A bachelor’s degree isn’t necessary to begin a career as a forensic science professional, but without it, many capable workers will hit a cap on their salary and position pretty soon. After all, forensics is a highly technical, highly specialized field, and the basics learned in an associate’s program, or on the job, aren’t enough to take on higher-demand positions. While on-campus forensic science programs have their advantages, prospective students are turning more and more often to fully online bachelor’s in forensic science programs. In fact, for many professionals, online may be preferable.
Criminal justice, in general, is a field that many workers begin straight out of high school, or with an associate’s degree, so many of the people who would most benefit from a bachelor’s degree are already working in the field. They don’t want to leave a good job to go back to school, and why should they? Since they’re already working in criminal justice or forensics, experience means that they don’t necessarily need the hand-holding of an on-campus program. The flexible scheduling and convenience of not having to commute make a forensics degree online ideal for working professionals who want to become forensic scientists.
Methodology: How We Ranked the Best Forensic Science Bachelor Degree Online
To rank the 15 Best Online Forensic Science Degree Bachelor’s Programs for 2019, Bachelor’s Degree Center researched forensic science programs that are offered fully online or in a hybrid format – primarily bachelor’s degree completion, but with some fully online 4-year programs. Schools must be regionally accredited, while FEPAC accreditation is a bonus.
Programs are ranked according to 5 criteria: Cost, Reputation, Alumni Salary, Graduation Rate, and Job Placement, with data drawn from IPEDS, College Scorecard, and Niche.com.
1. CSU-Global Campus
CSU-Global’s online BS in Criminal Justice in Criminal Forensics gives students the ability to develop their skills to investigate and become stronger leaders while using their foundation in law enforcement. This program gives students the flexibility of an online program while allowing them to gain knowledge of the processes and services needed in criminal justice. Students will learn the fundamentals of crisis responsiveness and how to advise on those situations. Students learn how to develop policies, give updates on the law, and manage records. Upon graduating from this program, students will be able to obtain employment as a manager in corrections, a police officer, a professor, or a criminologist.
CSU-Global is one of the most unique institutions in the US – the first public, fully online, stand-alone campus founded as part of a major public university system. CSU-Global specializes in bachelor’s degree-completion programs and graduate degrees, providing a central home for Colorado’s public online degree programs. Known for affordability and quality, CSU-Global offers one of the best forensic science bachelor degree online programs in the world.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – Criminal Forensics
2. Maryville University
Maryville University’s online BA in Forensic Psychology is one of the best-ranked forensic science bachelor degree online programs in the nation. Maryville University was ranked as one of America’s Top Colleges. This program is completely online with no need for the student to come to St. Louis, Missouri campus. Students do not have to take the SAT or ACT exams. The mission of Maryville is to focus on its commitment to excellence in education, with a focus on learning through experience.
Maryville’s forensic science bachelor degree online program gives students first-hand experience by serving the community. Students also join the faculty in completing research projects. Students in this program will combine the criminal justice field with the psychology field to be more marketable in health care and law enforcement. Students take a deeper look at sociology, psychology, and criminology. They expand their ability to think critically, gain a better understanding of research, and learn the benefits of paying attention to details. Upon graduation, students can apply for jobs in government, probation and corrections facilities, or clinics for substance abuse.
Degree: BA in Forensic Psychology
3. Kent State University
Kent State University’s online bachelor’s in forensic science program includes two specialized degrees: the Bachelor of Technical and Applied Studies with a concentration in Fraud Examination, and the BS in Information Technology with a concentration in Applied Computer Security and Forensics. Both degrees can be completed entirely online with no visits necessary to their Kent, Ohio campus. The Bachelor of Technical and Applied Studies is ideal for students entering as a freshman, or who have an associate’s degree. Students are given a foundational business background and coursework on preventing fraud and financial misuse in businesses. Students will understand how strong ethics and sound decisions are used in preventing fraud and how to study and analyze fraud cases.
Kent State’s BS in Information Technology, on the other hand, gives students a foundation in all computer technologies that they then apply to criminal analysis. They’ll learn how to support organizational needs, including developing programs for desktop and mobile use, support infrastructure, and create databases. They’ll also gain knowledge in cloud basics, how to deploy applications, and retrieve data. Upon graduation, students can gain employment as network technicians, help desk supervisors, database administrators, or technical support.
