Blood spatter, DNA, bullet ballistics. To make these pieces of physical evidence usable in court, lawyers and prosecutors need forensic analysts trained in biology, chemistry, or physics to interpret their presence at a crime scene.
How did they get there and what does it tell us about what happened? To answer these questions scientists need strong educational backgrounds, such as one of the 20 Best Master’s in Forensic Science.
What Is Forensic Science?
Forensic Science is the application of hard sciences including physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, or engineering to matters of law or criminal justice. Scientists work with law enforcement to investigate things such as the physics of blood spatter or to source trace amounts of drugs with chemistry.
The information and expertise provided by forensic scientists can help provide hard evidence for investigators. Each crime science provides its own unique challenges, which is why investigators must have a strong academic background and critical thinking abilities.
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How Much Money Can I Earn Working in Forensic Science?
Forensic science is a highly specialized field and the skills that students in these programs develop are always in high demand. Entry-level forensic science technicians earn an average of around $58,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Technicians who hold Master’s degree are more likely to earn closer to $75,000-$80,000 per year.
There are currently more than 15,400 people working in this field in the United States, and the BLS expects a 17 percent growth (much faster than average) in this job market over the coming decade. That translates to more than 2,600 new job openings! All waiting for someone with the right credentials.
Why Choose A Master’s in Forensic Science?
Master’s degrees give students more options than undergraduate programs can offers. By delving further into their field of choice, students can learn whether or not they prefer the academic or professional aspects of subjects like forensic science.
As mentioned above, master’s graduates who wish to begin their professional careers can enter the field with a salary at least $20,000 more compared to students with just a bachelor’s. And students who find the academic side of the subject more fulfilling will be prepared to enter doctoral programs that can lead to teaching jobs or highly specialized work in the area of their dissertation.
What Are the 20 Best Master’s in Forensic Science?
We’ve found that the best degrees are those that offer fair not only fair prices, but ample flexibility and convenience as well! To find the best degrees for you, we look at the best schools in the country based on reputation, student satisfaction, program quality, and return on investment. Then we review the bottom line – just how much is this going to cost? Check out our methodology page for a more in depth description of our data.
Once we determine all of the above, we curate a list of stellar schools for you! These not only represent the best degrees you can get, but also ones that will fit your budget. Check out our picks below!
Sam Houston State University is a public university located in Huntsville, TX. Sam Houston was originally founded in 1876 as Austin College, which was founded as a Presbyterian institution of higher learning. Sam Houston now has more than 20,000 students and almost 600 academic staff members. Their endowment is just short of $100 million and they offer around 60 different master’s degree programs.
Sam Houston State offers an online Master of Science degree program in Forensic Science. It is a 44 credit hour program, which begins each Fall. Courses in the program include:
Controlled Substance Analysis
Forensic Instrument Analysis
Students also select ten credits of elective courses to pursue during the program. Students will also complete at least six credit hours of Forensic Science Research.
The program ends with a capstone course, which students must complete with a grade of B or better to satisfy university requirements. Students applying to the program are required to submit official GRE scores and should possess a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology, forensic, or natural science. Applicants should have completed instrumental analysis and molecular biology at the undergraduate level.
The University of Nebraska Omaha is a public university located in Omaha, NE. It began as the Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1908, before eventually joining the University of Nebraska system in 1968. It has approximately 15,000 total students, including more than 3,000 postgraduates. Its endowment is around $72 million and it employs over 1,000 academic staff members.
The University of Nebraska Omaha offers an online Master of Science degree program in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Students must complete 36 credit hours of study, which includes courses such as:
Seminar in Administration of Justice
Nature of Crime
Seminar on Race, Ethnicity, and Criminal Justice
Statistical Applications in Criminal Justice & Public Administration
Nine credits from the program are elective courses chosen by the student. The program ends with a final capstone course in criminology and criminal justice.
Applicants to the program should have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the last two years of undergraduate coursework and possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university. Applicants should also have completed a minimum of 12 credit hours of criminal justice courses or related courses. They may also meet this requirement if they have taken a basic statistics course or a research methods course.
The University of Cincinnati is a public university located in Cincinnati, OH. Having been founded in 1819, it is the oldest institution of higher learning in the city of Cincinnati. It has a student population of more than 44,000, which includes over 11,000 postgraduate students. UC is divided between 14 different colleges and schools, and has an endowment over $1.1 billion.
