Masters in Forensic Science Online Degree Programs of 2022

Master's Degree in Forensic Science Career Options & Salary

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Why Earn a Master’s in Forensic Science?


If you're considering entering the field of forensics, it's an excellent idea to make a master's degree part of your long-term plans. There are many different fields within the realm of forensic science and a master's forensic science degree will allow you to focus your academic study on a specific aspect so you can find your niche after completing your general coursework and become proficient in that area.

Although a lower degree is usually enough to enter your field of choice, as you gain experience you'll find a master's degree is necessary to advance in most areas of forensics beyond support positions, such as those of forensic science technicians. Because forensic science is used to prove guilt or innocence in a court of law, those who are asked to testify about their findings must be considered an expert in their field. By earning a master's degree you will also earn the right to call yourself an expert in your chosen area of forensic science; whether that is in molecular biology, analytical chemistry, blood splatter, digital forensics, biological evidence, and other physical evidence or specific techniques or technologies you use in your career within forensic science laboratories or crime laboratories run by law enforcement agencies. As you can see, forensic professionals have plenty of paths to choose from as they strive for career advancement after graduating from their school with a degree or certificate in criminal justice and forensics. This is including careers as forensic professionals such as forensic science technicians, a medical examiner, laboratory managers, and other options.

Full-time students can complete the main general coursework of their curriculum content in the first two years of their on-campus or online program. After that, a program will provide access to criminal justice and forensics core courses, which will teach undergraduate or graduate students the skills they need to succeed as forensic professionals: forensic laboratory techniques, criminal justice laws and policies, and more info from within the forensic science field. They may also have the chance to earn relevant work experience in an internship.

PROS

As with all education, earning a master's degree has both good and bad points. Here's a look at both:

  • Those who hold a master's degree have higher average earnings than someone with the same position and experience, regardless of the occupation.
  • A master's degree showcases your expertise within your chosen field, whether it is crime scene investigation, ballistics analysis, or one of the many other forensic science occupations.
  • A graduate degree will make you eligible for many other job options in addition to your area of expertise.
  • Most courts require a forensic scientist to hold at least a master's in order to be considered an "expert" witness.
  • A master's degree is one of the qualifications for some of the higher proficiency certifications available to forensic scientists who wish to showcase their expertise.
  • Your graduate degree will allow you to focus on a specific area of forensics rather than a broad range of investigative areas.
  • You must first earn a master's degree if you plan to continue your education and earn a doctoral degree.

CONS

  • Earning a master's degree takes time, and you may have a hard time adding classes to your already busy schedule.
  • A graduate degree is expensive, and it will take time to see a return on your investment.
  • Some forensic science positions require a doctorate degree, so your master's won't make you top in your field of expertise.
  • A master's degree will not guarantee you will land the position you covet within your area of forensic science.
  • Because forensics is constantly evolving, you'll still need to take continuing educational courses to stay on top of new developments in the field.
  • It may be hard to find a master's degree program that offers a specialization in your chosen field.
  • Working in forensics can lead to exposure to drugs and other harmful chemicals that may cause lasting damage.
  • Laboratory work means standing much of the day and may cause injury to your feet and spine. Likewise, there is often heavy lifting involved which may cause permanent injury.

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What are the Best Online Forensic Science & Crime Investigation Master's Programs?


1

University of Central Florida

  • Net Price: $11,575
  • Retention Rate: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 75%
  • Total Enrollment: 71,881
  • Undergrad Students: 61,401
  • Graduate Students: 10,480
  • Grads Salary: $67,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 31:1
  • University of Central Florida
2

Arizona State University

  • Net Price: $14,934
  • Retention Rate: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Total Enrollment: 74,795
  • Undergrad Students: 63,124
  • Graduate Students: 11,671
  • Grads Salary: $73,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • Arizona State University
3

Oklahoma State University

  • Net Price: $14,603
  • Retention Rate: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Total Enrollment: 24,535
  • Undergrad Students: 20,323
  • Graduate Students: 4,212
  • Grads Salary: $71,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • Oklahoma State University
4

National University

  • Net Price: $9,966
  • Retention Rate: 45%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Total Enrollment: 18,070
  • Undergrad Students: 8,441
  • Graduate Students: 9,629
  • Grads Salary: $78,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 16:1
  • National University
5

La Salle University

  • Net Price: $25,401
  • Retention Rate: 78%
  • Graduation Rate: 65%
  • Total Enrollment: 4,624
  • Undergrad Students: 3,293
  • Graduate Students: 1,331
  • Grads Salary: $74,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 13:1
  • La Salle University
6

Stevenson University

  • Net Price: $27,770
  • Retention Rate: 80%
  • Graduation Rate: 62%
  • Total Enrollment: 3,492
  • Undergrad Students: 3,027
  • Graduate Students: 465
  • Grads Salary: $66,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 15:1
  • Stevenson University
7

Grand Canyon University

  • Net Price: $21,644
  • Retention Rate: 74%
  • Graduation Rate: 45%
  • Total Enrollment: 103,427
  • Undergrad Students: 63,752
  • Graduate Students: 39,675
  • Grads Salary: $65,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 21:1
  • Grand Canyon University
8

California University of Pennsylvania

  • Net Price: $20,317
  • Retention Rate: 70%
  • Graduation Rate: 48%
  • Total Enrollment: 6,885
  • Undergrad Students: 4,785
  • Graduate Students: 2,100
  • Grads Salary: $61,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 19:1
  • California University of Pennsylvania

Overview of a Master's in Forensic Science


What Forensic Science Master’s Degrees are Available Online?


