The introduction of online and hybrid programs in forensics has made attending college more convenient, flexible, and accessible for everyone. Attending a traditional college campus can be challenging for aspiring students with full-time jobs, family responsibilities, or other essential commitments. However, people who earn a forensic science degree online don’t need to sacrifice quality for accessibility.
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education, collects and analyzes data annually to assess educational efficacy. In the fall of 2020, the National Center for Education Statistics (affiliated with the IES) reported that over seven million students were enrolled in distance education courses. Of this number, 44 percent of the students were enrolled exclusively in distance education courses. Moreover, undergraduates held the lion’s share of exclusive distance education enrollment at nearly 12 million compared to more than two million post-baccalaureate students.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the number of online learning options, many questions remain: how does classroom learning compare with an online learning environment? To this point, in 2022, Wiley University Services reported that 79 percent of current and recently graduated online students say they would choose online learning again, and 41 percent of the students feel that the experience in their online program changed for the better in 2020 due to the pandemic. It’s clear that distance learning is not only here to stay, but it’s also on the rise and viewed as an equally valuable learning method compared to in-person learning.
Many top-rated schools offer online forensic science degree programs to connect with working and stay-at-home students, allowing them to earn a degree or certificate on their own terms. In addition, many programs, particularly those tailored to working professionals who have already completed their lab and field training, are available 100 percent online.
In other cases, hybrid programs—those combining classroom and distance learning—may require in-person campus attendance for hands-on instruction in laboratory procedures. At the same time, students can complete the didactic coursework online at the student’s convenience.
Read below to learn more about the variety of online and hybrid forensics programs—including their structure, affordability, and accreditation.
|Featured CSI & Forensic Science Programs|
|Arizona State University||Forensic Science (BS)||Visit Site|
|Arizona State University||Forensic Science (PSM)||Visit Site|
|Grand Canyon University||MS - Forensic Science||Visit Site|
|Stevenson University Online||Forensic Investigation Grad Certificate||Visit Site|
|Stevenson University Online||Online Master of Forensic Science (MFS)||Visit Site|
|Stevenson University Online||Online Master's in Crime Scene Investigation||Visit Site|
|Maryville University||Online BA - Forensic Psychology||Visit Site|
|Southern New Hampshire University||BA in Psychology - Forensic Psychology||Visit Site|
|Southern New Hampshire University||BS in Accounting - Forensic Accounting & Fraud Examination||Visit Site|
There are three main types of online programs:
One of the more flexible options is the online bachelor’s program in forensic accounting at Franklin University. It offers three start dates year-round, and the free new student applications are processed within 48 hours. Admissions advisors are available five days per week and select Saturdays. This can be an especially attractive option for students who have already completed some college since Franklin accepts up to 76 percent of eligible transfer credits toward completing their degrees. The program is made up of 124 credit hours in total.
This program is accredited by the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE). It prepares students for certification exams such as the certified public accountant (CPA), certified fraud examiner (CFE), and certified internal auditor (CIA).
Typical degree-granting institutions like the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) offer discrete start dates and application windows. For example, UMGC’s online master of science in digital forensics and cyber investigation program has registration deadlines in January and May. For programs with more on-site or group coursework, there is generally less flexibility in enrollment and start dates due to the availability of instructors.
While many online and hybrid degree programs start at a set time per year, organized by semesters or quarters, other types of certificates and continuing education credits for forensic sciences may be taken whenever a student desires. For those seeking the most flexibility in an introduction to crime scene investigation, the Florida International University (formerly the National Forensic Science Technology Center) offers a 16-hour certificate program that students can complete at any time.
Overall, program start dates and course schedules vary by subject, degree granted, type of institution, whether the program requires clinical practicums, the availability of instructors, and other factors. Therefore, it’s essential to check with specific schools for program details.