The University of Cincinnati offers an online Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice. Students choose a concentration from the following list of options: Analysis of Criminal Behavior, Corrections & Offender Rehabilitation, Law Enforcement & Crime Prevention, and General Track (no concentration). Core courses include:
Seminar in Criminal Justice
Seminar in Criminology
Basic Research Methods in Criminal Justice
Demonstration Research Project
The Demonstration Research Project is the culminating course in the program, challenging students to undertake an individual research project.
Each student accepted to the program is assigned a student success coordinator to help guide them through the program and keep them on track for graduation. Elective courses in the program include Applied Crime Prevention and Seminar in White-Collar Crime.
Arizona State University is a public university located in Tempe, AZ. ASU has
additional campuses throughout the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, including their Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic, and West campuses. The main Tempe campus is home to 50,000 students, pursuing more than 250 undergraduate majors and 100 graduate degree programs.
Arizona State offers an online Master of Science degree program in Forensic Psychology. Each class in the program lasts 7.5 weeks and the program includes 11 required courses (for a total of 33 credits). Students take courses such as:
Seminar in Courts and Sentencing
Advanced Correctional Psychology
Advanced Legal Psychology
The final course in the program is a Capstone in Forensic Psychology course. Students may also find replacement courses for the statistics and criminal justice system course requirements, with the approval of the academic unit.
Applicants to the program are expected to have earned a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in psychology, criminal justice, social science, or a closely related field. Applicants to the program are expected to have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the final 60 hours of the student’s first bachelor’s program. Students whose GPA falls below 3.3 are encouraged to submit official GRE scores as part of their application.
It’s no secret how Orlando, FL is home to industry research leaders such as Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and the Kennedy Space Center. At the center of it all is the University of Central Florida, a public space-grant university, originally established in 1963, is now home to around 66,000 students as of 2017. UCF also operates the Central Florida Research Park, which is one of the largest research parks in the United States and where research is conducted by the National Center of Forensic Science.
Among the numerous science-based degrees at UCF is the online Master of Science in Forensic Science. The research-heavy degree is offered through the College of Sciences, where full-time Knightros’ can earn the 34 credits-degree within two years. There are three types of Forensic Science concentration offered, but the only concentration completed entirely online is the Forensic Professional.
The Forensic Analysis and Biochemistry concentrations, both, require a lengthy research thesis on campus. The Forensic Science concentration only requires a one-credit capstone project under the guidance of an online faculty member. All three concentration require students to complete courses such as:
Topics in Forensic Science
The Forensic Expert in the Courtroom
Quality Assurance for Forensic Scientists
Students who graduate with their MSFS from UCF work in industries such as Forensic Toxicology, Pathologists, or Crime Scene Investigation. Ironically, Florida has more documented murderers than other state in the U.S., so there appears to be a dire need for the profession – on a local level, anyway.
Florida International University is a public university located in University Park, FL. They have an additional campus located in Biscayne Bay, FL, along with regional centers throughout South Florida and a number of international campuses in countries such as Italy and China. FIU began operating in 1972 and has grown to educate more than 56,000 students each year, including almost 9,000 postgraduates.
Florida International University offers a Master of Science degree program in Forensic Science. The program is intended to prepare students either for careers in forensic science laboratories or for doctoral instruction in several disciplines. It is a 32 credit program that includes courses such as:
Nine credits of elective courses excluding research or seminars
Students also take three courses involving their Master’s thesis, which serves as the cornerstone of the program.
Students may transfer up to six hours of credit from a separate post-baccalaureate program into the FIU program. If a student does not wish to pursue the thesis track, they will still conduct original research, but will present a report instead of a thesis. Applicants to the program are required to submit GRE scores.
Bowling Green State University is a public university located in Bowling Green, OH. Bowling Green was started in 1910 as a normal school, which focused on teacher education. It has since developed into one of the largest public universities in the state of Ohio, with almost 20,000 total students and 2,000 academic staff members. It has a $150 million endowment and the campus comprises more than 1,300 acres.