Because forensics is within the realm of science, you'll find nearly all online master's degree programs are Master of Science (MS) degrees. That being said, if you're interested in a crime scene investigation degree you may find a Master of Arts (MA) degree offered as part of a criminal justice program rather than a science program.

Some MS programs offer a degree in chemistry with a specialty in forensics, so you should look closely at curriculums, specializations, and concentrations to find a program that matches your goals rather than choosing a program by its title.

Here are some examples:

  • Master of Science in Forensic Sciences
  • Master of Science in Investigations
  • Master of Science in Forensic Science - Forensic Scientist Track, and Forensic Examiner Track
  • Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Investigative Forensics concentration

Admission Requirements


While each school sets its own admission requirements, there isn't a lot of variation on what they require. Here is a list of what you'll most likely have to submit when you apply for entry into a master's degree program:

  • Completed application with a processing fee
  • Your official transcripts from your bachelor’s degree program
  • Proof of your grade point average (GPA; the usual minimum is 3.0 but may be higher at a more competitive school)
  • Your personal statement

Some schools also require you to pass a standard test such as the GRE, submit your resume, and submit references. You will also need to meet the prerequisite requirements for the program you wish to enter; for example, you may need a bachelor’s degree in chemistry to qualify for a science-heavy Master’s of Forensic Science program that specializes in trace evidence.

How long does it take to earn a Forensic Science Master’s?


An online master's degree will typically require you to complete 30 to 40 credit hours; the average length of time is two years but you may graduate sooner by taking a heavier class load. Some schools offer an accelerated program that can be completed in 12 months. However, some students already have a full life and work schedule and may take up to six years to earn their degree.

Check with your school of choice to see if they accept credits for job experience, civic service, or professional training in order to speed up the time it takes to earn your master's degree in forensic science. You should also verify all your bachelor’s degree credits are transferable before enrolling in your school of choice.

Potential Careers in Forensic Science with a Master’s


Your master's degree will allow you to advance in most areas of forensic science. It will also make you eligible for many management positions. It's important to note that your master's will also allow you to concentrate on a specific area within a career zone; for example you may become a forensic scientist who specializes in trace evidence or toxicology. Here's a look at some other potential careers with a master's in forensic science:

  • Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)
    You’ll secure and examine the details of a crime scene; supervise the collection and preservation of possible evidence and assure chain of evidence protocol is followed. As a CSI with a master's degree, your role will most likely be supervisory and may include testifying at trials.
    The average pay for a crime scene investigator (CSI) is $45,500
  • College Educator
    You’ll teach one or more aspects of forensic science at a community college, state college, or university. Depending on your area of expertise you may teach as part of a criminal justice program or an advanced chemistry program.
    The average annual salary is: $57,900.
  • Forensic Scientist
    You’ll gather and analyze possible evidence to determine whether it is pertinent to the commission of a crime. Depending on the size of the jurisdiction, a forensic scientist may work both at a crime scene and in a lab, testify as an expert witness in court, and be tasked with training law enforcement how to handle and preserve evidence. The average pay for a forensic scientist is $53,800.
  • Forensic Analyst
    You’ll use a range of analytical and scientific means to aid in evaluating crime scenes at the onset of an investigation. You may also work in the lab to examine samples to determine whether they have evidential value. In smaller jurisdictions, a forensic analyst may perform both duties; in a larger department they may perform only one aspect of analysis. Average salary is $64,500.
  • Forensic Ballistics Expert
    You’ll examine any evidence relating to firearms, match wounds, spent bullets, and fragments with a specific firearm or type of weapon. You may testify to findings in a court of law as an expert witness or be hired as an independent consultant.
    The average forensic ballistics expert salary is $72,700.

Salary by Occupation


Occupations Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Crime Scene Investigator $45,100 $47,200 $52,000
Arson Investigator $52,900 $53,300 $66,100
Forensic Biologist $49,600 $66,400 $78,300
Forensic chemist $50,900 $60,000 $60,900

Options to Advance


You have several options for advancement once you hold an online master's degree in forensic science. First of all, experience alone will allow you to advance steadily in most careers in this field. You can also continue your education to the doctoral level and become an expert who stands out among your peers, allowing you to focus on a single aspect, such as expert testimony.

You can seek certifications in one or more areas from the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) to showcase your knowledge in one or more areas within your areas of expertise. Many with master's degrees opt to enter management, which allows you to oversee or supervise an entire CSI team or lab. You can also choose to start your own consulting business, hiring out your expertise to defense lawyers or prosecution teams to give your opinion on case evidence.

Regardless of your area of work, forensic science is constantly evolving, and you should plan to take continuing education courses to stay abreast of new developments in your field. This will allow you to advance in your current position or make you eligible for higher positions in another jurisdiction.

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