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Most schools have rolling admissions and financial help so you can start your degree in a few weeks!

Many forensic science positions don’t require a graduate credential, but a master’s degree is essential for individuals pursuing advanced positions and higher pay in criminal justice and public safety. Higher-level roles, such as crime scene investigator, forensic scientist, crime laboratory administrator, or supervisory positions within the field, all require a master’s degree.The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment opportunities for forensic technicians will grow faster than average for the labor market, and individuals in these roles can expect to earn roughly $62,000 annually. Other related occupations, such as detectives and chemists, earn median salaries between $46,000 and $77,000.

Most online graduate degrees in forensic science require 32 to 36 credits; if a student attends full-time, the coursework should take two years (four semesters) to complete. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost for a graduate degree from a public school is nearly $20,000. Depending on their chosen program, prospective students will likely pay slightly less for a forensic science master’s degree, around $18,000.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Forensic Science Program

Choose your area of study

Upon graduating from this master’s program, the typical degree is a Master of Science in Forensic Science. However, each program has many specializations, and only some institutions offer the same content. Example concentrations include forensic chemistry, forensic biology, forensic psychology, and forensic investigative sciences. It would help if you chose your area of study based on your undergraduate background (i.e., a bachelor’s in biology versus psychology) and your professional goals.

Research schools and programs

Once you’ve narrowed down the institutions that offer the specialization you’re interested in, it’s time to compare the different programs.

Consider these key factors:

  • Does an accrediting body recognize the school? The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) accredits forensic science programs nationwide.
  • How will online students complete coursework? Many online programs employ asynchronous and pre-recorded tools for learning; others are more hands-on, with scheduled virtual classes and at-home practical assignments. Determine which delivery supports your learning style and flexibility needs.
  • What student support resources do online students have access to? Even online students should benefit from student-related perks and services. Compare your options for tutoring, career coaching, and technical assistance.
  • Does the program require a comprehensive assignment or exam to graduate? Most online master’s in forensic science programs feature an applied project or thesis component.

While most of the answers you need are available through the program websites, you should also connect with an admissions counselor or a current faculty member to help you with your more personalized queries. Take advantage of any virtual open houses or information sessions.

Prepare for tests and applications

While some forensic science programs have rolling admissions, most have a precise application date. Plan ahead, as there may be delays in receiving official transcripts or letters of recommendation you need for your application. While not required across the board, some forensic science programs mandate GRE scores alongside your application materials; you may need to factor in additional prep time before sitting for standardized testing. International students will likely have other application requirements.

Select your program

Applying to several programs is costly, so narrow down your top choices that match your background, learning style, and professional goals. You should also consider program affordability in your decision.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Some graduate programs offer scholarships or other funding opportunities, but these are highly competitive. Accredited programs should qualify for federal loans or grants, so make sure you submit the FAFSA. Discuss tuition options with your school’s financial aid and admissions counselors.

Also, many individuals who enroll in an online master’s program continue working while completing their coursework. Share your academic goals with your employer if you currently serve in a public safety or criminal justice role. Some agencies have tuition assistance for employees seeking professional advancement in the field.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Forensic Science Programs

Best Online Master's in Forensic Science Degree Programs

University of Central Florida

Florida International University

UF Forensic Science

National University

Arizona State University

Oklahoma State University

Stevenson University

Champlain College

Saint Leo University

University of New Haven

Concordia University at St. Paul

DeSales University

West Virginia University

Saint Joseph’s University

La Salle University

Penn State World Campus

Michigan State University

Nova Southeastern University

PennWest California

Emporia State University

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How We Rank Schools

With this list we sought to identify the best master’s in forensic science programs. The most common graduate-level degree in this field is a Master of Science (MS).

We specifically looked for programs that are delivered completely or primarily online to ensure accessibility for the greatest number of students. Several programs are also offered on-campus, and students may have the option of taking classes online or in-person.

This list includes both regionally and nationally accredited schools. Regional accreditation is the highest standard for quality in postsecondary education. Degrees and credits from regionally accredited schools are more widely recognized and transferable than those from nationally accredited schools.

Once we narrowed the list of programs, we evaluated each of them on the basis of outcomes, faculty, flexibility, price, and reputation. Then we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Forensic Science Program?

Interested candidates for an online master’s in forensic science should anticipate a comprehensive curriculum integrating theoretical study and hands-on practice. Forensic science is actively changing, and students will learn about the evolving technologies involved in forensic analysis. They will engage in specific training in quality control, safety procedures, and ethics. Many programs are entirely online, though some may feature limited in-person laboratory assignments or residencies. If attending as a full-time student, you can likely complete the program in 18 to 24 months.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in forensic science program

  • Ethics in Forensic Science. In this course, attendees learn the principles and ethics at the foundation of forensic science. Students will read and discuss case studies for common ethical dilemmas.
  • Advanced Topics in Human Forensic DNA. This course focuses on current forensic DNA analysis and the technology required for different methods.
  • Crime Scene Photography. Students use digital cameras to learn the fundamentals of crime scene photography, including lighting, processing, and printing. Participants will practice their skills via a mock crime scene featuring common examples of evidence.
  • Forensic Toxicology. Participants study how drugs and environmental chemicals enter and affect the human body. Students then learn how to interpret those findings.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Forensic Science?

