Best Forensic Science Degrees 2021

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The interdisciplinary field of forensic science incorporates areas of chemistry, criminal justice, biology, and computer science. Popularized by contemporary crime-scene investigation shows, forensic science programs are ideal for students who value justice and who enjoy solving puzzles, studying laboratory sciences, and collaborating with others.

Forensic scientists often help criminal justice professionals investigate and solve crimes by gathering, documenting, and analyzing criminal evidence. Learners in the best forensic science programs prepare to identify criminals, victims, and causes of death. Professionals in the field use scientific techniques such as fingerprint tracking and DNA analysis.

Some schools offer specializations in cybercrime and digital forensics, which prepare students for careers solving computer-related crimes, such as identity theft and fraud. This guide explores typical requirements for forensic science programs and details career options for graduates.

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Top 10 Best Forensic Science Degrees

Rank School Location
1 Mercyhurst University Erie, PA
2 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
3 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX
4 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA
5 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln, NE
6 Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN
7 Cedarville University Cedarville, OH
8 Loyola University Chicago Chicago, IL
9 Ohio Northern University Ada, OH
10 Madonna University Livonia, MI

FAQ


  • What is forensic science?

    Forensic scientists use the scientific method to gather and analyze evidence for criminal and civil cases.


  • How long does it take to earn a forensic science degree?

    Full-time students typically earn their forensic science bachelor’s degree in four years. However, learners with a transferable associate degree often graduate in two years.


  • What kind of forensic science degree can I get?

    Schools offer forensic science degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. An associate degree in the field can qualify graduates for entry-level roles, but advanced positions in the field typically require at least a bachelor’s degree.


  • What is the difference between forensic science and criminology?

    Criminology professionals create and analyze theories regarding the various causes of crime. Forensic scientists, on the other hand, work to solve crimes.


Best Forensic Science Degrees 2021



The list below features the best forensic science programs for 2021. Prospective students can use this ranking to compare programs based on factors such as pacing, available specializations, capstone and internship requirements, and pricing. Each of the following programs is housed within an accredited institution.

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Mercyhurst University
    Location

    Erie, PA

    Founded in 1926, Mercyhurst University serves more than 3,400 students through over 70 programs. The university offers 60 undergraduate programs, including a forensic science degree. Developed in 2002, Mercyhurst's BS in forensic science offers concentrations in criminalistics, forensic anthropology, and forensic chemistry. The program provides students with training in the latest technologies and scientific methods used in the field, along with a series of hands-on fieldwork opportunities.

    At Mercyhurst, classes typically run throughout eight-week or full-semester sessions in the fall and spring. For admission, applicants usually need a high school diploma with a minimum GPA of 2.5. Transfer applicants with a minimum GPA of 2.0 may receive transfer credit and admission. To graduate, students need to maintain a cumulative 2.75 GPA.

  2. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Founded in 1963, the University of Central Florida offers more than 220 programs across its 13 colleges. UCF's College of Sciences offers 15 undergraduate degrees, including a forensic science degree with biochemistry and chemistry tracks. Both tracks require 124 credits, including general education, common program prerequisites, electives, core requirements, and a capstone course. Learners also complete an internship during their final semester.

    At UCF, classes run throughout the fall, spring, and summer. Students typically graduate within four years. For admission, applicants need a high school or GED diploma and must submit ACT or SAT scores. Transfer applicants receive credit on a case-by-case basis. To graduate, students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.5.

  3. Texas A & M University-College Station
    Location

    College Station, TX

    Founded in 1876, Texas A&M University is the Lone Star State's oldest public university. The university offers more than 130 undergraduate programs, including a BS in forensic and investigative sciences. The program offers science and pre-law emphasis areas. In both areas, core courses include forensic entomology, latent print processing, and forensic soil science.

    In addition to theoretical training, forensic science students perform research and complete an internship. The curriculum consists of 120 credits. Transfer applicants with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 can receive up to 65 credits via transfer. The program's science emphasis area is accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.

  4. Pennsylvania State University
    Location

    University Park, PA

    At Pennsylvania State University, undergraduate students have access to more than 275 bachelor's programs across 24 campuses. Penn State offers a forensic science degree with two tracks: biology and chemistry. The BS in forensic science requires 124-126 credits overall, including 97-99 major credits. Core courses include organic chemistry, courtroom proceedings, and bioethics. Learners typically take courses in the fall and spring and graduate within four years.

    At Penn State, forensic science majors enjoy a variety of research and internship opportunities. They can also join forensic science student organizations. For admission, applicants need a high school or GED diploma. They may also need to submit ACT or SAT scores. To declare the forensic science major, applicants need a cumulative GPA of 2.0 and must have completed several prerequisite courses. To graduate, students need to maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0.

