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Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Forensic Science

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 2024), 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:

  • Biology: Forensic scientists analyze hair and bodily fluids to determine a typing factor, including DNA analysis. This tells them how often the suspected criminal’s exact genetic code appears in the general population. The next step is comparing the samples in question to those listed in a police database.
  • Chemistry: A forensic scientist specializing in chemistry analyzes trace physical evidence such as glass, paint, soil, and blood splatters.
  • Controlled substances and toxicology: This includes the examination of blood, urine, and other bodily fluids to check for the presence of alcohol, drugs, or poison.
  • Document examination: This involves the analysis of handwriting, document dating, potential forgery, computer printing, photocopying, and typewriting.
  • Fingerprinting: A person’s fingerprint develops underneath the skin and never changes, even if he or she sustains burns or scars. This makes fingerprinting a highly accurate tool in criminal justice. Forensic scientists develop suspects’ fingerprints and look for a match in the police database.
  • Firearms identification: These forensic scientists match the identifying characteristics of a firearm and its projectile along with the projectile and its target. This process allows them to match a bullet to a specific type of gun and its manufacturer.
  • Polygraph exam administration: A polygraph machine can sometimes determine if a person accused of a crime is lying by measuring his or her blood pressure, breathing, skin conductance, and pulse in response to questions asked by the forensic scientist.

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.

Featured Bachelors in CSI & Forensic Science
Arizona State University Forensic Science (BS)Visit Site
Purdue Global BSCJ - Crime Scene InvestigationVisit Site
Southern New Hampshire University BA in Psychology - Forensic PsychologyVisit Site
Southern New Hampshire University BS in Accounting - Forensic Accounting & Fraud ExaminationVisit Site
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Featured Online Bachelor’s in Forensic Science Programs

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.

The curriculum includes courses such as fundamentals of genetics; modern concepts in biochemistry; general organic chemistry; principles of forensic science; fundamentals of forensic analysis; testimony and ethics in the forensic sciences; and analytical chemistry for life sciences.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with Forensics Investigation Minor, 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 GPA in other criminal justice courses to enroll for the minor.

The curriculum includes courses such as criminal investigation; criminal law and procedure; criminal justice interviewing; criminalistics; criminology; and the law of evidence.

  • Location: Terre Haute, IN
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Approximately one year for the minor portion and four years for the bachelor’s degree

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with Forensic Science Focus, American InterContinental University

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 completing 180 credits.

The curriculum includes courses in aspects of forensic psychology, forensic biology, psychopathology and criminality, medicolegal death investigation, and criminal investigation.

  • Location: Atlanta, GA; Houston, TX
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years full-time with part-time options available

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with Criminal Forensics Specialization, Colorado State University

Colorado State University offers a criminal justice 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.

The courses in the specialization include introduction to forensic psychology; criminal investigation; investigative and forensic interviewing; investigative forensic photography; and crime scene investigation (CSI).

  • Location: Aurora, CO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years full-time with part-time options available

Bachelor of Science in Forensic Investigation, Columbia Southern University

Columbia Southern University offers an online bachelor of science program in forensic investigation, preparing students for a career in which they will be able to assist law enforcement or other emergency management agencies in the collection, recognition, and preservation of evidence. Students will explore the relationship between psychology and forensics and evidence’s critical role in the American judicial system.

This 120-credit program includes courses such as introduction to criminal justice, criminology, criminal evidence and legal issues, criminal investigation, introduction to forensic investigation, crime scene, forensics, and evidence collection, principles of digital forensics, digital forensics and the courtroom, forensic psychology, and victimology.

  • Location: Orange Beach, AL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges(SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years

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.

The curriculum includes courses such as introduction to forensics; crime scene photography; crime scene management; criminal investigations; court & expert witness testimony; constitutional criminal procedure; and criminology.

  • Location: Lynchburg, VA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 3.5 years

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 128-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.

The curriculum includes courses such as introduction to criminal justice; criminological theory; police psychology; criminal behavior; juvenile delinquency; corrections in society; and introduction to criminal investigations.

  • Location: St. Louis, MO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years

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.

The curriculum includes courses such as introduction to criminal justice; multicultural issues in criminal justice; criminal procedure and evidence; criminology; ethics in criminal justice; domestic terrorism; drugs and crime; and infrastructure security and policy.

  • Location: Albany, NY
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years full-time with part-time options available

Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and 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. The curriculum includes courses such as law enforcement; criminal justice system; criminology; criminal law and procedure; punishment, prisons and corrections; constitutional law; juvenile justice systems; research methods in criminal justice; and criminal investigations.

  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years full-time with part-time options available

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. 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.

The 120-credit program includes courses such as contemporary criminal justice applications, correctional systems, ethics in criminal justice, applied criminology, homeland security, white-collar crime, and organizational leadership.

  • Location: Irvine, CA
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years full-time with part-time options available

Admissions to Online Bachelor’s in Forensic Science Programs

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:

  • Completion of a high school diploma or GED program
  • A transcript from any previous colleges attended, whether you intend to transfer credits or not
  • A minimum grade point average in high school or previous college coursework
  • An admission interview for highly competitive programs, which would likely take place via Skype for online students
  • A Curriculum Vitae (CV) or professional resume
  • Scores from your SAT or ACT if this is your first higher education experience, or college-level assessments or certifications if you have a previous higher learning experience

Accreditation

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:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

State Authorization

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 confusion, especially when dealing with online education. One reason 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, 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.

Writer

Farheen Gani

Farheen Gani writes about forensics schools across the United States, and has covered topics such as forensic chemistry and forensic science and biochemistry since 2018. She writes about healthcare, 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).