Career outlook

Forensic science is an excellent career choice for those prioritizing job security. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for forensic science technicians is expected to grow at a rate of 11% over the next decade — this is more than double the overall growth rate for all occupations (5%). It’s also worth noting that this occupation offers the potential to earn a high salary, as the top 10% of forensic science technicians make more than $103,430 per year.

Career paths

There are a variety of career paths available for forensic science technicians. You can be a generalist in this field or specialize in a particular area, such as biology analysis, chemistry analysis, or biometric identity analysis.

Most forensic science technicians work for state or local governments, though they are sometimes also employed by private laboratories that contract with government agencies, law firms, and other organizations that are involved in criminal justice.

To give you an even better idea of what your options are, here are some of the most common occupations and job responsibilities for workers with a Master’s in Forensic Science:

  • Crime scene investigator – collect evidence at crime scenes and analyze such evidence in laboratories
  • Digital forensics analyst – help solve crimes by collecting and analyzing data from computers
  • Forensic psychologist – use psychological principles to help solve crimes and study criminal behavior
  • Forensic odontologist – trace bite marks to specific individuals and identify human remains by using dental records
  • Trade evidence analyst – analyze materials that may be too small to see with the unaided eye, such as clothing fibers or glass fragments, to determine if there is a link between specific individuals and victims or crime scenes

DNA analyst

Earning Potential: $51,000 to $82,000

Education Required: Bachelor’s or master’s degree in forensic science, biology, or related discipline

DNA analysts work with evidence such as skin cells, hair follicles, and body fluids in order to isolate DNA strands and compare them to samples from criminal suspects. Given the importance of DNA evidence in the criminal justice system, DNA analysts also spend a lot of their time rechecking the work of colleagues and confirming their results (this process is known as peer review). DNA analysts, as well as most other types of forensic professionals, may also be expected to testify in criminal trials, making this a good career choice for those with strong communication and public speaking skills.

Forensic toxicologist

Earning Potential: $100,000 to $169,000

Education Required: Bachelor’s or master’s degree in forensic science, chemistry, or related discipline

Forensic toxicologists analyze biological samples for the presence of toxins, such as poison or drugs. Their findings can then be used to infer whether certain substances harmed someone or impaired their judgment. Forensic toxicologists often collaborate with law enforcement on matters such as drunk driving arrests, parole violations, and suspicious deaths. They may also find work providing drug screening services for private companies.

Forensic anthropologist

Earning Potential: $61,000 to $102,000

Education Required: Bachelor’s or master’s degree in forensic science, anthropology, or related discipline

When human remains are found, forensic anthropologists are brought in to help identify who died as well as how they died and how long ago they died. Their work involves cleaning bones and preparing them for examination, determining the sex, age, and height of the individual, and looking for evidence of injuries such as blunt force trauma or gunshot wounds. By examining the level of decomposition, they can also estimate the time of death.

Online Master’s in Forensic Science Degree Frequently Asked Questions

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

While each institution is slightly different, most completed applications consist of the following:

  • A graduate school admission application
  • Undergraduate transcripts in a field related to forensic science (such as biology, chemistry, psychology, criminal justice, or physics)
  • A resume
  • A personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Test scores (many programs still require the GRE)
  • An application fee

Some specializations may ask for additional documentation. Many schools also require that your undergraduate GPA surpasses a minimum threshold (typically 2.75 or 3.0). Before submitting your materials, discuss any questions or concerns with an admissions counselor.

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

Average tuition costs for online degree programs vary depending on whether you qualify for in-state or out-of-state tuition. Typically, an online program will be more cost-effective than attending a traditional campus as an out-of-state student. However, online students usually pay the same fees as in-person students, including those for technology and library use, student activities, facility maintenance, and student health. Moreover, many schools charge an additional per-credit fee for web-based courses. You will likely pay between $11,000 and $25,000 to earn an online master’s in forensic science degree.

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

If you enroll as a full-time student, most online master’s in forensic science require a two-year commitment, though some are just 18 months. The total number of credits varies from 30 to 36 credits. However, the programs will take longer if you complete coursework part-time. You might also require extra time for more complex components, such as a graduate thesis or final project. In these scenarios, you may need upward of three or more years to graduate. Note that some master’s programs require that you complete the coursework within five years.

Is an online Master’s in Forensic Science worth it?

There’s no reason to be concerned about earning your degree online rather than in-person. A Northeastern University study found that most HR professionals believe degrees earned online are just as valuable as those earned on campus. In fact, many hiring managers even believe online degrees are more valuable, as completing an online program indicates that candidates are self-motivated and have strong time management skills.

Also, advancing beyond an undergraduate education and earning a master’s degree would likely be well worth the time and effort. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers with a master’s earn an average salary of $1,661 per week, while those with a bachelor’s earn $1,432 per week. This difference can add up to a significant sum over the course of your career.

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