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A master’s in forensic science degree program prepares students for a variety of careers, including options in law enforcement and medical science. Pay for such jobs varies depending on location and other factors, but forensic science technicians make around $63,740 per year on average, and medical scientists make close to $100,000 per year. Private investigators earn around $52,120 annually, and police detectives earn an average of $69,160 annually.Depending on your coursework and the type of program you enter, it can take 1.5 to 2 years to complete a master’s in forensic science program as a full-time student. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, graduate programs cost around $19,749 on average, but you’ll typically pay more for programs at private schools and less for those at public universities.

How to Choose a Master’s in Forensic Science Degree Program

Choose your area of study

Forensic science is a relatively large field. You should choose an area of study that aligns with your career goals. You might want to position yourself as a professional ready to enter the criminal justice niche or as a good candidate for a medical research position.

Some potential concentrations include toxicology, forensic psychology, crime scene investigation, and forensic chemistry. As the need to investigate digital environments grows, digital forensic science becomes an increasingly popular area of study. This technical arm of forensics may be pertinent to digital crime investigation and forensic accounting.

Research schools and programs

Make a long list of schools that offer master’s in forensic science degree programs. Begin whittling that list down by comparing your chosen area of study and career goals with the offerings of each program. Remove schools that don’t support those goals from your list.

Consider other key factors, such as location and tuition. Remove schools from your list that aren’t realistic because they are too far away or cost too much, even with potential financial aid. Consider whether schools are accredited and otherwise meet your quality expectations.

Use your research to narrow your options to a short list of programs you can apply to.

Prepare for tests and applications

Review the application requirements for each of the schools on your list. Ensure you build in time to collect necessary documents, such as letters of recommendation and transcripts, and complete application steps, such as writing any necessary essays.

Consider whether you need to take tests for admission. While the GRE and GMAT are standard tests for many graduate degree programs, specialty programs such as those offering a master’s in forensic science may require specific testing. Depending on the nature of the program you’re entering, you might need to take a GRE Subject Test in biology or chemistry, for example, or even pass the MCAT or LSAT.

Select your program

Once all your applications are in, the waiting period begins. Hopefully, you will receive acceptance to one or more of the programs you apply to. When that happens, it’s time to make a final decision about enrollment. Review all the details of each program and any financial aid package you’re offered to choose the program that is right for you.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

To avoid exiting your degree program in a financial bind, create a comprehensive plan to cover your expenses and tuition. You may need to combine resources such as grants and scholarships, work-study opportunities, and your own personal savings.

Many graduate students work full or part-time while they earn their degrees to ensure they can cover their financial needs. Professionals seeking a degree to support a future promotion or other career advancement may be able to pay for courses as they go — a common option for part-time students — or get help covering education costs from employer benefit programs.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Forensic Science Degree Programs

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Sam Houston State University

University of Central Florida

Florida International University

Bowling Green State University

Pace University

University of Central Oklahoma

Marshall University

Michigan State University

University of Florida

Syracuse University

Boston University

University of New Haven

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How we rank schools

This list features some of the best master’s in forensic science degree programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, regionally accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for postsecondary education. Many of these options are also accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), a reputable organization that assesses forensic science degree programs.

We evaluated each school’s program on admission, retention, and graduation rates as well as tuition costs, faculty, reputation, and the resources provided for on-campus students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of master’s in forensic science degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Forensic Science Degree Program?

For most full-time students, a master’s in forensic science program takes about two years to complete. During that time, you can expect to participate in courses that include academic applications, research, and practical or hands-on experience. You can choose from classes that provide a comprehensive approach to forensics in areas like biology, chemistry, toxicology, psychology, and crime scene investigation.

You should expect to spend significant time in interactive learning environments such as labs, simulations, and internships. You will be required to demonstrate academic knowledge gained in the classroom within real-world contexts in practical ways. Most programs also emphasize research, so you can expect to write papers in many courses.

Many of these programs aim to graduate students who are ready to take proactive steps in their careers. To that end, schools often offer opportunities for workshops and networking events to support student career growth. These may not be required for your degree but can be valuable as you work toward career growth.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in forensic science degree program

The courses you take in your master’s in forensic science degree program depend on the school you choose and your own career goals. Some examples of courses offered in such programs include:

  • Forensic Biology. You may find options for numerous biology-related courses that delve into topics such as DNA analysis, insect evidence (or entomology), forensic botany, and dental evidence.
  • Forensic Chemistry. These courses examine how chemicals and chemical analysis can be used in forensics. Topics might include toxicology, trace evidence analysis, and drug chemistry. In programs geared toward law enforcement careers, courses may cover explosives analysis.
  • Digital Forensics. These classes examine how data can be gathered and analyzed from digital sources, such as smartphones and computers. Students may learn how to analyze data and networks for forensic purposes, engage in data recovery tasks and skills, and research cybersecurity topics.
  • Crime Scene Investigation. If you want to focus on forensics for use in a law enforcement career, these types of courses are essential. They teach the skills and knowledge required to process evidence and data at crime scenes, analyze that information, and present findings that can help with cases.
  • Ethics in Forensic Science. Ethics classes in these degree programs typically look at the ethical use of forensic science and data and help students understand the legal and regulatory landscape they may work in.

Master’s in Forensic Science Degree Program Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in forensic science degree program?

Begin the process by carefully reviewing the admissions requirements for the programs you’re interested in. These can differ for each school, and talking to an admissions counselor can help you understand the application process for a program.

Know that it may take a couple of months or more to appropriately complete the application process. This is especially true if you need to take an entrance exam or gather letters or recommendations. Plan ahead and build in plenty of time to keep from rushing your application, as that can increase your chance of making errors.

Depending on the program, you may need to write a resume or essay and go through an interview as part of the application process. Consider practicing interview questions with someone you trust, and have someone proof your essay and application before you submit it.

How much does a master's in forensic science degree cost?

The cost of your degree depends on factors such as school location, program type, and how many credits you need to complete the degree.

Whether you are a resident of the state the school is in can make a huge difference in cost. For example, Marshall University publishes estimated costs for its master’s in forensic science degree program. As of 2024, in-state residents can expect to pay a total of $11,516 for tuition and fees, while others may pay $25,248.

You should also consider other expenses, such as room and board (if applicable), books and supplies, and transportation.

How long does it take to earn a master's in forensic science degree?

The average time to complete a master’s in forensic science degree program for full-time students is around two years. If you have a bachelor’s degree or professional experience that supports it, you may be able to enter an accelerated program that only takes 12 to 18 months. This might be an option for someone with a biology or chemistry degree or existing field experience in criminal justice.

Part-time students can take much longer to complete degrees. If you enter a program that allows you to take one or two classes at a time, it might take three to five years to complete your degree. This might be a good option for those who have existing careers or family obligations and need to balance school work with those needs.

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