Judged by television shows, forensic science seems like a glamorous career where the main character only needs to study a few blood spatters to figure out who committed the crime. The reality of forensic science is much slower and far more complex.
After studying the spent shell casing from a fired gun, fingerprints on a bank teller’s counter, or a forged signature on a check, forensic scientists may take weeks or months of research to determine guilt in a criminal case. While police detectives use such evidence to move investigations forward, the forensic scientist’s job is to analyze each piece of evidence presented and explain it in court.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022), the term “forensic” means studying something pertaining to the law. Forensic scientists apply scientific principles to legal evidence to determine responsibility for a crime. The BLS states that forensic scientists typically work in one or more of these specialty areas:
Successful forensic scientists are highly analytical, accurate, and good communicators. According to the BLS, a bachelor’s degree is the typical entry-level requirement for this exciting career. Read on to discover what to expect from an online bachelor’s degree in forensic science, including profiles of three outstanding educators in this field.
Finding the right online forensic science degree program takes time and research. Prospective students must consider many factors, including courses and specialties offered, the experience of the professors, tuition, potential cohorts, and the time needed to complete studies.
Due to forensic science’s hands-on nature, there are few 100 percent online programs. Here are online bachelor’s degrees in forensic science (and related disciplines).
Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science, Arizona State University
Arizona State University’s online bachelor of science program in forensic science teaches students how to solve crimes and interpret evidence using the latest technology and science. Students in this program will gain hands-on experience by investigating crimes and learning professional forensic science techniques. The program prepares them to work in state, federal, and local crime laboratories.
Students in this online program must take several lab science courses, including two organic chemistry labs, which must be completed in person. These lab courses can also be taken at a local college, and the credits can be transferred. This online degree ends with an in-person culminating experience on Arizona State University’s West campus. The two-week campus experience allows students to learn lab skills from experts in the field and participate in simulated crime scenes. During this experience, students will analyze DNA evidence and investigate mock crime scenes.
Graduates of this 120-credit program will be ready to take positions such as crime scene investigators, evidence technicians, biological technicians, clinical trial managers, medical scientists, life scientists, health sciences managers, and chemists, to name a few.
Forensics Investigation Minor as Part of Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, Indiana State University
Offered as part of the larger criminal justice degree program, the forensics investigation minor includes 18 credits of study that expands students’ knowledge of criminal justice investigation and improves critical thinking skills. Students must have at least a 2.2 grade point average in other criminal justice courses to enroll for the minor.
Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, American InterContinental University (Related Program)
The bachelor of science in criminal justice at AIU prepares students for the many aspects of this career through a specialty focus on forensic science that combines crime scene investigation, law enforcement practice, and science.
The program teaches specialized skills such as investigating death scenes, determining the manner of death, establishing the deceased’s identity, notifying next of kin, and working with crime scene photography. Graduating from the program requires the completion of 180 credits.
Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, University of Massachusetts Global (Related Program)
This bachelor’s degree program explores real-life experiences and helps students grow their skills by examining legal and ethical strategies for solving problems, using collaborative and other approaches. This program is a perfect fit for those seeking a wide variety of court, justice, and law enforcement careers.
The University of Massachusetts Global requires students to transfer a minimum of 12 credits at the baccalaureate level and provides flexible transfer credit arrangements for military members. The program offers both online and hybrid programs. Notably, a minor in criminal justice is available for students completing an undergraduate degree in a different area of study.
This robust criminal justice degree explores topics such as corrections, immigration and national security, forensics, courts, contemporary issues in criminal justice, evidence, local, state, and federal law enforcement, and gangs and gang behavior.
Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, Colorado State University (Related Program)
Colorado State University offers a criminal justice and law enforcement degree with the option to specialize in criminal forensics. A specialty track comprising the five courses listed below makes up 15 semester study hours. A student can transfer up to 90 credits to this college and degree program. Members of the military and corporate affiliates may be eligible for a tuition discount. The college advises a full-time load of 24 units per semester.
This criminal forensics specialization uses hands-on instruction and practical application to teach students how to analyze crime scene evidence and solve crimes and other investigations. The specialized courses offered by this specialization are ideally suited for students pursuing, or currently working in, careers such as crime scene analysts, investigators, criminal examiners, and more.
Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, Excelsior College (Related Program)
This criminal justice degree at Excelsior College is appropriate for students breaking into forensic science, or those already in the field hoping for a promotion. The program is available completely online. The program prepares students to meet the responsibilities and requirements related to jobs in probation and parole, law enforcement, victim advocacy, federal investigation, crime scene investigation, and security analysis.
Besides completing the core curriculum in criminal justice, this program enables students to concentrate on homeland security. Excelsior College offers academic credit to students with certain police academy training, military experience, or professional accomplishments. Earning one’s degree requires the successful completion of 120 credits.
Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, National Louis University (Related Program)
National Louis University offers a degree program for students to major in criminal justice administration or forensic social justice. Professors at National Louis have backgrounds in corrections, courts, law enforcement, and the security industry. One of the greatest benefits of this program is its focus on the root causes behind criminal behavior and the role those behaviors play in society. National Louis University offers this program completely online and has authorization as a degree-granting institution in Florida and Illinois.
