A forensic scientist aims to apply scientific analysis to matters of law.
Some of the most frequently watched TV dramas in recent history revolve around the messy details of criminal investigation—and if you’re interested in a career in forensics then you probably are no stranger to these. While a heavy dose of fiction is mixed in with reality, these shows do give an idea of the complexity of evidence collection and analysis.
Many of us shy away from the gory details of crime fighting. But if you have a good scientific mind are intrigued by investigative processes, then a degree in Forensic Science might be a great option for you. It will help you start or boost a career solving crimes, studying the causes and theories of crime, and conducting crime scene investigations.
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What kind of Bachelor’s in Forensic Science degree should you get?
First, you’ll need to decide on a course of study. Most online undergraduate Forensic programs are concentrations nested within a Criminal Justice major. To make your program as relevant as possible, you’ll want to include as many courses in the natural sciences as your electives and general education requirements allow you.
You’ll also have to decide between an online or a campus-based program. When most of us think of attending college, it tends to be on a traditional campus—but not everyone is able to pack up their lives to attend school. Fortunately, there are plenty of high-quality, accredited online programs for those who need the flexibility and affordability online education provides.
For more information, check out our list of Best Online Colleges and Universities.
How much money do people make with a Bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science?
The truth is that most people—if they’ve done even a minimal amount of research—do not go into criminal justice careers to get rich. Of course, salaries vary widely depending on your job experience and education, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median pay of a Forensic Science Technician at a respectable $56,750 per year. The median pay for Criminal Investigators is $81,490.
If you’re looking for a job that isn’t likely to disappear in the near future, the job outlook is promising too. The BLS sites a 17 percent job growth through 2026 which is much faster than average.
What can you do with a degree in Forensic Science?
You’ll have plenty of options open to you with a degree in Forensics. Depending on your interests, your work experience, and whether you’re willing to pursue graduate studies, you’ll find jobs in laboratories, at crime scenes, and in offices, classrooms, and coroners’ offices. You may work for federal, state, or local governments—as well as private organizations. Job titles include:
- Crime Scene Technician
- Crime Scene Investigator
- Senior Forensic Analyst
- Forensic Project Coordinator
What are the requirements for a degree in Forensic Science?
Entrance requirements vary depending on the school—some have open enrollment, while others have higher academic standards for admission. Also, some programs offer the entire degree program online, while some are completion programs. Completion programs usually require you to have completed a certain number of transferable credits from an accredited institution to begin work in the major.
Before you begin upper-level courses in Criminal Justice and Forensics, there will be a number of General Education requirements—as well as electives—that you’ll need to complete. Make sure you use your electives to include as many relevant courses in the sciences as you can!
What are the best Bachelor’s in Forensic Science degrees?
At College Choice, we know a thing or two about investigation—we may not be forensic specialists, but we do know how to hunt down the best programs and present them in a readable manner.
We’ve waded through data sources, assessing program websites, tuition costs, accreditation, and reputation scores to come up with a score that reflects both academic excellence and the ever-important return on investment. And we only list schools that are regionally accredited, so you know that programs in our ranking are reputable.
We hope this ranking helps you find a great program!
See our rankings methodology page.
Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University is a private Christian university that was established by evangelical leaders in the 1970s. The University has an extensive online program (with 100,000 students enrolled in 2016) which has garnered national acclaim—U.S. News and World Report currently ranks their online Bachelor’s program in the top 100 nationally.
Liberty University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a specialization in Crime Scene Investigation that will give you a solid foundation for a career in the field of criminal investigation. The curriculum familiarizes students with the internal workings of the criminal justice system and develops scientific and analytical practices that prepare you to serve in the field of forensics. Courses include:
- Introduction to Forensics
- Crime Scene Management
- Computer & Cyber Forensics
Liberty’s online BS in Criminal Justice degree includes 48 credits (of the 120 total) in the Criminal Justice major and is available completely online. The program is offered through Liberty’s Helms School of Government which offers programs from an explicitly conservative Christian perspective. If you are a law enforcement official—and can document successful completion from an accredited police academy—you may be eligible to earn credit hours toward your degree.
American InterContinental University
Originally founded in Switzerland in the 1970s, American InterContinental University is a private, for-profit University that is currently based in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. The school offers career-oriented degree programs both online and on its seven branch campuses. In their 2018 ranking, U.S. News and World Report ranks AIU’s online Bachelor’s Program at #110.
American InterContinental University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a specialization in Forensic Science. The program is professionally oriented and provides training in a blend of science, law-enforcement practice, and crime-scene investigation. Graduates will be well prepared for a career in the forensic-science profession. Courses in the major include:
- Aspects of Forensic Psychology
- Medicolegal Death Investigation
American InterContinental University’s online BS in Criminal Justice program is comprised of 180 credits total and includes courses in both the the theory and application of forensic science. You’ll also complete a Senior Capstone project which synthesizes your accrued knowledge. All classes are available online (including electives and General Education requirements) and there are multiple start dates throughout the year.