Bachelor of Technical and Applied Studies – Fraud Examination
BS in Information Technology – Applied Computer Security and Forensics
4. Florida State University
Florida State University’s online BS in Public Safety and Security with a concentration in Crime Scene Investigation gives students flexibility with distance learning courses and the ability to take accelerated summer classes. This bachelor’s in forensic science degree gives students a foundation in the ability to handle physical evidence. Students learn to identify and collect evidence, as well as analyze it to help solve crimes, and ultimately prosecute criminals. Students are given the ability to blend hands-on exercises with the theoretical knowledge required in the field of crime scene investigation. Upon graduation, students will be able to seek employment with security companies, law enforcement, or intelligence services.
Florida State University is one of the state’s three “preeminent” universities established in 1851, alongside its sibling the University of Florida. FSU is a first-tier public research university and one of the most influential institutions in the South, particularly in STEM research and learning. A highly diverse university, Florida State is often named one of the best universities for minority students, especially Hispanic and Latino students, as well as a best value.
Degree: BS in Public Safety and Security – Crime Scene Investigation
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5. Arizona State University
Arizona State University’s online BS in Forensic Psychology gives students a strong foundation in the neuroscientific portion of psychology, as well as a biological one. Students receive in-depth training in legal, clinical, and psychological research, as well as in statistics. Students learn the important place psychologists hold in the legal and justice system. Forensic psychologists are the ones who perform exams and assess the mental condition of defendants to determine their mental state at the time a crime took place. Students will work closely with well-known leaders in the field as their instructors, many of whom have been in the best scientific journals nationally, and internationally.
Long named the most innovative university in the nation, Arizona State pioneered the idea of the New American University, opening up admissions and making higher education as accessible and effective as possible. Today, ASU is one of the largest universities in the nation, and one of the most influential. Arizona State is particularly known as an online educator in professional fields, including the forensic science bachelor degree online.
Degree: BS in Forensic Psychology
6. Hampton University
Hampton University’s online BS in Chemistry offers a concentration in Forensic Chemistry for students who want to go into a career as a forensic chemist. This program, which is offered fully online, understands the critical role forensic science play in criminal justice. In this program, students will learn to blend their knowledge of science with analytical skills and reporting, as well as testimony to support finding physical evidence. Since this program is part of the chemistry program, students have a wider range of employment options available to them.
Hampton University is a private HBCU in Virginia, well-known for its education rigor. Founded as an agricultural school, Hampton built on its heritage to become one of the leading HBCUs for STEM – including being the only HBCU to lead a NASA mission. The bachelor’s in forensic science program builds on Hampton’s STEM excellent to give students a solid base in the sciences, as well as a strong ability to use science for practical approaches to problems. They gain invaluable experience working within a lab. Upon graduation from this program, students will find employment in crime labs in law enforcement or government agencies.
Degree: BS in Chemistry – Forensic Chemistry
7. Oakland City University
Oakland City University’s online BS in Criminal Justice offers a concentration in Investigative Forensics that gives students a foundation in criminal investigation and crime scene investigation. Students learn how to process evidence found at a crime scene. They learn the proper way to collect evidence, and the techniques they should employ. Students also learn the proper way to photograph an investigative scene. Students can take coursework online from their own location or on-campus in Oakland, City, Indiana.
OCU’s bachelor’s in forensic science program blends the approaches of criminal investigation theory and modern philosophy behind investigating a crime scene. Students develop skills to help them think critically and become experts at techniques for investigating crime scenes. Students also learn to write documents properly and present information orally. Students gain an understanding of the types of evidence that is found and how it’s used during an investigation.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – Investigative Forensics
8. Florida Tech
Florida Tech’s online BA in Forensic Psychology offers a further concentration in Criminal Justice Applications. This program teaches students how psychological research, as well as theory are used in criminal justice. Students are given a foundation in the behavior of humans, including criminal behavior. They also learn the benefits of strong writing, proper research, and how to analyze data. Students gain a foundation in crime analysis skills, how to prevent crime, and to be a liaison in the community between legal and social service organizations. Students are presented with a project that gives them a chance to work with the FBI reviewing, as well as coding, case files.
The Florida Institute of Technology dates back to 1958, when it was founded to train engineers for NASA’s Florida facilities. Today, Florida Tech is best known for strong mentoring and collaboration with instructors, thanks to a low student:faculty ratio. Upon graduation, students from the forensic science bachelor degree online program can find employment as a police officer, or a crime scene analyst. Previous students have started careers in Naval Criminal Investigative Services, the Public Defender’s office, and the local Police Department.
