15 Best Bachelor’s in Forensic Science Programs 2021

Erin Gobler picture
Erin Gobler Contributing Writer
Updated November 16, 2022

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A forensic science degree helps to prepare students for careers as forensic science technicians. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these technicians earn a median annual salary of $59,150. The degree may also serve as a stepping stone to graduate study, enabling you to pursue advanced careers in forensic psychology, forensic anthropology, and other specialized areas.

If you’re interested in forensic science, you can seek rewarding careers in DNA profiling, digital forensics, toxicology, handwriting analysis, or an investigative area yet to be conceived.

The following guide provides you with a detailed exploration of forensic science, including a ranked list of the top forensic science programs in the United States.

2021's Top 10 Forensic Science Programs

1San Jose State UniversitySan Jose, CA
2Cedarville UniversityCedarville, OH
3Arcadia UniversityGlenside, PA
4Ohio Northern UniversityAda, OH
5University of NebraskaLincoln, NE
6University of Central FloridaOrlando, FL
7Ashland UniversityAshland, OH
8Roger Williams UniversityBristol, RI
9York College of PennsylvaniaYork, PA
10Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmond, VA
See Detailed Rankings

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What Is Forensic Science?

The term "forensic science" probably brings to mind images of high-tech laboratories and computers, but the origin of the field dates back as far as the 6th and 7th centuries, when the concept of using fingerprints for identification first emerged.

Early forensic scientists were self-taught, as no formal training or university courses on the subject existed. In the 1930s, universities began offering courses and degrees in police science and criminalistics. The American Academy of Forensic Science launched in Chicago in 1950.

Forensics attracts students who are interested in scientific work, solving crimes, helping others, and contributing to the betterment of the legal system. Forensic scientists tend to possess acute curiosity, attention to detail, and an ability to work under pressure.

Approximately 17,000 people work as forensic science technicians in the U.S., often specializing in certain sciences like DNA, digital forensics, toxicology, fingerprinting, or odontology. The BLS projects a faster-than-average 14% growth for forensic science technicians between 2019 and 2029. 

The BLS expects these future job openings to come with strong competition. A bachelor's degree in forensic science provides a great foundational education, but applicants with a master's may receive better opportunities.

Why Get a Forensic Science Bachelor's?

Forensic science occupies just one small area within the sprawling field of criminal justice. Candidates often face stiff competition for jobs, which may leave you wondering whether earning a forensic science bachelor’s degree is really worth the investment.

Fortunately, studying forensic science does not pigeonhole you into a single, narrow subfield. Forensic scientists can apply their skills to a variety of well-paying careers, both in and out of criminal justice. As a forensic science graduate, you can enjoy benefits such as:

Transferable STEM Skills
The best forensic programs treat their students as scientists first. Courses provide knowledge and laboratory skills in chemistry, biology, and physics. This strong scientific foundation enables graduates to pursue additional careers outside of forensics, if desired.
Earning Potential
Forensic science technicians earn a median salary far exceeding that of all occupations nationwide, according to the BLS. Closely related careers, such as coroner, fraud examiner, and criminal investigator, earn median salaries of $69,050-$81,590.
An Evolving Field
Forensic science is a relatively small, highly competitive field, but it also undergoes constant evolution. As technology and criminal investigation techniques advance, new opportunities emerge for forensic science professionals.

The Best Forensic Science Bachelor's Degrees of 2021

Our guide includes a ranking of the top 15 forensic science programs for 2021. Visit the link below to learn more about the criteria we use to rank schools.

Our Ranking Methodology

What the Best Forensic Science Programs Have in Common

College experiences vary, but the best forensic science colleges share many similar characteristics. Below, we explain some factors that denote the best forensic science programs.