Bowling Green offers a Master of Science degree in Forensic Science. The program requires 36 credit hours of coursework at the graduate level, which includes core courses such as:
Elements of Forensic Science
Law, Evidence, and Procedure
Seminar in Criminal Justice Ethics
The degree program also includes the option for a concentration in either Forensic Biology or Forensic Chemistry. Twelve credit hours are devoted to core courses and the other 24 are dedicated to a student’s concentration.
Applicants to the program are required to submit GRE scores and are expected to have a minimum GPA of at least 3.0 for all undergraduate coursework. Applicants must have a degree in biology, chemistry, or other closely related field. Students may be eligible for graduate assistantships as a part of their graduate study program or financial aid package.
The University of North Texas is a public university located in Denton, TX. UNT began in 1890 as the Texas Normal College and Teacher Training Institute. The university is now divided into eleven colleges and two schools, which serve a student body of around 38,000. Roughly 7,000 of those students are postgraduate students, who work with some of UNT’s 1,063 full-time academic staff members.
The University of North Texas offers a Forensic Science Certificate program. The program helps to prepare students to begin a career in the field of forensic science or to pursue medical school if they wish to become medical examiners. It is a 19 credit program and includes classes such as:
Students are also required to complete an internship as a part of the program. Faculty members help work with students to find internships in their given area of interest.
Example areas of professional interest from previous students include DNA/genetics, toxicology, anthropology, microscopy, and crime scene investigations. Students must complete the Forensic Science Aptitude Test offered by the American Board of Criminalistics to complete the program.
Pace University is a private university located in Manhattan, NY. They have two additional campuses located throughout New York State, in Westchester County and White Plains. The school originally operated in a number of cities throughout the Northeast United States, serving mostly male and female business students. In the mid-1950s the school began a permanent move to New York, where it is now home to 13,000 students. It has 1,200 academic staff members and an endowment of $172 million.
Pace University offers a Master of Science in Forensic Science degree program. It is a 40 credit program, which is divided between 32 credits of core courses and 8 credits of elective courses. Core courses include:
Principles of Forensic Pharmacology
Forensic Science Seminar
Professional Issues in Forensic Science
Students finish the program with a Forensic Science Seminar course in their final semester. There is also an internship course that is a part of the core requirements.
Pace’s Dyson School of Arts and Sciences has recently added a state-of-the-art DNA sequencing lab and specialized laboratories with virtual crime scene reconstruction software and forensic microscopy. Pace maintains connections with the New York Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the New York City medical examiner’s office. These connections provide opportunities both for post-grad employment and internships during the course of study.
The University of Louisville is a public university located in Louisville, KY. The school began operating in the early 19th century, and was officially incorporated at the University of Louisville in 1846. They now have more than 22,000 total students, some 6,000 of which are postgraduate students. The school is divided into twelve schools and colleges, which offer 78 Master’s and 22 doctoral degree programs.
The University of Louisville offers an online Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree program. It is a 36 credit hour program, with courses divided between core courses (15 credits) and elective courses (18 credits). Core courses in this program include:
Theories of Criminal Justice and Delinquency
Applied Statistics in Criminal Justice
Legal Aspects of Criminal Justice Management
The Criminal Justice System
The final three credits are earned in the Professional Paper course, where a student completes independent research and writes a professional paper dealing with a specific subject within criminal justice.
Students choose six elective courses to fulfill the degree requirements. Example elective courses from the program include Juvenile Justice Issues, Introduction to Homeland Security, Criminal Justice History, and Domestic & Family Violence. There are more than 40 different elective courses that students can choose to complete as a part of the program.
East Carolina University is a public university located in Greenville, NC. ECU was founded in 1907 as the East Carolina Teachers Training School, and eventually took on university status in 1967. It is now the third largest university in the state of North Carolina, with an overall student population of around 28,000, including just under 6,000 postgraduate students.
East Carolina University offers a Master of Science in Criminal Justice program. It is a 36 credit hour program, which includes 21 hours of core courses and 15 hours of elective courses. Core courses includes:
Criminal Justice Principles
Seminar in Corrections
Seminar in Research Methods and Statistical Interpretation
The graduate program also offers a certificate program in security studies, which requires a minimum of 15 credit hours of coursework. Students must designate themselves as a distance or resident applicant during the admissions process.
