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If you love to solve puzzles, consider a career in forensic science, where you can apply science to legal and criminal investigations. No matter whether you study and specialize in chemistry, psychology, or DNA analysis, as a forensic scientist you can do your part to track down and convict criminals who have perpetrated violent crimes. If you have a technological bent, consider studying cyber security to prevent and combat cybercrime, or computer forensics to track down malicious hackers and recover digital evidence. If you are mathematical and investigative by nature, consider pursuing a forensic accounting education and learn to detect fraud and establish white-collar criminal activity. Explore these and other forensic specialties below.

Computer Forensics

Computer or digital forensics is the study of how technology is used to commit crimes. Computer forensic specialists use computer hardware and software to recover information from machines that could be used in criminal trials.

Crime Scene Investigation

Crime Scene Investigation is the field of collecting information from a crime scene for the goal of recreating a crime and using the evidence in criminal trials.

Criminal Justice

For students interested in a versatile degree, majoring in criminal justice may prove a wise decision. Criminal justice graduates go on to occupy a variety of exciting, impactful positions, becoming fraud investigators; DEA agents; law enforcement officers; secret service agents; state troopers; fish and game wardens; and criminologists.

Cyber Security

Cyber Security is the area of forensics that is devoted to actively protecting information. Cyber security specialists use computer hardware and software to track data thieves, thwart e-terrorists and protect sensitive electronic information.

Forensic Accounting

A forensic accountant uses basic accounting and investigative skills to find defects in financial statements that may be indicative of criminal activity. They perform audits on financial and legal files and present their findings in trials.

Forensic Nursing

Forensic nurses learn how to identify and treat victims of violent acts such as abuse and rape. Forensic nurses are also trained on how to gather and present evidence of these actions in court.

Forensic Science

Forensic Science is the general study of how science can be used for legal purposes. Forensic scientists range from biological researchers to psychologists and have many specialized skills.

Forensic Psychology

The study of Forensic Psychology specializes in how criminals and their victims behave and how it affects them emotionally and mentally. Forensic psychologists are often asked to present findings in court, especially in cases where mental illness could be a cause of violent acts.

Colleges + Universities

Universities, Community Colleges, And Online Schools For Forensic Science

Forensic science is a growing and rapidly evolving field of study, always incorporating useful new technologies, such as computer forensics and DNA analysis, that help solve crimes and resolve legal questions in more definitive fashion.  Many highly-ranked schools offer excellent programs in forensic science and related disciplines. The University of Maryland (Criminology & Criminal Justice) and University of Albany (Forensic Sciences and Cyber Security) are ranked as the top two schools for criminology in the nation, according to the U.S. News and World Report 2013.  However, students wanting to work specifically in the forensic science field may want to pursue a degree in the hard sciences, such as chemistry or molecular biology, to obtain the scientific training necessary for a career. A criminal justice degree is social-science based and will not provide the type of science background needed for a forensic science career. Students seeking a highly economical and affordable forensics education might consider a nearby community college such as Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, or New River Community College in Virginia.   Many local schools now offer a hybrid option, supplementing on-campus classes with convenient online courses. In certain cases, these schools are offering 100% online forensics degrees.  


Online Programs


Busy Parents & Working Professionals Can Study Forensic Science Online


In the past, working professionals and those with other full-time responsibilities (e.g., family commitments) faced great obstacles in advancing their skills and credentials since all material was typically offered in a traditional, “brick-and-mortar” setting, at a time and place that was not conducive to their schedules. These days, however, forensic science students are able to continue working, and study at a time and place that makes sense for them, often in the off-hours from the comfort of home.

So how do online programs work? Well, no two are the same, as the student may interact with the professor, fellow students, and the course material differently, depending on the program. That said, online forensic science programs typically deliver most of the “lecture” material online while the student completes experiential requirements such as externships, laboratory work, and other hands-on program components at a clinical site located close to their homes. Some programs may have mandatory on-campus attendance for orientations or other intensive seminars a few times per year, whereas others may be completed 100% online (minus the clinical component, if there is one). Professional experience is rarely an admissions requirement, but may be for online programs with lighter laboratory and practical components.

Check out the useful Guide to Online Forensic Science Degree Programs, which includes comprehensive information on the following:

  • How online programs work
  • Who can benefit from an online or hybrid forensics college
  • Featured online colleges specializing in forensic science, crime scene investigation (CSI), forensic accounting, forensic nursing, forensic psychology, computer forensics, and other subdisciplines
  • Application process and affordability
  • Online forensic science program accreditation

Since many forensics colleges require specialty lab work or practicum, it may not be possible to enroll in a completely online program for some areas of study. Forensic psychology and forensic nursing are two good examples, as each of these fields requires practicum hours that must be completed in a hospital or private medical practice. On the other hand, there are some specialty areas within forensics where an online program is more commonplace. Students interested in forensic accounting, computer forensics or cyber security can often find forensics colleges that are 100% online, even at the local and state levels.

Careers in Forensic Science

If you are considering a forensic science career, browse our detailed descriptions of each specialty in the field. It is a great way to find out whether a career in forensics is right for you, and which specialty will best suit your personality and lifestyle. You can find out more about careers such as:

Computer Forensic Examiner

Computer forensic examiners use technological expertise to protect electronic data from cyberattacks. They also identify when an attack has occurred and track the source of the security breach.

Crime Scene Investigator

Crime scene investigators observe and identify evidence at the scene of a violent crime. They use this evidence to “recreate” the crime and testify about findings in criminal trials.

DNA Analyst

DNA analysts use microscopic evidence to link criminals to crime scenes.They use specified protocol to perform genetic tests on DNA samples like blood and hair in order to convict criminals.

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants use investigative and mathematical skills to find anomalies in financial records that indicate criminal activity. They also perform business valuations and often present findings to stakeholders and in court.

Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses are trained to identify and administer to victims of violent crimes. They are also trained to create official documentation of their findings in preparation for presentation during criminal cases.

Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychologists counsel with perpetrators and victims of violent crime. They are also trained to evaluate criminals for competency to stand trial due to mental illness or strain.

Forensic Scientist

Forensic scientists are those who perform specialized laboratory investigations relating to violent crimes. Typical forensic science sub-categories are serology, odontology, anthropology and weaponry.

Pathologist Assistant

A pathology assistant is able to do most of the work of a pathologist except for diagnosis of a post-mortem patient. Pathology assistants collect samples, perform autopsies and do clerical work in pathology labs.

The Latest from the Forensics Education Blog

  • January 12 2017
  • Interviews

Forensics Colleges interviewed three prominent professors on the future of their field in the wake of the PCAST report. What follows is a discussion of what aspiring forensics students can do to ensure that they’re channeling their efforts into trusted, reliable branches of this exciting field.

  • October 3 2016
  • Resources

As cybercrimes such as state-sponsored attacks, “smart spam,” and ransomware continue to proliferate, so too will the career opportunities for people with degrees in digital forensics. Check out this guide to high-growth careers in this field.