Degree: BA in Forensic Psychology – Criminal Justice Applications
9. Utica College
Utica College in Utica, NY, offers two online forensic science degrees: a BS in Criminal Intelligence Analysis and a BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation. Utica was one of the first schools to offer an online BS in Criminal Intelligence Analysis. Students will learn how to process and handle information, become expert in criminal matters, learn the value of ethical decision-making, and learn the proper way to analyze data. Students will learn how to predict and therefore stop criminal activity. Students will be able to create public policy to help lower crime rates. Students will be able to solve cases and help put criminals in jail.
Utica’s BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation program prepares students for a career in financial crime. Students develop skills to analyze and preserve evidence of financial crimes. Students learn how to find and document financial fraud. They learn how to find areas of vulnerability to fraudulent crimes. Students learn how to use technology to find and prevent crime. They learn the value of legal regulations, and how to recognize criminal behavior. Students gain a foundation in identity theft, insurance fraud, embezzlement, and health care fraud.
BS in Criminal Intelligence Analysis
BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
10. New England College
New England College’s online BA in Forensic Psychology gives students the ability to study the history and beginning of crime. They learn how to apply the principles and theories of psychology to the legal field. Students understand how psychological characteristics play a role in criminal activity and behavior. Students gain an understanding of how closely related criminal justice and psychology are. Students will gain a better understanding of the psychology of forensics, how to investigate criminal activity and the study of victims.
New England College in Henniker, NH, was built on the needs of non-traditional students, founded in 1946 to provide educational opportunity for returning veterans using the GI Bill. While NEC provides a strong base in the liberal arts, like a traditional liberal arts college, it is also known for its exceptional professional programs. Upon graduation from the forensic science bachelor degree online program, students may be able to find employment as a detective, crime scene investigator, or a substance abuse counselor, with New England College’s strong reputation and connections to help them.
Degree: BA in Forensic Psychology
11. Portland State University
Portland State University’s online BS in Criminal Justice, with a Certificate in Advanced Crime Analysis, is intended for adults who are currently working in the criminal justice field who want to advance their careers. This program highlights theory, as well as practice to make a difference in the community. Students are able to develop a program that works for them, including completing one of the online certificate programs with no extra cost nor requirement visits to Oregon.
Portland State bachelor’s in forensic science students will study methods and tools to help them analyze the criminal justice system. Students will begin to understand criminal behavior, as well as the social factors that lend themselves to criminal activity and behavior. Students will learn how to map out crimes along with techniques for advanced analysis of crime. They will better understand the relationships between the police and local communities. Students will also learn to create control over evidence-based criminal activity.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – Certificate in Advanced Crime Analysis
12. American Intercontinental University
American Intercontinental University’s online BS in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Forensic Science helps students learn the complete processing of the scene of a crime from the preservation of evidence to fingerprinting and interpreting blood splatter. Students also learn how to properly write up a crime scene description. Bachelor’s in forensic science students learn the definition of forensic science, as well as the role of a forensic psychologist. Students understand the various stages of postmortem, including bodily changes, and medical history. They also gain a better understanding of the use of computers in solving a crime, including tool testing, learning to use computers to create data modeling to help solve crimes, as well as use computers to do the analysis.
American Intercontinental University is a rare for-profit university that is regionally accredited and recognized for educational quality. Founded in 1971, AIU has two physical campuses, but is primarily known as an online educator – around 80% of AIU students attend fully online. From the beginning, AIU was designed around the needs of working adults, and that continues today in programs like the forensic science bachelor degree online.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – Forensic Science
13. University of North Carolina at Pembroke
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) in Criminal Justice Studies, with a concentration in Forensics, gives students a solid foundation in the criminal justice system with advanced knowledge and skills in forensics. This program allows students to utilize their diverse backgrounds and experience as they study the foundations and blending of more than one discipline.
UNC Pembroke is a unique institution, founded to provide an opportunity to the Native American community in the Lumberton area. Like many of UNCP’s programs, a bachelor’s in forensic science is intended for working adult students interested in advancing their current careers. Upon graduation, students will be able to find employment in the court system, correctional facilities, and in a police department.
Degree: BIS in Criminal Justice Studies – Forensics
14. SUNY Canton
SUNY Canton’s online Bachelor of Technology in Criminal Investigation gives students a thorough education in the many sides of forensics. Students will learn proper photographic skills and techniques for an investigation. Students will develop skills that will be useful during an interview and interrogation. They will learn proper evidence processing and techniques to be used while investigating a crime scene. Students learn the proper way to investigate death. They learn the foundation of crime scene investigation. Students in this program receive a special course in the examination of firearms and tools, forensic taphonomy, questionable documents, and graves.
