Whether you routinely binged CSI shows when you were young or developed an interest in chemistry and criminology as a teenager, you may have developed your interest in forensic science long ago. But even if your interests are more recent, you’re likely here because you know what you want: to solve crimes, bring criminals to justice, and make a major contribution to society.
To help you earn your forensic science degree online, we’ve curated this comprehensive list of the best online forensic science bachelor’s degree programs. Use this guide to identify where to earn your degree on your own schedule while getting the hands-on experience you’ll need to become a skilled scientist.
Program Spotlights: Forensic Science Bachelor’s Degrees Online
To work in forensics, the U.S. Department of Justice advises you’ll need either a degree in natural sciences — such as biology and chemistry — or a specialized forensic science degree with a strong foundation in these sciences. Extensive laboratory coursework is also required, so depending on the program, it may not be possible to study entirely online. If you do pursue a forensic science degree online, it’s highly recommended to get an internship or other hands-on forensic experience.
Below, you’ll find best-in-class schools that offer forensic science online degrees grounded in a robust framework of natural sciences.
For those looking to receive a BS in Forensic Science, Arizona State University offers a program that will prepare you for criminal justice work. You’ll build a foundation in biology, chemistry, and math, then move on to specialized study in courses like molecular genetics, toxicology, forensic anthropology, and more. Finally, you’ll end by investigating mock crime scenes with real DNA evidence. Parts of this course must be completed on campus. Admission to ASU requires a high school diploma with certain credits plus one of the following: top 25% of high school graduating class, 3.0 GPA in competency courses, ACT score of 22 for Arizona residents (24 nonresidents), or SAT Reasoning score of 1120 for Arizona residents (1180 nonresidents). If you don’t meet the requirements, you can take the Earned Admission pathway.
- Cost: $654/credit
- Credit hours: 120
- Financial aid opportunities: Accepts Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), grants, scholarships, and work-study programs
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission.
Through Florida International, you can specialize in Crime Science with a Bachelor’s of Science. This online forensic science degree educates students about technological developments in the field while combining forensics and computer science with traditional criminology and criminal justice, equipping graduates with sophisticated analytical skills needed for the new era of law enforcement within the U.S. and abroad. Admission to FIU requires a high school diploma with certain credits. There are some prerequisite courses for the Crime Science program, including General Biology and General Chemistry.
- Cost: $235.57/credit (in-state); $648.87/credit (out-of-state)
- Credit hours: 120
- Financial aid opportunities: Accepts FAFSA and offers various grants and loans. Their Golden Promise guarantees 100% tuition and fees to Florida residents with 0 expected family contribution.
- Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
Columbia Southern University recognizes the growing demand for forensic scientists and offers a BS in Forensic Investigation. By the end, you’ll learn how criminal and civil laws impact crime scene evidence, analyze forensic techniques, and assist law enforcement in criminal justice investigations. You’ll graduate prepared for a career assisting law enforcement in the collection and preservation of evidence. This program covers a range of fields, from forensics to psychology, legality to network security. A high school diploma is required for admission.
- Cost: $270/credit
- Credit hours: 120
- Financial aid opportunities: Accepts FAFSA and also offers grants, scholarships, and loans. Textbooks and course materials are included for free.
- Accreditation: SACSCOC
Courses in Your Online Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Science
Wondering what to expect as you take the plunge into a forensic science online degree? If you love natural sciences, criminology, or psychology, you should feel right at home as you begin your studies.
Quality forensic science programs are rooted in natural sciences like chemistry and biology. Social sciences such as psychology and anthropology are also often featured. Finally, there are many courses based on criminology and the legal system.
Your forensic science capstone will usually involve analyzing a mock crime scene and even testifying in a fake courtroom. It may also require a certain number of hours spent in specialized facilities.
Let’s take a look at some of the courses you can expect to take in your forensic science major. While these will vary based on the program you pick, expect similar courses in any school.
Forensic Biology/General Biology
As part of earning your forensic science degree online, you can expect to take courses in forensic biology or general biology — if not both. In these courses, you’ll learn how to collect and examine biological samples, screen blood and other fluids, examine DNA, and more.
You may also take a separate lab course that will provide hands-on experience. Even if you’re earning an online degree, these will usually require you to temporarily attend the university in person.
Forensic Chemistry/General Chemistry
Just like with biology, forensic scientists should take either a general chemistry course, an organic chemistry course, a specialized forensic chemistry course, or all of these. You’ll also likely take a lab course during which you’ll work with real materials.
You will learn how to measure and sample any substances you’re working with, dip into forensic toxicology, and understand chemical reactions, among other studies.
Crime Scene Investigation
Those looking to become crime scene investigators can usually take a specialized training course. Depending on the school, this may be optional or part of the required curriculum.
In this course, you’ll learn how to properly handle and process evidence, manage a crime scene without damaging valuable evidence, write a report and document findings, and give testimony in court. Hands-on experience is usually required, so expect to spend time at the university or a specialized facility.
Forensic psychology will teach you how to analyze the events at a crime scene by understanding criminal motivations. Through criminal profiling, you’ll learn how to identify perpetrators through actions they took during and after committing a crime.
