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While TV shows have heightened the popularity of forensic science in recent years, a bachelor’s degree in forensic science and crime scene investigation involves more than matching fingerprints, examining bullet casings, or performing autopsies. This degree helps prepare students to work as forensic analysts or crime scene technicians. It’s also the foundation for working as a forensic pathologist.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a faster-than-average job growth rate of 11% for forensic science technicians from 2021 to 2031, with a median annual salary of about $62,000. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or crime scene investigation takes about four to five years. While costs vary depending on the school and the program, statistics show that an undergraduate degree costs about $14,000 annually from 2020 to 2021.

How to Choose an Online Bachelor’s in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Degree Program

Choose your area of study

A degree in forensic science and crime scene investigation involves learning about the criminal justice system in the United States, legal processes, and crime resolution procedures, along with subjects such as chemistry, biology, and psychology. In fact, some schools have concentrations in different sciences or aspects of forensic science, such as ballistics and blood splatter.

Forensic science involves working in a laboratory while crime scene investigation takes place in the field, collecting evidence for forensic analysis. While this degree enables someone to work as a forensic science or crime scene technician or a specific analyst, someone who wants to be a forensic medical examiner also needs a medical degree and a residency in addition to a bachelor’s degree.

Research schools and programs

There are a few things you should check while researching schools and programs. First, note whether the school or the program is accredited through the U.S. Department of Education or the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission. Accreditation affects whether the school receives any federal financial aid and ensures that the program meets quality educational standards.

As you look at the coursework, pay attention to whether a school requires a capstone experience or in-person lab work. This might be challenging if you’re employed or have other responsibilities. Some schools offer virtual crime scenes and virtual labs, which might be helpful if you’re balancing school with other commitments.

In addition, see what support services the school offers for online students, such as career counseling, library services, and mentorship programs. Are there any networking opportunities available, such as through an alumni association? The school’s website, marketing materials, and social media profiles often have this information. You also can talk with program representatives about specific or more detailed questions.

Prepare for tests and applications

Each program varies in its application requirements and process. However, most bachelor’s degree programs in forensic science and crime scene investigation require:

  • GED test scores or a high school transcript
  • Scores from a standardized test such as the ACT or SAT
  • A personal essay or letter of intent outlining your goals
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from former teachers or employers

Depending on the focus of the program you’re applying to, there might be other prerequisites, such as a minimum GPA or certain math or science classes.

Select your program

Some students target a single program that suits their needs and goals, while others apply to multiple schools to increase their chances of acceptance. Whatever strategy you choose, there are often application fees, which can add up if you are submitting multiple applications. If you need financial assistance, contact the school to ask about a fee waiver.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Every school with an online bachelor’s in forensic science and crime scene investigation program specifies the financial support students can receive, including work-study, fellowships, scholarships, grants, and assistantships. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for federal student loans and need-based institutional aid.

If you’re already working, your employer may cover some costs through employer tuition assistance benefits, especially if your degree relates to your current job. Talk with your school’s financial aid office for more detailed information about how to pay for your degree.

The Top 50 Online Bachelor’s in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Programs

Best Bachelor's in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Badge

Florida State University

University of Maryland Global Campus

Liberty University

Miami Dade College

CSU Global Campus

Utica University

Saint Leo University

Baker College

UMass Global

Hampton University

Texas A&M University

National University

University of North Carolina at Pembroke

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How We Rank Schools

This list features the best online Bachelor’s in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation programs at top colleges nationwide. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. The programs on our list are accredited by reputable organizations, such as the Higher Learning Commission and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, that assess the objectives, quality, and overall effectiveness of colleges and universities.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and the student resources provided for online 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 online Bachelor’s in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the 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 an Online Bachelor’s in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Degree Program?

Online bachelor’s in forensic science and crime scene investigation programs vary based on the school, but you can expect a core curriculum focusing on how to examine and interpret evidence and solve crimes. A degree like this prepares students to work at crime scenes and at crime labs using science and technology at the local, state, and federal levels.

You’ll likely start with various science courses, including biochemistry and organic chemistry, as well as building a strong foundation in math and communication. A forensic science program also covers the evidence that civil and criminal cases can use. The more advanced courses students take later in this type of program include toxicology, molecular genetics, forensic botany, and forensic anthropology. In addition, some schools require in-person lab work.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online bachelor’s in forensic science and crime scene investigation degree program

  • Principles of Forensic Science: Here, students learn about the ways to apply science within the legal system, discussing disciplines and techniques that the American Academy of Forensic Sciences recognizes. These include anthropology, digital and multimedia sciences, jurisprudence, psychiatry, criminalistics, engineering and applied sciences, toxicology, behavioral science, biology and pathology, and odontology.
  • Criminal Investigation: This course familiarizes students with the constitutional requirements for investigations and crime scene analysis techniques. These include interviews, subpoenas, and the proper steps to document and preserve evidence.
  • Fingerprint Analysis: Here, students learn about latent fingerprints, how to lift them effectively, and how to prepare them for forensic analysis. A course like this also covers the factors that can affect fingerprint analysis.
  • Forensic Biology: This course instructs students on the proper procedures for analyzing biological evidence in a lab or at a crime scene. The material might cover DNA and bone analysis, toxicology, working with blood splatters, ethics, and how to testify as an expert witness.
  • Crime Scene Photography: A course like this explores how to apply the principles of photography to forensic science. Students learn the use and function of digital cameras and macro, aerial, and underwater photography.

Online Bachelor’s in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online bachelor’s in forensic science and crime scene investigation degree program?

This depends on the school, so it’s best to check the school’s application webpage. Some schools still use traditional mail, while others streamline the process through an online portal that accepts applications through their website. There’s also an app, the Common Application, or Common App, that enables students to apply to multiple schools at the same time. If you’re using this app or an online portal, you’ll need electronic versions (including PDFs or images) of all the required information, such as test scores, college transcripts, work experience, and a letter or letters of recommendation. Before starting your application, talk with a school admissions counselor to verify you have everything the school needs and check that you have the correct submission deadlines.

How much does an online bachelor’s in forensic science and crime scene investigation degree cost?

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) notes that an undergraduate degree cost an average of about $14,000 a year from 2020 to 2021 (the most recent statistics available). This includes tuition and fees for both four-year and two-year programs.

These records show the average undergraduate tuition for a private institution is about $32,000 a year compared to roughly $7,600 a year for a public institution.

All school costs vary depending on the charge per credit, the number of credits per course, fees, and other expenses such as books or course-related software. In addition, some forensic science and crime scene investigation degree programs require in-person lab work, which could take time away from a regular work schedule.

How long does it take to earn an online bachelor’s in forensic science and crime scene investigation degree?

While this depends on the school and the curriculum, most schools say their online bachelor’s degree programs in forensic science and crime scene investigation take about four to five years to complete. The total number of credits impacts the program’s length, as does attending part-time instead of full-time. However, online programs can offer more flexibility for students than in-person programs. If you want to complete your degree sooner, look for a school with accelerated learning options or asynchronous learning, where students can meet assignment deadlines while studying at their own pace.

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