Students in this 180-credit program will become equipped to serve in courts or corrections systems, law enforcement, or work in related private industries.
Cybersecurity Technology Bachelor’s Degree, University of Maryland Global Campus (Related Programs)
University of Maryland Global Campus offers an online bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity technology. Students in this program learn the operational technologies and procedures for designing, implementing, administering, securing, and troubleshooting corporate networks while applying cybersecurity principles operationally. The coursework can help prepare students for several certification exams in cybersecurity. The program also has a digital forensics focus for those interested in a career in digital forensics.
The bachelor’s degree program requires the completion of 120 credits and accepts up to 90 credits in transfer.
Bachelor of Science Program in Criminal Justice with a specialization in Crime Scene Investigation, Liberty University (Related Program)
Liberty University offers an online bachelor of science program in criminal justice specializing in crime scene investigation providing students with a solid understanding of the criminal justice field and equipping them with the necessary skills needed for developing and analyzing forensics laws. Students will gain the essential knowledge and skills needed for conducting criminal investigations as well as protecting and recording vital evidence to ensure that it can be accurately analyzed.
Students in this 120-credit program can transfer up to 75 percent of credits. Students will study the analytical and scientific aspects of forensics and analyze past criminal cases.
Bachelor of Arts in Forensic Psychology, Maryville University (Related Program)
Maryville University’s online forensic psychology bachelor’s degree provides coursework and experiential learning opportunities in three distinct areas: criminal justice, social science, and psychology.
Blending foundational social sciences, such as sociology, human development, and several psychology disciplines, with criminal investigation and theory and psychological testing, this 120-credit program requires students to complete a 135-hour internship in their chosen setting, as well as a senior project capstone experience. Both these components help prepare students for the psychology and criminal justice world.
Some students mistakenly believe it is easier to gain admission to an online degree program than one at a brick-and-mortar school. This is not always true. Like traditional programs, many online programs limit the number of students accepted to ensure a high-quality education for those enrolled. Additionally, students should expect to complete readings, assignments, and group work that is of the same difficulty as at brick-and-mortar schools.
While every school offering a forensic science degree program has slightly different admission requirements, many are similar. These include:
When a college has earned accreditation, it means that a neutral third party has evaluated its programs, authority, competency, and credibility, and determined that the school met or exceeded its standards. This process is voluntary, and students can assume schools that have earned accreditation from one or more agencies offering excellent educational value for their money.
A college or university can earn regional or national accreditation and accreditation for its individual programs. When evaluating the accreditation of a school you’re considering attending, make sure that the accrediting agency itself has received approval from the United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Some of the most well-known regional (and CHEA-approved) accrediting agencies include:
The state authorization status of a school determines whether a student can enroll in that college or university based on his or her physical location. This rule has been in place for several decades to protect prospective students. The institute of higher learning must meet every state’s set standards before enrolling people in that state. Some colleges are open to enrollment from students of any state, while others can accept only those living in a few certain states.
This topic can cause a lot of confusion, especially when dealing with online education. One reason for this is that the concept of state authorization came about before the Internet even existed. If you have additional concerns about this matter, you should check with NC-SARA, which stands for the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. The organization makes available a list of states and institutions that have met universal standards for reciprocity.
Dr. Henry F. Fradella is a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. He teaches or has taught courses such as introduction to criminal justice; mental illness and crime; crime on television and in cinema; and criminal law and social control. His research efforts are focused on the historical development of procedural, evidentiary, and substantive criminal law; the dynamics of legal decision-making; the evaluation of law’s effects on human behavior; and the nature, sources, and consequences of variations and changes in legal institutions or processes.
His research has been published in prominent journals such as the American Journal of Criminal Law, the American Journal of Criminal Justice, and Critical Criminology. Dr. Fradella completed his PhD from Arizona State University, JD and MFS from George Washington University, and a BA from Clark University.
An experienced attorney and criminal investigator, David Long is on staff at the University of Massachusetts Global as an associate professor of legal studies and criminal justice. He is currently the principal of two fraud prevention and anti-money laundering agencies in California. He focuses his efforts on teaching participants compliance and prevention issues in an environment of emerging technology and virtual currency.
Prior to his current roles, Professor David Long served with the Office of Labor Racketeering as a special agent. He handled many complex issues in these roles, including RICO violations, bribery, extortion, public corruption, witness tampering, and money laundering. He earned the honor of Special Agent of Distinction and received many awards from the federal government for meritorious service. Professor Long completed his JD from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA from Howard University.
Professor Daniel Rinehart brings 30 years of legal and forensics experience to his role as the criminal justice faculty member at American InterContinental University. He has held this position since July 2011. Before coming on staff, he worked as a deputy and law enforcement officer for Harris County in Houston, Texas for 29 years. Professor Rinehart has also held positions as a document and training specialist at Kenyon International Emergency Services and deputy/crime scene investigator for the Harris County Sheriff’s Department.
Dr. Rinehart holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Sam Houston State University in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration, and a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from Northcentral University.
Farheen Gani is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).