  5. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    Location

    Lincoln, NE

    Established in 1869, University of Nebraska Lincoln is the oldest university in the Cornhusker State and the flagship institution of the University of Nebraska system. The university offers more than 150 undergraduate programs, including a BS in forensic science. Nebraska's forensic science degree offers specializations in areas like crime scene investigation, forensic biology, pre-law, and forensic chemistry.

    Students in the program typically take courses throughout eight-week terms and graduate within four years. The curriculum includes optional internship and fieldwork opportunities. For admission, applicants typically need a high school diploma with a minimum GPA of 3.0 or the GED equivalent. Transfer applicants may receive up to 90 credits. To graduate, students need to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0.

  6. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis
    Location

    Indianapolis, IN

    Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis offered its first class in 1891. Since then, IUPUI has grown to more than 17 schools and over 450 programs. In the university's BS in forensic and investigative sciences, learners can focus on biology or chemistry. Both tracks require 120 credits, including 75 major credits. In the major, students take required courses in forensic science, biology, chemistry, statistics, and advanced science.

    At IUPUI, programs start in the fall or spring, and learners often graduate within four years. All students in the forensic science program participate in research and an internship. Both tracks feature a senior capstone course. For admission, applicants need a high school diploma with a minimum GPA of 3.0 or the GED equivalent. They must also submit ACT or SAT scores. IUPUI evaluates transfer credit on a case-by-case basis.

  7. Cedarville University
    Location

    Cedarville, OH

    Founded in 1887, Cedarville University offers more than 150 programs with a Christian perspective to nearly 4,000 undergraduate students. In the university's BS in forensic sciences, students complete 128 credits, including 90 credits of required science courses. The curriculum breaks down into a science and math core, criminal justice courses, and electives. Students typically complete their forensic science degrees in four years, with courses running through the fall, spring, and summer.

    One of the best forensic science programs, the program gives learners hands-on experience through internships and laboratory work. Cedarville also offers a master's degree pathway that prepares students for an MBA after graduation. For admission, applicants need a high school or GED diploma plus ACT or SAT scores. They also need to demonstrate that they are practicing Christians. Cedarville evaluates transfer credit on a case-by-case basis.

  8. Loyola University Chicago
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Loyola University Chicago was founded in 1870 and now serves more than 17,000 students. Loyola offers more than 80 undergraduate majors, including a BS in forensic science. In this program, students choose from forensic chemistry and forensic biology and DNA tracks. During Loyola's forensic science degree, students complete 120 credits, including 88 major credits, with courses dedicated to laboratory science, criminal justice, the specialization, electives, and a capstone.

    As part of the capstone requirement, learners complete an internship and a research assignment. Programs typically start in the fall, and students take courses in the fall and spring, usually graduating within four years. For admission, applicants need a high school or GED diploma and must submit ACT or SAT scores. Loyola's forensic science degree is accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.

  9. Ohio Northern University
    Location

    Ada, OH

    Founded in 1871, Ohio Northern University offers more than 60 programs across its five colleges. Students in the BS in forensic biology complete 120 credits, taking courses in organic chemistry, presentational speaking, and forensic computer analysis. ONU also offers students several hands-on experiences, including a 10-week internship, summer undergraduate research experiences, and access to the Crime Scene House, which offers practice via simulations and mock crimes.

    At ONU, the forensic science degree begins in the fall or spring. While most students take classes in these two semesters and graduate within four years, summer classes may be available. For admission, applicants need a high school or GED diploma plus ACT or SAT scores. Transfer applicants can receive transfer credit on a case-by-case basis. Students in the program enjoy access to the library, academic support, and career services.

  10. Madonna University
    Location

    Livonia, MI

    Founded in 1937, Madonna University offers over 100 programs to its nearly 2,500 undergraduate students, including a 120-credit BS in forensic science. The program includes 32 credits of pre-forensic science courses, 30 credits of support courses, and up to 32 major credits. Students also participate in an internship and laboratory experiences. In addition to the degree, MU offers a variety of industry and completion certifications.

    For general admission, MU prefers applicants with a high school diploma with a minimum GPA of 2.8. All prospective students must submit ACT or SAT scores. For admission into the forensic science major, applicants need a minimum GPA of 2.75. Transfer applicants with more than 60 credits need a minimum GPA of 2.8 for admission. Before graduating, students need to complete the Forensic Science Aptitude Test. MU's forensic science degree is accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.

Career and Salary Outlook for Forensic Science

The diverse forensic science field features many subfields, specializations, and career paths. An associate degree or certificate in forensic science can qualify graduates for entry-level roles, such as forensic science technician positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic science technicians earn a median annual salary of $59,150. The BLS projects employment for these professionals to increase 14% from 2019 to 2029, a rate much faster than the average for all occupations.