  • They are accredited. Attending an accredited university is crucial. Accredited schools go through a third-party evaluation to demonstrate their academic qualifications. Accrediting agencies assess the quality of faculty, curriculum and instruction, research activities, and library resources. All the colleges on this list are regionally accredited, and some also hold programmatic accreditation. Look for the following accrediting agencies:
    • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
    • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
    • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
    • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
    • Forensic Science Educational Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC)
  • They offer strong academic programs. The top forensic science programs prepare students for graduate school and entry-level careers in forensic science. For example, Ohio Northern University boasts a 96% job and graduate school placement rate for its graduates. We also measure academic strength by looking at graduation rate, retention rate, and faculty qualifications.
  • They are reputable. The best forensic programs ensure their reputability by maintaining minimum standards for admission requirements, providing a strong return on investment, and employing a robust faculty with a reasonable student-to-faculty ratio. For example, York College of Pennsylvania maintains small classes, with a 15-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.
  • They are affordable. The best forensic science colleges offer assistance to make their programs affordable for diverse groups. They provide financial aid opportunities like scholarships, loans, fellowships, and grants. We measure affordability by analyzing factors such as percentage of students receiving financial aid, average post-graduation debt, and price of attendance for those receiving grants or scholarships. Cedarville University distributes scholarships to 100% of its freshman class with an average award of $17,590 per student.

1. San Jose State University

San Jose State University in San Jose, California, serves more than 36,000 students and offers academic programs in 250 areas of study.

BS in Forensic Science

SJSU's bachelor's in forensic science incorporates basic and advanced chemistry, biology, and physics with forensic science applications. The curriculum explores crime scene investigation, body fluid and DNA analysis, human anatomy and physiology, and forensic entomology. The four-year program offers concentrations in biology, chemistry, and digital evidence.

The Department of Justice Studies offers several resources for forensic science majors. Students can participate in a crime scene investigation summer camp, an annual forensic science speaker series, and a two-week forensic science study abroad opportunity at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. SJSU students must apply to the department before declaring a major in forensic science.

Applying to SJSU

Admission requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent, completion of required high school courses with a minimum grade of C-, and ACT/SAT scores (suspended for fall 2021). The forensic science program prefers applicants with a minimum 3.0 GPA and requires a letter of intent.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: WSCUC
  • Tuition: $3,926/year (in state); $3,926/year plus $396/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

2. Cedarville University

A private Baptist institution founded in 1897, Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, welcomes students from every U.S. state and 49 countries, creating a global career network.

BS in Forensic Science

Cedarville's 128-credit interdisciplinary forensic science bachelor's degree incorporates extensive hands-on laboratory work, including an internship in a crime lab. Students learn to collect and analyze trace evidence, take and match fingerprints, and analyze simulated drugs. Most learners complete their internship with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.

The curriculum includes classes like criminal procedure, criminal evidence, and criminal law. Cedarville incorporates a biblical perspective into every course, combining science and Christianity. Potential careers for graduates include criminalist, pathologist, document examiner, and toxicologist. Nearly 100% of the school's freshman class receives scholarships averaging $17,950.

Applying to Cedarville

Applicants need a high school diploma. They must submit high school transcripts, evidence of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and a recommendation from a Christian leader. Cedarville does not require the ACT or SAT.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Tuition: $16,587/term
  • Required Credits: 128 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

3. Arcadia University

Founded in 1853, Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania, serves 3,700 students. A globally focused school, Arcadia maintains offices and centers across the world and hosts a robust study abroad program.

BA in Chemistry with a Forensic Science Concentration

Arcadia's BA in chemistry with a forensic science concentration focuses on chemistry, physics, and mathematics. The 128-credit degree from the Chemistry and Physics Department requires classes such as human genome and disease, biochemistry, instrumental methods of analysis, and genetics. Forensic science majors can participate in the school's study abroad program, with opportunities available in 15 countries.

Students who complete Arcadia's bachelor's in forensic science program and all required prerequisites receive guaranteed admission to the university's FEPAC-accredited MS in forensic science program. Arcadia offers a highly selective 3+2 forensic program that lets top students earn their bachelor's and master's degrees in five years.

Applying to Arcadia

Applicants must hold a high school diploma. Arcadia evaluates prospective students by looking at high school transcripts, letters of recommendation, work experience, and participation in school and community activities. Personal essays and SAT/ACT scores are optional.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: MSCHE; FEPAC
  • Tuition: $44,620/year
  • Required Credits: 128 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

4. Ohio Northern University

A private school affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, offers 60 academic programs. Its nearly 3,000 students benefit from a small average class size of 18.

Forensic Biology

ONU's School of Science, Technology, and Mathematics offers a four-year, 120-credit forensic science bachelor's degree. The curriculum includes classes like forensic entomology, statistics for professionals, forensics DNA analysis, and forensic crime scene investigation. In the summer between junior and senior year, learners complete a one-credit, 10-week internship to gain professional lab skills and develop career connections.