Located near Los Angeles in suburban Azusa, California, Azusa Pacific University is a private, Christian university that emphasizes excellence in the liberal arts as well as professional programs like Criminal Justice. One of the largest evangelical, Christian universities in the country, the school ranks at #183 among national universities (U.S. News and World Report) and has a robust online program.
Azusa Pacific offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with an emphasis in Forensics. The program provides a broad-based foundation for police work, criminal law and procedure, risk analysis and response, and investigative processes and procedure. You’ll gain both theoretical knowledge and practical skills that will prepare you for a career in the field of forensics. Courses include:
- Forensic Psychology
- Crime Scene Investigation
- Criminal Evidence
Azusa Pacific’s BS in Criminal Justice includes five courses (15 credits) in the area of Forensics. Students are encouraged to integrate biblical concepts and principles to the discipline of Criminal Justice and are prepared with both solid academics (for those who wish to continue to graduate studies) and professional competencies. The entire 120-credit degree (60 credits of which is devoted to the major) is available online.
Founded on a military base in Southern California, Brandman University is a private, nonprofit university with a mission to provide high-quality, career-oriented higher education to working adults and military students. The school delivers degree programs through 26 regional centers in California and through their highly ranked (#63 according to U.S. News and World Report) online programs.
Brandman University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Forensics which will prepare you for a career in the field of forensics. The curriculum examines forensic methodology and the laws of evidence and offers insight into social groups—and those who commit crimes. Courses in the Forensics Concentration include:
- Forensic Studies
- Forensic Documentation
- Crime Scene Investigation
Brandman University’s BA in Criminal Justice, Forensics includes 45 credits in the Criminal Justice major—12 of which are specific to Forensics. All students must have completed at least 12 credits at an accredited institution before being admitted to the program—but if you are short transferable credits, Brandman offers a four-course program which provides the necessary prerequisites.
Strayer University-District of Columbia
Located in Herndon, Vermont, Strayer University is a for-profit university that has earned a reputation for delivering on its promises of high quality, affordable education. The regionally accredited (MSCHE) school has a 120 year history of granting professionally-oriented degrees to working adults, both online and in their 78 campuses.
For the technologically minded, Strayer University offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a specialization in Computer Security and Forensics. The program provides a foundational knowledge base for a career using technology to investigate crime. As a student, you’ll study computer forensics, focusing on firewall security, database maintenance, and security management. Courses include:
- Computer Forensics
- Computer Crime Investigation
- Information Security Legal Issues
Strayer University’s BS in Criminal Justice, Computer Security and Forensics program includes five core courses in the Computer Security and Forensics concentration—in addition to the core Criminal Justice courses. The degree is comprised of 40 courses (120 credits) total. Strayer University offers the convenience of online courses as well as numerous start dates throughout the year.
Founded in 1971, Excelsior College is a private, non-profit institution located in Albany, New York. Excelsior aims to be a leader in online learning and offers high-quality undergraduate and graduate degrees. The College is also committed to making higher education accessible and offers college credit for eligible forms of education students have acquired outside a college classroom.
Excelsior College offers a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice with a specialization in Investigative Forensics which will help you compete for top-level law enforcement, investigation, and correctional positions. The program offers core Criminal Justice courses as well as key investigative forensic topics—from legal and ethical issues to procedures and practice. Courses include:
- Forensic Pathology
- Forensic Psychology
- Computer or Digital Forensics
Excelsior College’s online BS degree in Criminal Justice, Investigative Forensics is a 120-credit program, with 33 credits total for the major— this includes 15 credits in the area of Investigative Forensics. All students complete a capstone project which allows you to synthesize the knowledge you have acquired. You may also receive credit toward your degree requirements for your law enforcement or corrections academy training.
University of Maryland-University College
One of the eleven institutions in the extensive University of Maryland University System, University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is a public university that is also one of the largest distance-learning institutions in the world. Based in Adelphi, MD, the school has more than 140 worldwide locations as well as extensive online programs which keep the non-traditional learner at its center.
University of Maryland University College offers an online Bachelor of Science in Investigative Forensics that will prepare you to be a leader in the field of forensics. This is a unique online Forensics program in that it is not a concentration within a Criminal Justice program. Rather, the program offers a concentrated exploration and grounding in the principles and practicalities of Forensic Investigation. Courses include:
- Introduction to Investigative Forensics
- Criminal Procedure and Evidence
- Crime Scene Investigation
The University of Maryland University College’s online BS in Investigative Forensics is a 120-credit program that is offered entirely online (or in a hybrid format if you want to take some courses on campus). The Investigate Forensics major is comprised of 11 required courses (33 credits). UMUC will accept up to 90 credits of transferable courses from an accredited institution. This is a great program if you really want a focused education in Forensics.