Application processes and requirements for online programs vary widely by degree level, although, like many programs, the admissions processes can generally be completed 100 percent online. In general, candidates for online forensics programs may be asked to submit the following:
Since students can take online forensics programs from home, these options may even be more affordable than traditional brick-and-mortar campus experiences for several reasons:
Prices vary by degree level, specialization, institution, residency status, and other factors. Broken down by degree level, here are some cost-per-credit figures for out-of-state students as of July 2023:
Online associate degrees in forensics:
Online bachelor’s degrees in forensics:
Online master’s degrees in forensics:
Programmatic and institutional accreditation are optional to practice forensic science. However, students should seek out accredited programs since these agencies are concerned with the quality of instruction, coursework, program outcomes, and other measures that can promote student success.
Graduating from an accredited program may not technically be a prerequisite for employment, but some employers treat it as such. Moreover, accreditation indicates the merit of the curricula, faculty, and facilities available to students.
There are many agencies involved with forensics program accreditation. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) accredits undergraduate and graduate forensic science programs through its Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Council (FEPAC).
FEPAC evaluates factors such as a school’s mission statement, institutional support, and student outcomes. While FEPAC does not accredit all sub-disciplines of forensic science, certificates, or associate degree programs, it can serve as a starting point for students interested in bachelor’s and master’s programs, particularly in general forensic science.
Some organizations accredit entire schools or institutions. Forensic science schools may also be accredited through special regional agencies approved by the nationally recognized Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). These include:
Since forensics is a broad field of study, many areas of expertise have their own professional body to certify individual specialists or recognize training programs. Ten of these specialty boards are accredited by the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB), including those in criminalistics, forensic toxicology, computer investigations, arson investigations, and document examination.
Lastly, various agencies recognize particular specializations within forensics. For example, forensic nursing programs may be accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) at the master’s level. Likewise, forensic psychology schools may be accredited through the American Psychological Association (APA), but only at the doctoral level. And finally, forensic accounting undergraduate and graduate programs may be accredited through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
There are some types of degrees and sub-disciplines of forensic science for which online and hybrid programs are more common. Generally, post-baccalaureate degrees (e.g., master’s) and certificate programs in forensics provide more online learning opportunities, both synchronous and asynchronous.
Although there are exceptions, this is likely because much of the fundamental coursework, training, or internships for undergraduate programs must be completed in person, requiring hands-on training in medical or laboratory environments. That said, working professionals seeking certification in various subfields of forensic science may be able to find asynchronous, ultra-flexible course options, even at the undergraduate level.
CSI programs focus on collecting, processing, and evaluating forensic evidence. Through coursework in crime scene photography, fingerprint analyses, and bloodstain analyses, CSIs learn a multidisciplinary approach to helping law enforcement reconstruct the events of a crime and how to create plausible, research-based narratives of criminal events to be used in courts of law.
The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) of Largo, Maryland, offers an online bachelor’s degree in investigative forensics, closely related to CSI. The 120-credit program includes training in investigative forensics, statistics, criminal procedures, evidence, cybercrime, security, and digital analysis principles, among other areas of study.
National University, with locations across California and other states, has an online, seven-course CSI certificate program for those interested in careers in law enforcement or criminal evidence. It offers classes such as forensic pathology, fingerprint analysis, and digital evidence. Upon completion, students may be eligible to apply the program credits to a master’s degree in forensic science. The program is made up of 31.5 quarter units.
The National Forensic Science Technology Center, affiliated with Florida International University, offers a low-cost ($129), 100 percent online introductory certificate for aspiring CSIs. This 16-hour course series offers a certificate upon completion and provides an overview of biological evidence collection, crime scenes, and firearm evidence collection. It may be a valuable and convenient training option for law enforcement personnel.
Due to the essentially hands-on nature of crime scene investigation, there are limited options for people seeking 100 percent online certifications or degrees. Please check out the online CSI master’s degrees page for more information.