You’ll also learn about courtroom psychology, witness testimony, and how to conduct interviews with victims and potential perpetrators. While forensic psychology is an entire study you can earn a degree in, forensic scientists will usually take a course to gain at least a basic understanding of this field.
A forensic genetics course can provide a strong foundation for those especially interested in DNA analysis. DNA profiling is a major part of criminal investigations, so this itself is a large branch of study.
In this course, you’ll learn how to interpret genetic profiles and match or exclude specific people from investigations. You’ll also identify the risks of DNA analysis, such as false positives and negatives, and how to apply your knowledge in the courtroom.
What Should I Look for in an Online Forensic Science Bachelor’s Degree Program?
When you’re choosing where to pursue your forensic science online degree, you’ll want to research the aspects of each program that are most important to you. While the outcome may be similar no matter which program you choose — a degree in forensic science that you can use to secure an in-demand career — each school will come with a unique set of characteristics. Here are some examples of variables to consider.
Online college degrees are usually more affordable than degrees earned on campus, especially considering lack of transportation and on-campus housing expenses.
However, hybrid forensic science courses that rely on in-person lab experience may have higher tuition or fees. This is especially true if you’re part of an out-of-state program that requires partial attendance, as transportation can become very expensive.
Any forensic science degree online worth its salt should include courses in biology and chemistry. High-quality programs may also offer additional natural science courses such as biochemistry, genetics, DNA analysis, microbiology, and toxicology.
Forensic science is a diverse field, so expect to also see topics such as psychology, anthropology, legality, and ethics. These offer the diverse palette of knowledge you’ll need to become a well-rounded scientist.
As a future forensic scientist, you’ll have a lot riding on your expertise, meaning you’ll want to learn from the best.
Find programs taught by professors with master’s or higher degrees in forensic science, natural sciences, and/or criminal justice. Professors with direct experience working in crime labs or with law enforcement are also recommended.
You may want to consider researching programs accredited by the Forensic Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), as these meet stringent standards set forth by the American Academy of Forensic Science.
However, it may be difficult to find FEPAC-accredited forensic science online degrees due to the commission’s standards for accreditation, which require hands-on lab work. It’s likely impossible to find a 100% online course with FEPAC accreditation. Regardless, search for a program with institutional or programmatic accreditation to ensure the program meets a rigid set of standards.
In a scientific field like this, the learning format is very important. You will usually be held to strict standards, attending synchronous classes at established times.
More self-directed, asynchronous programs in forensic science are uncommon, so flexibility while studying in this field is limited. You’re often required to complete lab work in person, so be mindful when choosing an out-of-state university.
How Much Does an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Science Cost?
Though an online degree may be less expensive, the cost can still be staggering — especially for a robust science program like this one, as lab courses can rack up additional fees.
We’ve put together a tuition chart below; these costs are before fees, transportation, textbooks, and other expenses, so expect even higher totals. Luckily, financial aid is available. Most schools accept FAFSA and provide a myriad of grants and scholarships. Let’s review the costs you can expect at five schools before financial aid.
How Much Your Online Bachelor’s in Forensic Science Could Cost
FAQs About Online Bachelor’s Programs in Forensic Science
Ready to get started on your forensic science degree online? Here are six of the most pressing common questions, according to our readers.
Are online bachelor’s degree programs in Forensic Science fully online?
While 100% online forensic science degrees exist, they are uncommon and may offer limited hiring potential in this fast-paced, hands-on field. Supplementing your online education with internships and other real-world experiences is highly recommended. Most forensic science degrees online are hybrid programs that offer occasional opportunities to enter a lab and study real DNA evidence.
What does the admissions process look like for this degree?
Depending on the school, admissions into an online forensic science program can require a high level of competency or various prerequisite classes. You may also be required to have received a specific GPA during your high school years. You’ll likely submit an application, and you may have to answer essays or complete an interview. Other schools have a much lower bar to admission, requiring only a high school diploma.
How long does it take to complete a bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science online?
Forensic science online degrees will take a full-time student about four years to complete and a part-time student five or six years. Transfer credits are usually accepted, which can reduce the required amount of time. Some forensic science programs require internships or practicum experiences, so this can extend the time spent on your degree.
What academic and career support services are available to online students earning their bachelor’s in Forensic Science?
Most forensic science degree online programs are equipped with academic advisors who help set up students for success. Larger programs will offer career services and may even partner with forensic laboratories and offer connections in the field once you graduate. Otherwise, you’ll usually be connected to an online community of professors, advisors, and other students that can assist you in getting your degree on time.
Can I work while pursuing an online bachelor’s in Forensic Science degree?
Science degrees such as this one are generally not very flexible, but taking an online class offers more chances to work at your own pace. Most forensic science programs are not offered asynchronously, so you’ll need to attend class on time and may be required to attend certain classes, such as chemistry and biology labs, in person. Without spending time on transportation, however, earning your forensic science degree online offers more flexibility. While some classes may require your physical attendance, most can be done from home.
Other Bachelor’s Degree Options in Criminal Justice
If you are interested in a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice but are unsure what specialization to pursue, check out these other degree pages to learn about your options: