Best Forensic Science Degrees

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Forensic science degrees combine the physical, biomedical, and social sciences. Learners analyze aspects of criminal cases, such as evidence and human testimony. These programs feature courses on anthropology, forensic medicine, and autopsy procedures.

Applicants to a bachelor’s program in forensic science typically need a high school diploma or the equivalent. Students pursuing a master’s degree often need a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as biology, chemistry, or natural science.

Graduates of forensic science programs can become forensic scientists and technicians. Graduates often work for law enforcement agencies, such as local police departments and the FBI. People may also pursue a forensic psychology degree.View Our Rankings List Here

Frequently Asked Questions About Forensic Science Degrees

What is forensic science?

Forensic scientists apply biology, psychology, and chemistry to criminal and civil laws. Forensic scientists manage evidence and crime scenes for law enforcement.

What is the difference between forensic science and criminology?

A hard science, forensic science deals with hands-on evidence and crime scenes. Criminology combines soft sciences including sociology and psychology. Criminologists analyze crimes and their societal impacts.

What kinds of jobs can I get with a forensic science degree?

Graduates can pursue forensic science careers such as forensic scientist and forensic scientist technician. Graduates often work for law enforcement agencies. They can also become criminal investigators and clinical lab scientists.

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Why Get a Degree in Forensic Science?

Students can earn a degree in forensic science to qualify for positions as forensic scientists and forensic science technicians. Experienced professionals may work for agencies such as the FBI or CIA. 

Forensic science technicians earn a median salary of $60,590 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These professionals often analyze and photograph crime scenes. They also record observations and findings, collect and analyze evidence, and reconstruct crime scenes. Technicians who work in labs analyze evidence through various techniques. They may also use DNA to explore links between suspects, evidence, and crimes.

Many institutions offer forensic science degrees online. Learners often choose in-person programs because of the hands-on nature of forensic work. However, online programs can help students continue working while earning their degree.

How Much Does a Forensic Science Degree Cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual cost of undergraduate tuition, fees, and room and board for the 2018-19 academic year was $18,380 at public schools and $47,420 at private schools. Students can save money by living off campus and applying for financial aid and scholarships. 

Pursuing an online degree in forensic science may also help learners reduce their expenses. Online learners often avoid relocation costs. They may also save money on transportation, housing, and childcare. Additionally, online learners can continue working full time while earning their degree.

Prospective students should also budget for lab fees, books, and other materials.

How Much Do Forensic Science Majors Make?

After earning a forensic science degree, graduates often become forensic science technicians. Degree holders can also become fire inspectors, who earn a median annual salary of $62,120, according to the BLS. Clinical laboratory technologists earn a median salary of $54,180 per year, and police and detectives earn a median of $67,290 annually.

With more training or higher education in law enforcement, forensic science graduates can become federal government detectives. These professionals earn a median salary of $92,080 per year.

Forensic Science Courses

Forensic science students gain foundational knowledge in biology and chemistry. Coursework explores lab equipment and methodology and their applications to criminal law. Degree-seekers learn how to analyze crime scenes and evidence. Coursework also covers forensic analysis and ethics. Available courses vary by program. However, many forensic science programs feature the following classes.

  • Forensic Chemistry

    Students in this class learn how to analyze physical evidence through chemical and physical analysis. Coursework covers forensic microscopy, toxicology, and arson examination. Forensic scientists apply these skills while analyzing evidence and crime scenes.
  • Forensic Crime Analysis

    The course prepares learners to analyze and process crime scenes. Students learn how to process prints and trace evidence. Degree-seekers practice identifying evidence through fire marks, toolmarks, and impressions. Graduates apply these skills to careers as forensic scientists working with crime scene units and law enforcement agencies.
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice

    Forensic scientists often work with law enforcement agencies, so students must understand the criminal justice system. Professionals process evidence contributing to individuals’ trials, alibis, and convictions. The course examines law and crime as social constructs.

How to Become a Forensic Scientist Technician

Most forensic science technicians hold a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or a related field, such as natural sciences. Some technicians have a general science bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in forensic science.

Crime scene investigators in police departments often must be sworn police officers, which requires additional training. However, not every forensic scientist technician works within police departments.

Forensic scientists hired by an agency or company may receive extra hands-on training under experienced technicians. In some specialties, technicians must pass an exam in laboratory techniques or technologies.

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Forensic Science Career Options

Besides forensic science technician, a degree in the forensic sciences leads to many other career opportunities. Graduates can work in the field or a lab. The following list features common job options for forensic science degree holders. Some positions need more education in forensics or another field.