Criminal justice programs teach students how to deter and mitigate crime, mainly through governmental institutions such as law enforcement. In addition, these professionals are trained to uphold the law, paying thought to the more significant issues of social control and rehabilitation of offenders.
The Arizona State University of Tempe provides an online bachelor of science (BS) in criminology and criminal justice. Made up of 120 credit hours, the program features instruction in an introduction to criminal justice; statistical analysis; introduction to corrections; and race, ethnicity, crime, and criminal justice, among other cornerstones of the discipline.
Penn State World Campus of University Park also offers a distance-based BS in criminal justice with coursework in criminology; an introduction to criminal justice; policing in America; courts and the prosecution process; ethics in criminal justice; and research methods in criminal justice. The program comprises 120 credit hours, and transfer credit is accepted.
The University of Colorado in Denver has an online master’s degree in criminal justice with advanced instruction in criminological theory; statistics; criminal justice systems, policies, and practice; research methods; and law & society, honing students’ critical thinking skills. This 36-credit program accepts transfer credit and is geared towards those with bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice or little criminal justice experience who want to make a career change.
Cybersecurity degrees focus on the developing threat of cybercrime and aim to teach people how to protect digital systems from intrusions. As technologies become more sophisticated, these trained specialists must keep abreast of emerging threats in the theft, destruction, and unlawful access to data.
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) of Manchester has an online BS in cybersecurity. Offering two concentration options, this 120-credit program includes courses such as introduction to computer networks; cybersecurity foundations; network security; and incident response and investigation. Students with certifications such as CompTIA Network+ can apply for transfer credit. In addition, students can participate in National Cyber League competitions.
The University of Arizona in Tucson offers a distance-based master of science (MS) in cybersecurity with two tracks: information systems and physical systems. It provides six convenient starting dates throughout the year and features classes such as information security in public and private sectors; data mining for business intelligence; business data communications and networking; and systems cybersecurity engineering.
The program is offered by the school’s colleges of management, computer engineering, and the college of engineering and consists of 33 credit hours. This program is ideal for cybersecurity professionals who want to improve their technical skills.
Stanford University of Palo Alto provides an online graduate certificate in cybersecurity, comprising 12 to 16 units of coursework in an introduction to computer networking; computer and network security; operating systems and systems programming; and cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies, among other topics. Applicants to the program need a conferred bachelor’s degree with an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or better.
To learn more about advanced distance-based programs in this area, check out the online master’s degrees in cybersecurity page.
Computer forensics—the discovery, extraction, evaluation, and presentation of digital evidence—is growing amidst increased threats to personal and corporate cybersecurity. It’s used to uncover various crimes, including fraud, cyberstalking, identity or data theft, espionage, and child pornography. Please note that “digital forensics” is a broader term than “computer forensics,” encompassing crimes with computers and other digital data storage devices.
Champlain College, winner of SC Magazine’s “Best Cyber Security Higher Education Program,” offers an online undergraduate degree in computer forensics and digital investigations. This school boasts an accelerated curriculum and regional accreditation, offering students classes such as criminal law; criminal procedure; introduction to Python; criminal investigation; digital forensic investigation techniques; and digital forensics analysis to be taken at their convenience.
Additionally, Champlain offers 100 percent online undergraduate certificates in advanced cybersecurity, forensic accounting, and cybersecurity fundamentals.
Utica College provides a 30-credit online master of science (MS) in cybersecurity with seven distinct specializations. In the computer forensics track, students will learn courses such as essential topics and emerging trends in cybercrime investigations; computer forensics and investigation methods; intrusion forensics and network analysis; network forensics; and advanced topics in computer forensics. Preparing students for in-demand certifications, the program also includes a virtual two-day immersive residency.
The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) hosts a 36-credit master of science (MS) program in digital forensics and cyber investigation. The coursework can prepare students for homeland security, auditing, and law enforcement careers. In addition, the program is desirable for mid-career professionals looking to enhance their credentials and knowledge.
As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as cyberspace and cybersecurity foundations; digital forensics technology and practices; digital forensic response and analysis; advanced forensics; and a capstone in cybersecurity. In addition, this program prepares graduates for several certification exams offered by GIAC, EC-Council, and EnCase.
University of Colorado in Denver has a unique master of science in media forensics (MSMF). This MSMF degree can prepare students to fight crime in the digital age and provide evidence in legal proceedings with cutting-edge research on topics such as identifying “deep fake” videos. Computer forensics, mobile phone forensics, and speaker recognition classes are presented in a hybrid format with a maximum of six credit hours per semester. It can be perfect for working students since it requires only five weeks of residency over two years, with most of the learning taking place through online lectures, discussion boards, and video conferencing.
To learn more, please check out the online master’s degrees in digital forensics page.
Forensic accounting—also referred to as forensic auditing—is the process of investigating crimes such as money laundering, tax fraud, business insolvency, and other business-related negligences or crimes. This field also may cover marital law to determine income available for child support or equitable distribution.
Franklin University has an online bachelor’s program in forensic accounting for those interested in investigating white-collar crime. Through coursework in subjects such as fraud examination; intermediate accounting; legal elements of fraud; accounting information systems; auditing; and federal income tax, students are primed to become “financial detectives.” This 124-credit program offers multiple start dates throughout the year in six or 12-week courses.
Northeastern University hosts an online graduate certificate program in forensic accounting open to those with at least a bachelor’s degree. The 16-quarter credit curriculum includes coursework in forensic accounting principles; dissecting financial statements; investigative accounting and fraud examination; and litigation support. These more advanced courses are designed with working professionals in mind and can be completed part- or full-time in six to 12 months.
West Virginia University has a 12-credit forensic accounting and fraud examination (FAFE) certificate. With limited campus visits—a two-day residency at the end of each semester—this predominantly online program aims to prepare students for careers in several government agencies. The four-course curriculum includes courses such as fraud investigation; fraud data analysis; fraud: criminology/legal issues; and advanced fraud investigation. Please note that FEPAC-accredited, on-campus programs are also available at this school.
Florida Atlantic University provides a master’s of accounting program with a concentration in forensic accounting. This two-year online program is ideal for busy professionals seeking to advance their fraud prevention, dispute resolution, expert testimony, and money-laundering investigation skills. To be considered for admission, applicants must have earned a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university or college or the international equivalent with a competitive grade point average. This 30 to 36-credit-hour program prepares graduates to think critically and be active fiscal crime investigators.
To learn more about advanced programs in this field, check out the online masters in forensic accounting page.
Forensic nursing involves working with trauma victims (e.g., domestic violence, assault). These specialists typically become nurses specializing in wound identification, evidence collection and evaluation, and documentation. They’re also trained to consult with medical and legal authorities and give testimony in court.
The Duquesne University of Pittsburgh offers a flexible master of science in nursing (MSN) degree program with a concentration in forensic nursing. All the coursework is offered online, including classes such as healthcare ethics in practice and policy; pathophysiology for advanced practice nursing; physical assessment for advanced practice nursing; criminal law and the courts; and pharmacology for advanced practice nursing, making it an ideal option for full-time nurses. In addition, as part of the 36-credit curriculum, students must complete a supervised clinical externship in forensic nursing, which students can do at one of many conveniently located affiliated clinics.
The University of California at Riverside hosts an online 16-unit forensic nursing certificate program for LVNs/LPNs, registered nurses, and other medical workers. It provides California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) credit for these licensed professionals with coursework in areas such as occupational considerations of forensic nursing; forensic approaches to blunt force and firearm injuries; introduction to forensic science in healthcare settings; and forensic photography in the healthcare setting.