The State University of New York at Canton began in 1906 as an agricultural and technology school, and applied science remains at the center of the university’s education – including the bachelor’s in forensic science. The forensic science bachelor degree online program focuses on real-life experiential learning instead of focusing heavily on theory. Students have the opportunity to participate in 600 hours of an investigative internship, adding experience to their convenient, fully online coursework.
Degree: Bachelor of Technology in Criminal Investigation
15. Miami Dade College
Miami Dade College’s online Bachelor of Applied Science in Public Safety Management includes an optional concentration in Crime Scene Investigation. This degree program is intended for working adults who are interested in advancing their current career, or for those who want to enter a career in public safety. This program is intended to be completed in about two years with a full-time commitment. Students must take 60 credit hours of core classes and 5 more credit hours in their concentration for the bachelor’s in forensic science.
MDC’s forensic science bachelor degree online program teaches the student to think critically, improve their analytical skills, and develop oral and written communication skills. This program allows students to take a deep dive into issues related to the investigation, including developing stronger criminal and crime scene investigation techniques. They will learn how to improve investigative skills. Students learn safety at a crime scene, innovative fingerprint technology, and how to properly handle crime scene evidence. Students take advanced course work in crime scene investigation and how to use technology at a crime scene to be better able to collect evidence.
Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science in Public Safety Management – Crime Scene Investigation
What Kinds of Careers Can I Get in Forensic Science?
The forensic science field employs a broad range of jobs, with a wide variety of areas available to explore. After all, there are many facets to crime investigation and criminal justice. For example, somebody with a passion for psychology could attain a forensic psychology online degree to gain access to forensic psychology jobs. In this specialized area, a worker can apply his or her expertise in psychology to legal and criminal cases.
The field of forensic science is large encompassing everything from natural science to psychology to criminal procedure to computer science. Under the discipline of forensic science, there are different subdisciplines like psychology, anthropology, technology, forensic biology, criminology, lab analysis, nursing, forensic toxicology, criminalistics, profiling, computer forensics, digital forensics, serology, forensic DNA analysis, and crime scene investigation. You may work with forensic evidence in a crime laboratory, or at a computer doing cybersecurity. There is a wide range of forensic investigation today.
It’s recommended that forensic science majors get to know these subdisciplines and pursue the ones that are interesting to them. Learning a specialty or a concentrated area will better advance a person’s career options.
Forensic medical examiners, forensic accountants, forensic engineers, laboratory analysts, and crime scene investigators make some of the highest earnings within this particular field of work. While the average forensic science technician makes about $52,000 per year, the above-mentioned careers can make up to $200,000 per year.
Can I Get a Job with an Online Forensic Science Degree?
Yes, as long as the online program has regional accreditation, online forensic degrees are just as good as on-campus. Even better is accreditation from FEPAC for the forensics program. Employers are very cautious of graduates who come from forensic science programs that aren’t accredited. Forensic science needs skilled and highly-trained workers who match up with certain standards for the job. Without proper education and training on the employee’s part, the work is put into serious doubt. In a field like forensic science, precision and skill are much-needed in order to bring real criminals to justice.
But the good news is that increasingly, more employers are recognizing the validity of online learning. Virtual courses are becoming popular for a reason; not everybody has the schedule or the commuting options to attend in-person colleges. And some fields are perfect for online education. A forensic psychology online degree can provide all the same coursework as an on-campus forensic psychology program. Employers like police departments and government agencies will see online forensic psychology degrees no differently. So people who get forensic degrees online get the same jobs and the same pay.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows strong numbers for forensic career opportunities. Online students can expect lower tuition rates (and less financial aid to pay back). Enrollment in bachelor of science and master’s degree programs related to forensics is high. Working adults may be able to transfer credits from earlier studies, or get credit for work experience. Expect a capstone project that puts your online learning into practice. Choose your electives wisely if you wish to specialize.
What If I Already Have a Bachelor’s?
It is actually somewhat commonplace for a bachelor’s graduate to pursue an online education for specialization. Online programs are especially convenient for those looking for an accelerated pace. Forensic science careers can start with online forensic science degree programs.
For example, if you already have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, you may add an online forensic science certificate to your credentials to open to the door to forensic psychology careers. An online forensic science certificate, plus your experience and education in psychology, will have the same effect for forensic psychology jobs as a forensic psychology online degree.
On the other hand, if you already have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related major, you can then specialize in psychology by finding an online forensic psychology certificate program. After you have passed the forensic psychology online courses, a degree or certificate in forensic psychology will help you find forensic psychology jobs.