates possess in-demand knowledge and skills.
UMGC Career Services (CS) counselors provide online degree-seekers with career resources and tools through CareerQuest. Resources include job-hunting tips and specialized advice on how to apply to internships. CS also runs a mentoring program for undergraduate learners.
UMGC accepts up to 90 transfer credits, allowing some learners to graduate in just one year. The university also grants conditional admission to applicants who do not meet its 2.0 high school or undergraduate GPA cutoff. Students who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit FAFSA results can apply for foundational scholarships.
Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty features one of the best forensic science bachelor's online degrees with a concentration in crime scene investigation. Courses include crime scene photography, crime scene management, and criminal investigations. Full-time students without prior college experience can earn the degree in approximately 3.5 years.
Liberty Career Services (CS) professionals offer one-on-one career coaching appointments, experiential learning opportunities throughout the United States, and virtual career workshops. CS workshops cover applying to federal jobs and preparing for interviews. Students access additional CS resources through Handshake.
Admission requires a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA for transfer students. Prospective freshmen can submit either a high school self-certification form or GED scores. Some international applicants may need to provide proof of English proficiency. Liberty charges the same tuition rate to all learners regardless of residency and awards scholarships to online students who meet specific criteria.
Learners who enroll in HU's most affordable forensic science bachelor's online degree earn a BS in chemistry with a concentration in forensic chemistry. The four-year curriculum requires coursework in forensic chemistry, physical chemistry, and psychology. The program trains degree-seekers to work in the government and private sectors.
HU's Career Center's seminars and workshops allow incoming freshman and transfer students to make the most of their degree. Seminar topics include professional dress, conflict resolution, and time-management skills. Degree-seekers can enhance their employability by completing an HU-sponsored internship or cooperative education program.
Prospective students can apply for the fall or spring semester. HU suspended its standardized testing requirement for the 2021-2022 academic year. Other admission materials include official high school transcripts, one recommendation letter, and a 500-word essay on an assigned topic. HU curates private financial aid opportunities on its Scholarship Search website.
Career and Salary Outlook for Forensic Science
Most forensic science technicians in the United States work for local governments, state governments, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and testing laboratories. Work environments can include offices, laboratories, and crime scenes. Some technician roles involve travel. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic science professionals who work for state governments earn the highest median salary.
The BLS projects employment for forensic science technicians to grow 14% between 2019 and 2029, nearly three times the projected median growth for all occupations. As a result, bachelor’s students who graduate in the next few years should enjoy strong job prospects.
Forensic science technicians can advance their career and increase their earning potential by earning additional credentials, such as licenses, certifications, and registrations. These achievements, along with professional experience, can qualify individuals for supervisory roles.
Accreditation for Forensic Science Programs
Students planning to earn an affordable forensic science bachelor’s online should ensure that each prospective school holds accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education charters six regional accreditation agencies to evaluate postsecondary schools. Graduates from schools without regional accreditation may face difficulty obtaining employment or applying to graduate programs.
Colleges and universities that award online degrees should also possess national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). DEAC accreditation signifies that the school’s online programs deliver the same learning outcomes as its on-campus options.
Additionally, the best forensic science bachelor’s online programs feature programmatic accreditation from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). AAFS grants accreditation to programs that provide the most rigorous and career-aligned forensic science education.
Courses in Online Forensic Science Programs
The best forensic science bachelor’s online programs require both general education coursework and major classes. General education requirements typically include classes in the humanities, sciences, and communication. While completing major classes, learners gain the essential knowledge and skills necessary for entry-level positions and career advancement in the field.
Learners completing online forensic science bachelor’s programs generally take the following courses. However, course titles and requirements vary among schools. Learners should contact their prospective school to learn more about specific forensic science program requirements.
- Crime Scene Photography
- This class emphasizes digital photography skills and best practices. Learners take photographs in various environments and weather conditions. Students learn to use different camera settings, master micro and macro photography, and explore photography’s role in criminal investigations. Students must typically purchase a digital camera and tripod.
- Crime Scene Management
- Forensic scientists preserve and catalog evidence at crime scenes, and they must manage challenges associated with numerous law enforcement professionals accessing the site. Students develop supervisory and investigative skills in this course. Learners prepare to identify various types of evidence, test for the presence of evidence, and create a crime scene assessment plan.
- Criminal Investigations
- This course trains future forensic scientists to stay within the law as they conduct investigations. Learners study the Constitution, evidence collection methodology, and the role of subpoenas and interviews in the investigative process. Degree-seekers also learn how to preserve evidence and complete paperwork.
- Fingerprint Analysis
- Students learn to collect fingerprints at crime scenes and analyze them in a laboratory. Coursework explores fingerprint collection methods and assessment strategies. Enrollees also learn how to convey findings to other law enforcement professionals and stakeholders.
- Cybercrime and Security
- Many modern crimes occur online or involve computer systems. As a result, forensic scientists must understand how to investigate digital crime. Students examine state and federal laws, case studies, and cybercrime prevention methods. This advanced course typically requires numerous forensic science prerequisites.
Scholarships for Forensic Science Students
Students earning an online bachelor’s in forensic science often minimize their debt by applying for private scholarships. Learners do not repay these awards, and some cover most or all of tuition expenses. The following scholarships are available to forensic science students and other degree-seekers training for criminal justice careers.
Who Can Apply: ASCLD awards funding to college upperclassmen and graduate students earning a degree in forensic or natural science. Candidates must apply by Feb. 15 and must submit a personal statement and a recommendation letter.
Who Can Apply: Forensic science upperclassmen with a minimum 3.0 GPA can apply. Applicants must submit three recommendation letters and official transcripts. The application window is open from Jan. 1 to April 1 each year.
Who Can Apply: The International Association for Identification (IAI) awards this scholarship to college juniors and seniors with at least a 3.0 GPA. The IAI considers each applicant’s academic performance, personal essay, and recommendation letters.
Who Can Apply: Learners pursuing a bachelor’s in forensic science at a New Jersey school can apply. Application materials include two recommendation letters and official transcripts. The NJAFS uses an Oct. 31 application deadline and announces recipients soon after.
Who Can Apply: NEAFS accepts scholarship applications from college juniors and seniors living in the Northeast. Applicants submit two recommendation letters and a personal essay outlining their career goals and must apply by April 30.