Texas A&M University School of Nursing has a hybrid master of science in nursing (MSN) program specializing in forensic nursing for those with BSN degrees. As one of the only programs in the nation, the 36-credit program specializes in teaching courses such as issues in forensic nursing; victimology; advanced pathophysiology; leadership and health policy; foundations of forensic healthcare; and an advanced clinical practicum.
Pennsylvania State University of University Park offers an online undergraduate forensic nursing certificate ideal for licensed registered nurses looking to break into the field. Made up of 12 credit hours, the program includes courses such as introduction to forensic nursing; violence and the impact on society; forensic evidence collection and preservation; and a seminar in forensic nursing. Please note that FEPAC-accredited, on-campus programs are also available at this school. This program costs $620 or $664 per credit, depending on how many credits a student has completed.
To learn more about advanced distance-based programs in this subfield, check out the online master’s degrees in forensic nursing page.
Forensic psychology is an emergent field training professionals in mental health to give expert testimony in the judicial system. Combining clinical, forensic, and legal specialties, these professionals may be called upon to assist accused criminals (or victims) with mental healthcare screening, therapy, and crisis management, among other areas.
Southern New Hampshire University of Manchester offers an online bachelor’s degree program in forensic psychology with classes such as criminal psychology; sociology of crime and violence; forensic psychology; theories of social psychology; and counseling processes and techniques. Most notably, it’s a 120-credit program, and more than 25 percent of those credits can be taken as electives tailored to the student’s interests. This coursework is designed to help students identify criminals’ motivations and patterns of behavior.
Walden University, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Walden University hosts a range of online forensic psychology programs—a bachelor of science (BS), a master of science (MS), and a PhD degree—and the master’s program is especially worthy of attention. Walden offers 11 distinct specializations for its MS candidates: general forensic psychology, victimology, terrorism, sex offender behavior, self-designed, police psychology, military, legal issues in forensic psychology, family violence, cybercrimes, and criminal justice self-designed.
In addition, this 48-quarter credit MS program includes coursework in abnormal behavior; criminal behavior; the intersection of crime, psychology, and the law; and understanding forensic psychology research.
University of North Dakota of Grand Forks has a unique, online, 30-credit master’s degree in forensic psychology. It’s designed to be completed in two years and offers in-state tuition rates to all students, regardless of location. It can be an affordable, flexible option for those interested in the psychological underpinnings of criminal investigations. The curriculum includes advanced social psychology; psychology and law; behavior pathology; eyewitness testimony & memory; diversity psychology; and research methods in forensic psychology.
University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) offers a 100 percent online master in psychology (MS) degree program with a forensic psychology concentration. The coursework draws from ULM’s esteemed criminal justice and mental health departments, engaging in-depth explorations in advanced forensic psychology; advanced theories of crime and delinquency; counseling in criminal justice; minorities, crime, and criminal justice; and behavior modification. The program comprises 36 credit hours.
Forensic science programs at all levels offer a broad-based understanding of gathering, evaluating, and presenting evidence to explain what happened in a past event, particularly in criminal cases. In addition, with courses such as forensic chemistry, anthropology, and biology, this discipline imparts a comprehensive understanding of investigation techniques and laboratory analyses.
University of Florida of Gainesville offers four master’s degrees and four specialized graduate certificates in forensic science and related fields such as forensic DNA & serology and forensic toxicology. The programs cover various relevant topics online, designed to accommodate students with busy schedules. The 32-credit master’s in forensic science program includes courses such as biological evidence and serology; principles of forensic science; forensic toxicology; and applied statistics for data analysis. With over 1,000 graduates from over 40 countries, this program is a global leader and winner of the Award of Excellence in Distance Education.
Oklahoma State University of Tulsa has a two-year hybrid master of science (MS) program in forensic science. It offers abundant flexibility for students with many classes online, including thesis and non-thesis program tracks with specializations in forensic biology; psychology; pathology; investigative sciences (100% online), chemistry; arson, explosives, firearms, and tool marks investigation. Graduate and nursing certificates are also available. Please note that this school also has FEPAC-accredited, on-campus programs available.