Students participate in ONU's Crime Scene House each spring, which offers the chance to investigate mock crimes with law enforcement professionals in simulations. The university also fosters research experiences, including a summer research program in molecular biology that pairs undergraduates with faculty members. Forensic biology majors must join a professional organization.

Applying to ONU

Prospective students must hold a high school diploma. Application requirements include official high school transcripts, a completed university application or Common App, and ACT/SAT scores (optional for most programs for fall 2021).

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Tuition: $34,390/year
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

5. University of Nebraska

Nebraska's flagship public research institution chartered in 1869, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance and the Big Ten Conference.

BS in Forensic Science

UNL's four-year bachelor's in forensic science provides a foundation in mathematics, science, and statistics in legal proceedings. The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources offers the program with four options: forensic biology, crime scene investigation, forensic chemistry, or pre-law (3+3 program). Graduates find internships and jobs at places like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, and academic medical centers.

Students take classes like advanced forensic photography, bloodstains as evidence, advanced forensic DNA methods, and elements of biochemistry. The program also requires a capstone course in which learners integrate their knowledge to solve a real-world problem. Forensic science majors must earn a cumulative minimum 2.0 GPA to graduate.

Applying to UNL

UNL requires a high school diploma. Prospective students receive guaranteed admission if they also hold a minimum 3.0 GPA, or earn a minimum ACT score of 20/minimum SAT score of 1040, or rank in the top half of their graduating class. The forensic science program requires a minimum 2.0 GPA.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Tuition: $259/credit (in state); $830/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus

6. University of Central Florida

Founded in 1963, the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida, offers more than 230 academic programs and serves nearly 72,000 students.

Forensic Science BS

The forensic science bachelor's degree from UCF's College of Sciences offers two tracks: biochemistry or chemistry. The 124-credit degree includes classes like forensic microscopy, forensic science in the courtroom, trace evidence, and advanced analytical laboratory technique. The four-year program requires a grade of C or better in each course and a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA in some specified courses.

Forensic science students can apply to receive honors in the major through the department and Burnett Honors College. The department partners with employers throughout central Florida to offer internship opportunities that develop professional experience in forensic science.

Applying to UCF

Applicants must submit official SAT/ACT scores, high school or GED transcripts, and an application fee. UCF encourages submission of an optional application essay.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC; FEPAC
  • Tuition: $212/credit (in state); $749/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 124 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

7. Ashland University

A private Christian school founded in 1878, Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio, serves more than 6,600 students. The university offers over 55 degrees and 130 campus organizations and clubs.

BS in Biology with a Concentration in Forensic Biology

AU's Department of Biology and Toxicology offers a 120-credit BS in biology with a concentration in forensic biology that teaches students to apply biological concepts to law enforcement. The program emphasizes chemistry and toxicology. Students learn in modern research labs and use cutting-edge tools. They can also conduct independent research with a faculty member.

Ashland's bachelor's in forensic science meets FBI standards for a DNA analyst in a forensic science lab. The university helps place graduates in positions with the Ohio Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency, and local coroner offices and forensic labs.

Applying to AU

Admission requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent and optional SAT/ACT scores. Applicants who do not submit test scores need a minimum 2.7 GPA to receive unconditional admission.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Tuition: $11,495/semester
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus

8. Roger Williams University

A private university that emphasizes hands-on learning, Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, offers every student the chance for a real-world learning experience with a local or global community partner.

Forensic Science BS

One of the best forensic science colleges, RWU offers an interdisciplinary forensic science program that combines chemistry or biology with legal coursework. Students learn to assess and testify about physical evidence, including handwriting, blood and DNA samples, and fingerprints.

Forensic science majors choose a biology or chemistry track. Required courses include civil and criminal procedures in U.S. courts, criminal investigation, molecular and cell biology, and chemistry. Professional working forensic scientists teach RWU's elective courses and help students find internships and jobs. Potential internship sites include the Rhode Island State Crime Lab, Massachusetts State Police Forensics, and the Rhode Island Medical Examiner.