  • Crime Scene Investigator:Crime scene investigators work with law enforcement agencies to analyze and record crime scenes and collect evidence. These professionals preserve evidence and crime scene integrity. These investigators often work closely with law enforcement professionals.
  • Forensic Nurse:Forensic nursing requires legal and healthcare knowledge. Forensic nurses often work with survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and neglect. In addition to providing healthcare, these nurses collect testimonies and testify on behalf of their patients.
  • Toxicologist:Toxicologists evaluate the effects of chemicals on humans and animals. While many work in the pharmaceutical industry, toxicologists can also work in forensic science. These professionals study tissue samples to determine the presence of drugs and chemicals.
  • Forensic Psychologist:Forensic psychologists interview suspects to evaluate mental competency for trials. They often diagnose and treat individuals in prisons, jails, hospitals, and government agencies.
  • Forensic Engineer:Forensic engineers determine why structures and products failed to perform as intended. Their findings often contribute to civil cases against companies and government agencies.

Best Forensic Science Degrees

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  1. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $13016

    Based in Orlando, Florida, UCF is a public research university established in 1963. It boasts the largest student body in the United States with almost 72,000 students. The university offers a wide variety of courses, including more than 230 degree programs.

    UCF’s College of Sciences offers a bachelor of science in forensic science with chemistry and biochemistry tracks. The 124-credit program includes courses in conducting and evaluating scientific investigation, using instruments, scientific writing, and judicial roles. All students take the same core courses and select subjects from their tracks to complete degree requirements. The program also requires a three-credit capstone.

    Applicants must submit their high school transcripts and SAT scores to enroll in the program. The university also encourages students to submit an essay along with the online application. UCF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The forensic program at UCF is accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.

  2. Texas A&M University-College Station
    Location

    College Station, TX

    Tuition

    $19118

    A public research university in College Station, Texas A&M enrolls the second-largest student body in the United States. The university offers a bachelor of science in forensic and investigative sciences with science and law tracks.

    Both tracks offer students the opportunity to learn various subjects covering the entire spectrum of forensic knowledge, from practice and principles of science and law to occupational and professional development. The 120-credit program also requires students to complete an internship course with an agency to gain first-hand experience of forensic roles.

    Texas A&M’s program is only one of the two in the state accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission. Those seeking admission must self-report academic records (SRAR) using their official high school transcripts and submit an essay along with the application. Texas A&M is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
    Location

    University Park, PA

    Tuition

    $26151

    A public research university, Penn State is Pennsylvania's only land grant institution. The school offers more than 14,400 degrees to prospective students.

    The bachelor of science in forensic science at Penn State offers biology and chemistry tracks. The 124-126 credit program prepares students for roles in federal, state, or private laboratories, insurance companies, or the judicial community. All students take the same core courses and then complete 34-36 credits of coursework specific to their selected track. Course topics include essential practices of forensic science, laboratory in crime scene investigation, and bioethics.

    Interested students with a minimum GPA of 2.0 and a grade of C or better in certain chemistry, forensics, and math courses qualify for the degree. Students can apply through an online portal by submitting required documents. Penn State is regionally accredited by the Middle State Commission on Higher Education.

  4. University of Nebraska - Lincoln
    Location

    Lincoln, NE

    Tuition

    $17315

    The flagship research university of the University of Nebraska system, UNL offers more than 6,000 degrees. Established in 1869, UNL consistently ranks in the top tier of research universities in the country.

    The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at UNL offers a bachelor of science in forensic science program with four options: forensic biology, crime scene investigation, forensic chemistry, and pre-law. The 120-credit program requires all students to complete the core coursework requirements along with 53-56 credits of courses specific to their selected option. In addition, students must take an internship course in forensic science and submit an honors thesis at the end of the program to graduate.

    Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA or an ACT composite of 20 or higher. The university allows students to transfer up to 90 credits from other institutions towards their degree. University of Nebraska is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  5. Virginia Commonwealth University
    Location

    Richmond, VA

    Tuition

    $20897

    Founded in 1838, VCU occupies over 169 acres in downtown Richmond, Virginia. The university offers more than 200 programs at various levels. The bachelor of science in forensic sciences degree falls under the College of Humanities and Sciences. Students can choose from three concentrations: forensic biology, forensic chemistry, or physical evidence.

    The 120-credit program requires forensic science core classes and concentration-specific courses. Students study the chemical analysis of forensic evidence through various approaches. The degree also covers drug analysis, toxicology, and trace evidence analysis.

    Applicants must submit their high school transcripts, recommendation letters, and essays. The university offers a generous transfer policy, accepting up to 90 credits from four-year universities and 70 credits from two-year colleges. VCU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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