Earning a forensic science bachelor’s degree can lead to advanced positions in scientific investigation and law enforcement. Bachelor’s degree-holders can also become forensic scientists, who conduct laboratory studies and analyze criminal evidence. Earning a graduate degree in the field can qualify individuals for positions as forensic toxicologists and forensic pathologists, who determine causes of death.

Graduates of forensic science programs with a specialization in digital or computer forensics can become financial examiners or information security analysts. According to the BLS, these professionals earn median annual salaries of $81,090 and $99,730, respectively. The BLS projects employment for information security analysts to increase 31% from 2019 to 2029.

Some forensics programs allow enrollees to earn professional certifications while pursuing their degree, which can lead to higher earning potential.

CareerLowest 10%Median Annual SalaryHighest 10%
Forensic Science TechniciansLess than $35,620$59,150More than $97,350

Source: BLS

Accreditation for Forensic Science

Choosing an accredited school and program ensures that students obtain a valuable credential. Only learners at nationally or regionally accredited schools can qualify for federal financial aid. The best forensic science programs appear at regionally accredited schools, which meet high academic standards. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversees regional accrediting agencies in the United States.

Regionally accredited schools do not typically accept degrees and credits earned from nationally accredited institutions. The best forensic science programs also hold field-specific accreditation from the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.

Courses in a Forensic Science Program

Curricula of forensic science programs can vary considerably by school and concentration. However, core coursework typically covers topics including criminalistics, biology, and mathematics. Learners gain skills in physical evidence collection and analysis, logic and critical thinking, documentation, and communication. Forensic science courses often incorporate laboratory components.

Many programs offer concentrations in areas such as biology, chemistry, and forensic science. Some programs offer further specialization in forensics subfields, such as DNA, toxicology, trace evidence, and latent prints. Required classes vary by concentration. For example, DNA specializations usually require courses in genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biotechnology. The list below includes common forensic science courses.


  • Introduction to Forensic Science

    This foundational course covers forensic science disciplines, including their past and present roles in the criminal justice system. Coursework introduces crime scene investigation, including fingerprinting, DNA and bloodstain analysis, and forensic chemistry. This class may require a prerequisite in lab sciences.


  • Forensic Biology

    Students in this core course develop an advanced understanding of biological evidence collection and analysis. Learners explore topics including DNA extraction and amplification, serology, and electrophoresis. This lab-based course emphasizes hands-on learning and usually requires prior coursework in biology and chemistry.


  • Crime Scene Investigation

    Enrollees gain knowledge and skills in physical evidence collection and processing. Degree-seekers study topics such as latent print investigations, forensic photography, and courtroom testimony. Students also practice writing reports, and they cultivate problem-solving, safety, technology, and collaboration skills.


  • Forensic Pathology

    This core course explores human anatomy, physiology, and forensic terminology. Participants learn about various types of unexpected deaths, such as homicides, suicides, accidental deaths, and sudden infant death syndrome. Coursework explores various methods for identifying victims, and participants learn about autopsy techniques.


  • Bloodstain Pattern Evidence Analysis

    This course prepares students for roles as investigators, crime scene personnel, and forensic scientists. Students explore methods to identify, document, and analyze bloodstain patterning. Learners also prepare to set parameters, reconstruct crime scenes, make observations, and perform experiments involving bloodstains. This class emphasizes proper evidence documentation.


Scholarships for Forensic Science


Undergraduate and graduate students can apply for various types of financial aid, including scholarships. Scholarship requirements may include a strong academic record or financial need, and some awards are reserved for members of underrepresented groups. Scholarships do not require repayment, making them an ideal form of funding.

Forensic science students in even the most affordable forensic science programs can benefit from receiving scholarships from schools, nonprofit organizations, private donors, and government agencies. The list below includes a few scholarship opportunities for learners enrolled in forensic science programs.


  • ACS Scholars Program

    Who Can Apply: This scholarship from the American Chemical Society supports underrepresented students who are enrolled full time in a chemistry-related program, such as a forensic chemistry program. Only U.S. citizens enrolled at accredited institutions may apply. Applicants must submit recommendation letters, standardized test scores, and evidence of financial need.

    Amount: Up to $5,000



  • Johnson-Whyte Memorial Foundation Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: The International Association for Identification offers these scholarships to full-time juniors and seniors in programs related to forensic identification. Candidates need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must attend an accredited institution.

    Amount: Varies



  • NEAFS Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: The Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists offers two scholarships for high-performing, full-time learners studying forensic science. Applicants must reside in the Northeast and must be an undergraduate junior, undergraduate senior, or graduate student. Applicants submit two recommendation letters from professors.

    Amount: $1,750-$2,000



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