Applying to RWU

A test-optional school, RWU does not require SAT/ACT scores. Applicants must submit one letter of recommendation, an essay, documentation of activities and community involvement, and high school transcripts.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: NECHE
  • Tuition: $18,972/term
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Delivery Format: On campus

9. York College of Pennsylvania

A private school located in York, Pennsylvania, York College offers more than 70 bachelor's degrees and boasts a 15-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

Forensic Chemistry BS

The bachelor's in forensic science program from York College's Chemistry Department aligns with the guidelines recommended by the Technical Working Group for Education and Training in Forensic Sciences and the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission. Students learn to analyze and explain the significance of forensic evidence in a mock court. Forensic chemistry faculty and students attend conferences around the world.

The 124-credit, four-year forensic chemistry BS includes classes like quantitative analytical chemistry, forensic body fluids, applied mathematics for chemists and mathematicians, and crime scene processing. Forensic chemistry majors need a cumulative 2.0 GPA to graduate.

Applying to York College

Applicants must submit high school transcripts, one letter of recommendation from a high school junior or senior teacher, and an essay or personal statement. Test scores are optional for 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Tuition: $9,835/semester
  • Required Credits: 124 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

10. Virginia Commonwealth University

Located in the Richmond area, Virginia Commonwealth University serves more than 29,000 students and employs 2,500 full-time faculty members. Established in 1838, VCU ranks among the top 100 universities, according to the National Science Foundation.

BS in Forensic Science

One of the best forensic science colleges, VCU's Department of Forensic Science offers a BS in forensic science that has been FEPAC-accredited since 2005. The program offers concentrations in forensic biology, forensic chemistry, or physical evidence. Forensic science majors who choose the forensic biology or forensic chemistry concentrations can double major in biology or chemistry by completing additional coursework, without adding significant time to graduation. All forensic science majors must complete a chemistry minor.

The 123- to 126-credit curriculum includes classes like scientific crime scene investigation, professional practices in forensic science, introduction to biological sciences laboratory, and forensic microscopy.

Applying to VCU

First-time freshmen must apply to VCU using Common App. Requirements include a high school diploma or GED certificate and a $70 application fee. The university strongly prefers applicants who complete the college preparatory curriculum.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC; FEPAC
  • Tuition: $14,710/year (in state); $36,048/year (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 123-126 credits
  • Delivery Format: On campus

11. University of North Dakota

Founded in 1883, six years before North Dakota itself became a state, the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks now serves 13,600 students. UND boasts 17 NCAA Division I athletics teams and 250 campus organizations.

Forensic Science BS

The four-year interdisciplinary bachelor's in forensic science from UND combines criminal justice, law, and science. The curriculum includes classes from the biology, chemistry, anthropology, and psychology departments. Students can complete a traditional program plan or choose from four sub-plans: investigations, chemical analysis, forensic molecular biology, and forensic wildlife biology.

The 120-credit forensic science BS requires classes like analysis of forensic evidence, cybersecurity laws and investigations, molecular biology techniques, and systematic botany. Enrollees get experience with forensic laboratory work, including report writing, chain of custody, and security. The program requires a minimum 2.2 cumulative GPA to graduate.

Applying to UND

Students must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate and successfully complete required college preparatory courses. UND prefers applicants with a minimum 2.75 GPA. ACT/SAT test scores are waived through summer 2022.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Tuition: $356/credit (in state); $534/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

12. Seton Hill University

A Catholic liberal arts university in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Seton Hill University welcomes students from all religious backgrounds. Founded in 1918 by the Sisters of Charity, Seton Hill University offers more than 100 academic programs.

Forensic Science BS

The forensic science bachelor's degree from Seton Hill University includes research and internship opportunities, hands-on crime lab analysis, and crime scene field experience. The interdisciplinary curriculum combines chemistry, criminal justice, biology, and math. Students take classes like fundamentals of criminalistics, intermediate bloodstain pattern analysis, forensic science in the courtroom, and introductory statistics.

The university operates its own on-campus crime scene house, which gives forensic science majors the chance to work with mock crime scenes created by professors. Students perform experiments in laboratory courses and learn to analyze evidence, maintain a chain of custody, and write a crime lab report.

