Online Degrees in Forensics: Program Options

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

Online bachelor's and master's degree programs are available in criminal justice, the field of study that includes forensic science. These programs are available fully online, as well as in a hybrid format. Admission to a master's degree program requires a bachelor's degree and field experience. A bachelor's degree is typically the minimum educational requirement for working as a forensic science technician, although requirements can vary by employer.

Bachelor's Degree Programs in Forensic Science

Forensic science is often part of a bachelor's or master's degree program in criminal justice. Forensic scientists examine and analyze evidence gathered at a crime scene in an effort to assist investigators in solving crimes. A Bachelor of Science degree program in Forensic Science or Criminal Justice gives students a solid foundation in knowledge and the understanding of crime scene investigation.

Program Information and Requirements

A bachelor's program typically takes four years to complete. Students are able to take advantage of online programs. Students need access to a computer and high-speed Internet. Instructors use a course management system, traditional text and online presentations to create a virtual learning environment.

List of Common Courses in Forensic Science at the Bachelor's Level

Along with core courses in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences typical of a liberal arts degree program, students also take advanced and specialized courses designed for criminal justice majors.

The United States Government

In this introductory course, students examine the political system in America. Topics of special interest include contemporary political issues, political processes and political institutions.

Crime Theory

This course covers the range of contemporary criminology theories, with special attention being paid to the major influential theologies behind crime and justice. Students work to study crime and criminals from a variety of vantage points.

Juvenile Delinquency

Students study crime and justice as it pertains specifically to underage offenders. Response to authorities, legal and ethical issues related to juvenile delinquency, types of juvenile delinquency and history of juvenile justice system are topics of special interest.

Master's Degree in Forensic Science

A Master of Science degree in Forensic Science or Criminal Justice is a common degree for individuals aspiring to take on leadership roles in forensic science, such as lab supervisors. The curriculum is intended for further education and potential career advancement. Courses are primarily in the biological and chemical sciences, in addition to courses related to forensic science and crime scene investigation, such as toxicology, criminalistics, biological evidence, drug analysis, forensic anthropology and forensic medicine. A bachelor's degree in a related field is a prerequisite.

Program Information and Requirements

A master's program typically takes 2-3 years to complete. Online programs allow students to return to school while working and complete the program at their pace. Students interested in distance-learning need a computer with high-speed Internet. Communication with instructors and classmates is conducted by e-mail.

List of Common Courses in Forensic Science at the Master's Level

At the master's level, students continue to build upon and expand their experience and understanding of forensic science and crime scene investigation. Courses are specifically designed to prepare students for a focused career path. Courses offer practice and hands-on experience and give students the tools and knowledge immediately applicable to their future or current career in forensic science.

Principles of DNA Analysis

Students get an introduction to the practices and procedures in the gathering and analysis of biological evidence. Methods of DNA isolation, electropheric separation, data interpretation and reporting and sequence determination are topics of special interest.

Use of Statistics in Forensic Science

This non-mathematical course looks at the use of statistics as a tool in forensic investigation. Students practice data gathering, analyzing, questioning of data and the formulation of investigative theories in this course.

Basics of Forensic Science

This comprehensive course covers a wide variety of topics pertaining to forensic science, such as forensic toxicology, firearms and tool marks, fire and explosives examination, latent prints, illicit drugs and history of forensic science. It also covers the basics of crime scene investigation and documentation.

Career Information

A bachelor's degree is usually sufficient for entry level work as a forensic scientist, whose time is overwhelmingly spent in laboratories and at crime scenes. Due to growth in employment in state and local governments, the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( reported that employment of forensic science technicians is expected to grow 14%, much faster than the average for all occupations, from 2019-2029; as of May 2020, there were about 16,640 forensic science technicians in the U.S.

Most forensic scientists work in laboratories and on crime scenes and are employed primarily by state and local governments. They also prepare reports for investigators and are sometimes used as expert witnesses in criminal trials.

Bachelor's and master's degree programs in forensics are offered entirely online. Throughout these programs, students learn about the government, crime theories, DNA analysis and statistics in forensics.

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