Students applying to the program must submit GRE or TOEFL scores that satisfy the minimal levels established by the graduate school. A personal interview may be requested as a part of the admissions process. Students may elect to take attend the program on a part-time basis, during which they must still take at least two courses per semester.
The University of the Cumberlands is a private college located in Williamsburg, KY. It is a religious institution that is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. The University of the Cumberlands was originally known as Cumberland College, and operated as a junior college until 1956. The school is home to around 7,600 students, around 60 percent of whom are postgraduates.
The University of the Cumberlands offers an online Master’s in Justice Administration. The program offers 8 different specialization tracks, including Law Enforcement and Investigations. It is a 31 credit hour program, during which students complete Common Core of coursework, as well as two specializations. Common Core includes:
Ethical Issues in Justice Administration
Human Resources Management
Legal Issues in Justice Administration
The final course in the major is a capstone course that comes in the student’s last semester of study. It is a one-hour per week courses designed to engage the student’s independent research and critical thinking.
Other specialization track options from the program include corrections, homeland security, juvenile justice, and KLEC or equivalent. All applicants to the program complete an interview with the program director or a representative from the program. The minimum GPA is 3.0 for all undergraduate coursework.
The University of Wisconsin-Platteville is a public university located in Platteville, WI. UW-Platteville is divided into three colleges, offering both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs. They have a total student population of just under 9,000, most of whom are undergraduates. They have an endowment of around $23 million and reach an additional 3,000 students through their five distance learning programs.
The University of Wisconsin-Platteville offers an online Master of Science degree program in criminal justice. The program requires 30 credit hours of study, which are evenly split between core and elective courses. Core courses include:
Criminal Justice Systems
Law as Social Control
Research & Statistical Methods
The program includes the option for one of three different concentrations: Criminal Justice Theory, Criminal Justice Management, and Victim and Offender Services.
Students are encouraged to further customize their program of study, even beyond their concentration. Students may focus their knowledge on numerous topics such as statistical methods, organizational management, child advocacy, and criminology research.
Nova Southeastern University is a private university located in Davie, FL. NSU is made up of 18 colleges divided into 150 different areas of study. Nova Southeastern has a student population of 21,000, only around 4,200 of which are undergraduate students. They have an endowment of $117 million and a campus of around 480 acres located throughout the suburban area of Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Nova Southeastern University offers an online Master of Health Science degree program, which includes an option for a concentration in Forensic Investigative Technology. This specialty track requires 40 credit hours of study, divided between core courses, practical components, and Forensic Investigative Technology courses. Core courses include:
Writing for Allied Health Professionals
Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Ethical Issues in Healthcare
Current Trends and Culture Issues in Health Care
Core courses make up 15 credits, practical components are 10 credits, and the final 15 credits are from FIT courses.
Applicants to the program should have prior health care experience, and ideally will also have diverse undergraduate and professional education. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university with a minimum GPA of 2.75 on a 4.0 scale. They should also be able to demonstrate computer skills through coursework or self-study skills before beginning the program.
California University of Pennsylvania is a public university located in California, PA. Cal U was previously a four year teacher’s college, but eventually began offering graduate degrees in 1962, and became a part of the Pennsylvania System of Higher Education in 1983. They now have over 9,400 students, including around 2,000 postgraduate students. There are around 300 full-time academic staff members at Cal U.
California University of Pennsylvania offers a Master of Arts degree program in Criminal Justice Studies, with an emphasis in Applied Criminology. Courses in this program include:
Geographical Criminal Analysis
Equivocal Death Analysis
Research Methods in Criminology
Criminal Investigative Analysis
Students complete the program by choosing one of several real-world opportunities. Students may complete an internship, write a thesis, or study abroad at locations such as Scotland Yard or Parliament.
Students may be able to receive course credits for prior learning, particularly those who have attended the FBI National Academy or the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. These credit considerations are also available to those who have graduated from other approved trainings or who hold certain professional certifications.
Regis University is a private university located in Denver, CO. It is a Catholic university associated with the Jesuit Tradition. It was founded by the Society of Jesus in 1877, and is one of 28 members of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. They have a student population of 8,300 students and around 2,000 academic staff members. Their endowment is approximately $50 million.