Applying to Seton Hill University

Prospective students must submit high school or GED transcripts and a completed application form. Optional materials include SAT/ACT test scores, a 200-word essay, and a letter of recommendation.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Tuition: $19,259/semester
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Delivery Format: On campus

13. Texas A&M University

Opened in 1876, Texas A&M University in College Station enrolls more than 71,000 students. Texas A&M's athletics teams participate in NCAA Division I and the Southeastern Conference.

Forensic and Investigative Sciences BS

Texas A&M's Department of Entomology offers two forensic and investigative sciences BS options: a science emphasis and a pre-law emphasis. The science emphasis forensic science degree is one of only two FEPAC-accredited bachelor's programs in Texas. The 120-credit, four-year curriculum includes classes like forensic implications of inheritance, biotechnology and forensics, case studies in problem-solving, and applied forensic entomology.

Students can join the Texas A&M Forensic and Investigative Sciences Honors Program and the Aggie Forensic and Investigative Sciences Organization. The Department of Entomology awards a variety of undergraduate scholarships each year.

Applying to Texas A&M

Students can apply through ApplyTexas or the Coalition. Required documents include an essay, a $75 application fee, a self-reported academic record, and official SAT/ACT scores (optional through spring 2022).

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC; FEPAC (for science-emphasis degree only)
  • Tuition: $13,012/year (in state); $40,896/year (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Delivery Format: On campus

14. The University of Tampa

A private institution in Tampa, Florida, the University of Tampa offers over 200 academic programs. About 9,600 students from 132 countries attend UT.

BS in Forensic Science

UT's forensic science bachelor's degree holds accreditation from FEPAC. The program includes training in forensic toxicology, crime scene investigation, forensic firearms examinations, and forensic biology. Students can pursue internships with forensic laboratories at places like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Forensic Science Technology Center, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The degree includes classes like forensic DNA analysis, molecular biology laboratory, criminal investigation, and microscopic examination of firearms evidence. Enrollees also complete a senior seminar and internship or capstone. All faculty have practiced forensic science prior to teaching. UT surveys find that 80% of program graduates work in forensic science or analytical laboratory testing or pursue graduate school.

Applying to UT

Students can apply using UT's paper or online application, the Coalition application, or Common App. Requirements include official high school or GED transcripts, an essay, a letter of recommendation, and a $40 fee. SAT/ACT scores are optional.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC; FEPAC
  • Tuition: $613/credit
  • Required Credits: 94 credits
  • Delivery Format: On campus

15. Hofstra University

Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, offers 160 undergraduate and 175 graduate programs. The school's small classes feature a 13-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

BS in Forensic Science

Hofstra University's bachelor's in forensic science degree requires 124 credits and takes four years to complete. The program provides a strong grounding in natural and physical sciences and an introduction to the legal system. Forensic science majors can join CSI Hofstra or the school's chapter of the American Chemical Society Student Members program for networking and community service opportunities.

The curriculum includes classes like foundations of inorganic chemistry, methods in trace analysis, forensic expert witness testimony, and questioned documents. Students develop communication, critical thinking, and technical scientific skills. Forensic science majors can get real-world experience through internships and research opportunities.

Applying to Hofstra University

Hofstra University accepts applications through Common App. Admission requirements include a high school transcript or proof of diploma. SAT/ACT scores are required for homeschooled students but optional for all other applicants.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Tuition: $24,158/term
  • Required Credits: 124 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus

What To Expect From Bachelor's in Forensic Science Programs

Forensic science is a relatively young academic discipline. Insitutitions first began offering courses and degrees in police science in the early 1930s. The University of California at Berkeley established one of the nation's first academic departments of criminology in 1950. 

Today, dozens of institutions offer bachelor's programs in forensic science. Programs focus on developing students' ethics and knowledge of science, criminal justice, and investigative techniques. 

Averaging 120-134 credits, a bachelor's in forensic science takes about four years of full-time study to complete. The curriculum typically combines general education, laboratory science courses, and lecture- and discussion-based courses on criminology and the criminal justice system.

Other popular degree alternatives for aspiring forensics professionals include bachelor's programs in criminology, criminal justice, or psychology. We discuss each of these program options in greater detail in a later section.

Exact program cost varies by school type and enrollment status, but most enrollees can expect to pay $35,000-$68,000 in tuition. Financial aid awards like scholarships and grants can significantly reduce out-of-pocket costs. 

