Forensics Colleges & Universities

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Forensics Programs

For those who love puzzles and problem-solving, working in forensics can provide a fulfilling and impactful career. Forensics is “the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of a crime.” In other words, these professionals occupy the intersection of law enforcement and science. They help solve crimes by processing and analyzing varied types of evidence, including biological, chemical, and digital. Those interested in examining biological samples such as blood can become forensic science technicians or DNA analysts. Others may choose to study cybersecurity to prevent computer-based crimes, track down malicious hackers, and recover digital evidence. And still others who are mathematically inclined may consider becoming forensic accountants to detect fraud and expose white-collar crimes.

In short, there’s a wealth of forensics programs—including online options—to accommodate all subfields of this high-growth discipline. Read on to explore the varied specialties and forensics colleges 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 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.


In a 2017 interview about the future of forensic science, three prominent professors from U.S. universities offered their advice for aspiring students. All three stressed the importance of not only studying forensics methodologies, but also investing time in hard science courses such as chemistry, biology, and physics.

One way to ensure that a forensics program offers adequate scientific instruction is checking its accreditation status. Accreditation is the process of ensuring that a school or program has met baseline standards of quality with respect to faculty, facilities, and student outcomes, among other measures. For programmatic accreditation, the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) is the gold standard. While FEPAC typically accredits bachelor’s and master’s degree programs only, there are also forensics programs at the associate and doctoral levels, as well as certificates and diplomas. These degree programs cover the gamut of specializations such as forensic science, criminal justice, forensic accounting, crime scene investigation, forensic psychology, cybersecurity, and forensic nursing, among others. Some of these even have sub-specialties available, including criminalistics, toxicology, or molecular biology.

Associate degrees in forensic science typically include instruction in criminal law, physiology, and other general science courses such as biology and chemistry. There are both associate of applied science (AAS) and associate of science (AS) programs available. Bachelor’s degrees in forensic science generally offer courses such as ethics in criminal justice and more advanced science courses such as biochemistry, microbiology, and forensic chemistry. There are bachelor of science (BS) programs and bachelor of arts (BA) options, particularly in criminal justice. Master’s degrees in forensic science feature even more sophisticated coursework in areas such as serology, advanced research methods, DNA analysis, forensic toxicology, and trace evidence analysis, among others. There are both master of science (MS) and master of arts (MA) programs available.

One of the standout schools in the nation for forensics is the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which not only boasts relatively low student debt, but also provides a wide array of degree levels and forensics specializations. By illustration, at the bachelor’s level, JJC CUNY offers majors such as forensic science, cell and molecular biology, criminal justice, criminology, fire science, forensic psychology, fraud examination and financial forensics, and toxicology, to name a few.

Please visit of the specialty pages above or the state pages below to discover accredited forensics programs by subfield or region, respectively.


In addition to the accredited, campus-based forensic science programs, there’s also a range of distance-based options as well. In the past, working professionals and those with family responsibilities had difficulty finding programs to accommodate their schedules in terms of time or location. Fortunately, there are now programs beyond the traditional, brick-and-mortar model of education. A growing number of forensics students are choosing to study online, where they can tailor their studies to meet their individual needs.

There are many factors contributing to the spread of online forensics programs. For instance, as technology has spread, so too has the acceptance of online education, including among academic leaders. By illustration, the Babson Survey Research Group has been tracking online education for 13 years. BSRG’s most recent publication, Tracking Online Education in the United States (Feb. 2016), found that 74.1 percent of academic leaders surveyed viewed online learning as equal or superior to on-campus instruction, and 70.8 percent saw it as critical to the school’s long-term strategy. Babson also found that there were approximately 5.3 million students taking online courses in the U.S., an all-time high.

So how do online programs work? There are three main types of online learning.

  • Synchronous learning refers to video lectures, online discussion forums, web-based exams or assignments, and other program features accessed at the same time by students and faculty from different locations. Technologies such as Blackboard Learn and Google Classroom have empowered people in different locations to access course material and interact as if they were in the same room.
  • Asynchronous learning does not occur in real time, but rather students login at their convenience to complete a given task. They may have a weekly or monthly deadline to finish an assignment or test.
  • Hybrid or blended learning combines elements of both asynchronous and synchronous learning. It may also refer to a program with a mix of online and on-campus requirements.

Due to the hands-on nature of many forensics specializations, many programs are not 100 percent online, especially at the undergraduate level. While classes may be delivered at a distance, online forensics schools may require in-person laboratory training either at the campus or through an approved site close to a student’s home. Other online forensics programs have mandatory on-campus attendance for orientations or intensive seminars a few times per year. These sessions may give distance-based students the opportunity to interact with their colleagues and professors, offering a much-needed sense of community.

Regardless the program structure, prospective online students are strongly advised to verify the “state authorization” status of their program prior to enrollment. Due to differing state laws surrounding distance-based education, a student residing in one state may not be eligible to enroll in an online forensics program based in another state. For instance, Florida International University provides many online forensics programs and notes on its state authorization page that students from Utah are currently not eligible for distance-based admissions.

Finally, check out the main online forensics programs page. This guide examines the admissions requirements and coursework in accredited online forensics programs across fields such as crime scene investigation (CSI), forensic accounting, forensic nursing, forensic psychology, computer forensics, and other subfields.

Careers in Forensic Science

With an education in forensics and training in a lab environment, some of the job possibilities for these graduates include becoming a medical examiner, crime lab analyst, toxicologist, forensic biologist, forensic chemist, crime scene examiner, forensic engineer, forensic odontologist, criminal profiler, or a forensic science technician, among others. Check out the career guides below to learn in-depth about the typical education and credentialing across each of these fields.

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.

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