With various campus locations, American Intercontinental University offers a 180-credit bachelor of science (BS) degree in criminal justice with a specialization in forensic science. This accelerated three-year program imparts the essential skills of a forensic scientist, such as how to process a crime scene, conduct post-mortem lab tests, and preserve evidence, in addition to giving engaging overviews in criminal profiling, lie detection, and even hypnosis.
In addition, the curriculum explores topics such as introduction to criminology; introduction to criminal law; foundations of corrections; crime victim studies; juvenile justice & delinquency theory; and constitutional issues in criminal procedures.
Saint Leo University in Florida offers a notable hybrid master of science (MS) degree program in criminal justice with a forensic science specialization. It instructs students on the history of criminalistics and how to collect and document evidence properly. To complete this program, students must take five courses in criminal justice, four in forensic science, and two electives. The 36-credit curriculum includes courses such as introduction to forensic science; advanced forensic science; forensic and medicolegal death investigation; crime scene investigation and management; and leadership applications in criminal justice.
Ashworth College of Norcross, Georgia, provides a forensic science diploma program that can be completed in as few as four months. This online school boasts a 91 percent student satisfaction rate, and students can complete the curricula at a student’s pace. The coursework provides broad overviews of the cornerstones of the field, including coursework in foundations of forensic science; microscopy, impressions, and forensic chemistry; forensic biology, fire investigation, document examination, and the future of forensic science.
Legal studies programs allow students to learn about the law, legal institutions, and processes in the discipline. These typically impart the fundamentals of legal ideas, including thinking critically, expressing oneself clearly, and constructing compelling arguments. Typical courses include philosophy, economic regulations, criminal justice procedures, and non-western legal systems.
Berkeley College has campuses throughout New York State and offers an online legal nurse consulting certificate program and an online associate of applied science (AAS), and an online bachelor of science (BS) in legal studies. The BS program offers instruction in computer applications; contract law; professional responsibilities and legal ethics; legal research and writing; torts; civil litigation; and property law. The legal nurse consulting certificate program features courses such as legal nurse consulting principles; law introduction; civil litigation; and legal research & writing.
Southern New Hampshire University of Manchester provides a 120-credit online bachelor of science (BS) in criminal justice, emphasizing legal studies and advocacy. Classes include an introduction to criminal justice; cultural awareness in criminal justice; communication skills for criminal justice; policing in the United States; the United States judicial system; and victimology, among other cornerstones of the field. Police officers who have completed a basic police corrections or probation and parole training program can receive up to 12 credits to apply toward this degree.
Bellevue University in Nebraska has a 127-credit online bachelor of science (BS) in legal studies with classes in Theory and Practice of Law; legal research, analysis, and writing; constitutional law, liberty, and emerging policy; and professional responsibilities and ethics in law, among others. Students can transfer in with an associate degree or at least 60 credits from a previous institution.
The School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, has an online masters of legal studies (MLS) program. It comprises 24 credits and can be completed in one year. Students can choose from five available concentrations: business law; conflict resolution; employment law; litigation; and regulatory compliance. In addition to required courses such as introduction to U.S. law & methods; legal research & writing; contracts; and property.
Students can choose among various electives to fulfill the credit requirements; these electives include professional responsibility; legal writing; constitutional law; corporate compliance; and many others. Notably, students can attend optional on-campus learning sessions for a weekend in the spring and fall.
Albany Law School in New York has a specialized online MLS degree focusing on cybersecurity and data privacy. In addition to foundational coursework, the 30-credit program has niche instruction in cybersecurity frameworks; national cyber operations; cybersecurity & public policy; introduction to US privacy law; privacy law and the individual; national cyber operations; and U.S. cyber conflict policy, among others.
For more information about graduate-level programs in legal studies offered in a distance-based format, check out the online MLS programs page.
Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.