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Forensic scientists help police officers and other law enforcement professionals solve crimes. These professionals analyze crime scenes, collect and analyze evidence, and testify in court. In addition to visiting crime scenes, they also work in laboratory and office settings. Other responsibilities often include keeping detailed records and maintaining the chain of evidence.
In addition to a passion for law enforcement and criminal justice, forensic scientists need strong analytical skills. They should also pursue professional development opportunities throughout their career. Professional development plays a significant role in the field, as new technological advancements can influence how forensic scientists perform their job. These professionals also need a meticulous nature, as mistakes with evidence can keep criminals from facing justice.
Featured Online Programs
Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.
For students seeking the most affordable forensic science bachelor's degrees, online programs feature many benefits. Distance learning programs often have fewer costs, and online students can continue working while earning their degree. Graduates with an online bachelor's in forensic science may qualify for a promotion or a raise. Additionally, students hone transferable skills in critical thinking and communication.
|What is forensic science?||A criminal justice subfield, forensic science involves the collection and analysis of evidence that law enforcement professionals use to solve crimes. This evidence can reveal criminals' identities and motivations.|
|Can I study forensic science online?||Many reputable colleges and universities offer online bachelor's in forensic science programs. Online students receive the same quality of education as on-campus students and typically follow the same curriculum.|
|How long does it take to earn a bachelor's in forensic science online?||First-time college students often need four years to earn a bachelor's degree. Associate degree-holders usually graduate in two years.|
|What is the difference between forensic science and forensic psychology?||Forensic scientists study crime scene evidence to determine how a crime occurred. Forensic psychologists analyze criminals' motivations to understand the reasons behind crimes.|
|What is the difference between forensic science and criminology?||Forensic science focuses on crime scene evidence. Criminology involves the entire criminal justice system. Criminology professionals study why crime occurs and how to prevent it.|
Affordable Online Bachelor's in Forensic Science Programs 2021
The following colleges and universities offer some of the most affordable forensic science bachelor's online degrees. Each program features rigorous courses, excellent career resources, and low tuition rates. The ranking also details financial aid opportunities, including institutional scholarships. Prospective students can visit each program's website for additional information.
Methodology: Here’s How We Rank Schools
We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.
|Academic Quality||Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates||25%|
|Affordability||Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid||35%|
|Reputation||Admission and enrollment rates||15%|
|Program Offerings||Number of program options||10%|
|Online Enrollment Score||Portion of learners taking at least one online course||15%|
Career and Salary Outlook for Forensic Science
Most forensic science technicians in the United States work for local governments, state governments, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and testing laboratories. Work environments can include offices, laboratories, and crime scenes. Some technician roles involve travel. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic science professionals who work for state governments earn the highest median salary.
The BLS projects employment for forensic science technicians to grow 14% between 2019 and 2029, nearly three times the projected median growth for all occupations. As a result, bachelor's students who graduate in the next few years should enjoy strong job prospects in the field of forensics.
Forensic science technicians can advance their career and increase their earning potential by earning additional credentials, such as licenses, certifications, and registrations. These achievements, along with professional experience, can qualify individuals for supervisory roles.
|Bottom 10%||Median Annual Salary||Top 10%|
|Less than $35,620||$59,150||More than $97,350|
Students planning to earn an affordable forensic science bachelor's online should ensure that each prospective school holds accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education charters six regional accreditation agencies to evaluate postsecondary schools. Graduates from schools without regional accreditation may face difficulty obtaining employment or applying to graduate programs.
Colleges and universities that award online degrees should also possess national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). DEAC accreditation signifies that the school's online programs deliver the same learning outcomes as its on-campus options.
Additionally, the best forensic science bachelor's online programs feature programmatic accreditation from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). AAFS grants accreditation to programs that provide the most rigorous and career-aligned forensic science education.
Courses in Online Forensic Science Programs
The best forensic science bachelor's online programs require both general education coursework and major classes. General education requirements typically include classes in the humanities, sciences, and communication. While completing major classes, learners gain the essential knowledge and skills necessary for entry-level positions and career advancement in the field.
Learners completing online forensic science bachelor's programs generally take the following courses. However, course titles and requirements vary among schools. Learners should contact their prospective school to learn more about specific forensic science program requirements.
- Crime Scene Photography
- This class emphasizes digital photography skills and best practices. Learners take photographs in various environments and weather conditions. Students learn to use different camera settings, master micro and macro photography, and explore photography's role in criminal investigations. Students must typically purchase a digital camera and tripod.
- Crime Scene Management
- Forensic scientists preserve and catalog evidence at crime scenes, and they must manage challenges associated with numerous law enforcement professionals accessing the site. Students develop supervisory and investigative skills in this course. Learners prepare to identify various types of evidence, test for the presence of evidence, and create a crime scene assessment plan.
- Criminal Investigations
- This course trains future forensic scientists to stay within the law as they conduct investigations. Learners study the Constitution, evidence collection methodology, and the role of subpoenas and interviews in the investigative process. Degree-seekers also learn how to preserve evidence and complete paperwork.
- Fingerprint Analysis
- Students learn to collect fingerprints at crime scenes and analyze them in a laboratory. Coursework explores fingerprint collection methods and assessment strategies. Enrollees also learn how to convey findings to other law enforcement professionals and stakeholders.
- Cybercrime and Security
- Many modern crimes occur online or involve computer systems. As a result, forensic scientists must understand how to investigate digital crime. Students examine state and federal laws, case studies, and cybercrime prevention methods. This advanced course typically requires numerous forensic science prerequisites.
Students earning an online bachelor's in forensic science often minimize their debt by applying for private scholarships. Learners do not repay these awards, and some cover most or all of tuition expenses. The following scholarships are available to forensic science students and other degree-seekers training for criminal justice careers.
Who Can Apply: ASCLD awards funding to college upperclassmen and graduate students earning a degree in forensic or natural science. Candidates must apply by Feb. 15 and must submit a personal statement and a recommendation letter.
Who Can Apply: Forensic science upperclassmen with a minimum 3.0 GPA can apply. Applicants must submit three recommendation letters and official transcripts. The application window is open from Jan. 1 to April 1 each year.
Who Can Apply: The International Association for Identification (IAI) awards this scholarship to college juniors and seniors with at least a 3.0 GPA. The IAI considers each applicant's academic performance, personal essay, and recommendation letters.
Who Can Apply: Learners pursuing a bachelor's in forensic science at a New Jersey school can apply. Application materials include two recommendation letters and official transcripts. The NJAFS uses an Oct. 31 application deadline and announces recipients soon after.
Who Can Apply: NEAFS accepts scholarship applications from college juniors and seniors living in the Northeast. Applicants submit two recommendation letters and a personal essay outlining their career goals and must apply by April 30.
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