Regis University offers a Master of Science degree program in Criminology. It is a 36 credit hour program, which include core courses such as:
Contemporary Issues in Criminology
Leadership Principles in Criminology
Students also choose a concentration that will help guide their elective choices. They also select their final degree requirement: Internship in Criminology, Capstone Project, or Upper-Level Criminology Course.
The available concentrations for this degree are a Human Behavior focus or a focus in Cybercrime. Regis also offers related certificate programs in fields such as cyber security. The program may be completed online, on-campus, or through a hybrid delivery format. Students with military, educational, or work experience may receive credit for their real-world learning.
Colorado Technical University is a for-profit university with its main campus located in Colorado Springs, CO. Around 92 percent of Colorado Tech’s students are fully online. They have 23,000 undergraduate students and 2,700 postgraduate students. CTU originally began as Colorado Technical College in 1965, before gaining university status in 1995, at which time it also adopted its current name.
Colorado Technical University offers an online Master of Science in Criminal Justice. It is a 48 credit program divided between 28 credits of core courses and 20 credits of concentration courses. Core courses include:
Criminology and Public Policy
Advanced Review of Criminal Justice
Special Topics in Criminal Justice
Leadership and Ethical Decision-Making
The available concentrations for this degree program are a general emphasis in Criminal Justice or an emphasis in Homeland Security. The program ends with a capstone course.
In addition to being available online, this program may also be completed at CTU’s Colorado Springs and Aurora campuses. Students may be eligible for reduced costs or prior learning credit for experiences such as: active duty military status, transfer credit, or CTU grants and scholarships. Classes begin every eight weeks and run for 5.5 weeks.
Faulkner University is a private university located in Montgomery, AL. It is a Christian University associated with the Churches of Christ. They were originally founded as the Montgomery Bible School in 1942, before changing to their current name in 1985. The main campus is home to around 3,500 students. They have additional satellite campuses in Mobile, Huntsville, and Birmingham, and an endowment of $19 million.
Faulkner University offers an online Master of Science degree in Justice Administration. It is a ten course program that can be completed in as little as 14 months. Students complete core courses including:
Law and Justice
Policing in America
Students progress through the program as a cohort unit, working in sequence at the same pace and in the same order of courses. Students take only one course at a time. The final courses center around original research conducted by the student.
Students from all academic backgrounds are welcome to apply to the program. Students whose overall GPA falls between 2.5 and 3.0 will be considered for admission, but must submit MAT scores in addition to their undergraduate transcripts. Students with a 2.5 overall GPA and 3.0 major GPA or better will not be required to submit graduate exam scores.
The University of New Haven is a private university located in West Haven, CT. New Haven began as the New Haven YMCA Junior College in 1920, and eventually received its current name in 1970. From 2006-2011, their undergraduate and graduate enrollments both increased significantly, and the total student body is now as large as 6,400. The graduate campus of the school is located in Orange, CT.
The University of New Haven offers a Master of Science degree program in Forensic Science. It is a four-semester program, which offers flexible course class times and offerings. Courses from the program include:
Forensic DNA Analysis
Forensic Expert Testimony
Students complete the program with an original thesis paper, which engages the knowledge from their previous coursework, as well as the research and analytical skills they have developed.
Professors from the program have real world experience in criminal investigative roles such as lab directors, supervisors, and crime-scene bench analysis. In addition to the preparation in relevant coursework, New Haven’s Master’s program also emphasizes professional development. Students complete job shadowing, on-campus interviews, and salary negotiation practice.
Jacksonville State University is a public university located in Jacksonville, AL. JSU began as a state normal school in 1883, and attained university status in 1966. It has an overall student population of around 8,500 students, just over 1,000 of whom are graduate students. The school’s endowment is approximately $12.6 million and it employs roughly 450 academic staff members.
Jacksonville State offers a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice. The program requires 30 credit hours of coursework, and includes both non-thesis and thesis track options for completion. Students in both tracks take courses in:
Comparative Criminal Justice
Criminal Justice Administration
Students in the non-thesis track complete 15 hours of elective courses on top of the core courses. Thesis track students complete nine hours of electives and six hours of thesis work.
Students may also pursue the Master of Public Administration program, which has the option for a concentration in Criminal Justice. Students do not need to have a specific major to be eligible for the program; however, students from non-criminal justice majors may be required to take prerequisite courses.
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