Admission Requirements

Like the field of forensics itself, entry into the nation's top forensic science programs is often highly competitive. While admission to a college or university often requires just a 2.0-2.5 minimum GPA, admission to a forensic science major may require high school grades of 3.0 or better. Other schools only admit students to the forensic science major after successful completion of first-year prerequisites in chemistry and calculus.

To apply as an undergraduate, schools commonly require submission of high school transcripts, a personal essay, and ACT or SAT scores. Transfer students with a certificate or associate degree should supply college transcripts. Applicants may also need to provide letters of recommendation.

Consider using Common App to streamline your college admissions process. Common App allows prospective students to apply to more than one school without needing to reupload documents, retype personal information, or write multiple personal essays.

Degree Requirements

To graduate with your bachelor’s degree in forensic science, you’ll typically need to earn about 120 credit hours, which takes, on average, about four years to complete. The specific credit requirements may vary from one school to the next. 

In general, though, the credits required to graduate with this type of degree will be a combination of core class requirements, program requirements, and elective courses. Common courses often include organic chemistry, statistics, and crime scene investigation.

Comparing Degree Types

At the undergraduate level, you will develop a similar foundation of knowledge and skills no matter the exact type of criminal justice degree they pursue. However, popular degree options for someone looking to become a forensic scientist include:

Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science

This degree provides the most straightforward pathway to forensic science jobs, combining lab work, criminal justice fundamentals, and investigative techniques.

Bachelor of Science in Criminology

This degree offers a broader examination of crime and criminals through historical, social, and other lenses. Schools commonly offer forensics as a concentration.

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

his degree explores all areas of the criminal justice field, including law enforcement, corrections, investigation, and administration. Students may select forensics as a concentration.

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (Forensic Psychology Concentration)

Ideal if you plan to pursue additional education, this degree provides a narrow focus on clinical psychology and investigation.

The best degree for you depends largely on your interests and career goals. A degree in criminal justice offers the greatest flexibility of employment options, while a criminology or forensic science degree provides the narrowest study of criminal investigation and forensics.

Common Classes in Forensic Science

To complete a forensic science bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to complete general education, major core, and elective course requirements. You’ll commonly take a combination of lecture, discussion, and laboratory courses, enabling an interdisciplinary approach to skill development.

The following list describes five common courses found in a forensic science bachelor’s degree. You should note, however, that course requirements vary by degree type or specialization. A digital forensics major can expect fewer laboratory courses than a forensic chemistry major, for example.

Introduction to Forensic Science
This survey course introduces you to the major scientific disciplines found within forensic science. Coursework discusses the role of each discipline in the handling and analysis of crime scene evidence. You’ll learn about evidence collection, preservation, and examination techniques, and prepare to study forensics at an advanced level.
Organic Chemistry
This course builds on your fundamental knowledge of chemistry. Coursework introduces the basic principles of organic chemistry, including aliphatic and aromatic chemistry reactions and the preparation of organic compounds. Skills in organic chemistry allow forensic scientists to conduct toxicology screenings and DNA analysis on blood or other body samples.
Courtroom Proceedings and Testimony
This skills-intensive course provides you with a strong understanding of how courts introduce and present forensic evidence. Course discussions cover court procedure, issues of admissibility, and creation and presentation of exhibits. You’ll read actual forensic court case transcripts, discuss evidence presentations, and participate in mock proceedings.
Crime Scene Investigation
This course covers the basic methods and techniques used in scientific crime scene investigation, with a major focus on the recovery and processing of evidence. Key topics include scene assessment and management; recognizing, documenting, and collecting physical evidence; and the importance of crime scene reconstruction.
Typically undertaken in the junior or senior year, a professional internship allows you to gain real-world experience in forensic, research, or law enforcement settings. This supervised field opportunity allows learners to apply classroom knowledge and develop important professional and networking skills. Completing an internship improves graduates’ future employment prospects.

How Much Will a Bachelor's in Forensics Cost?

According to U.S. News & World Report, the tuition cost for a forensic science bachelor's degree totals $35,000-$68,000. Several factors can make a significant impact on the price of your education, including whether you study online or in person, whether you study at a public or private institution, and whether you pay in-state or out-of-state tuition rates. 

Beyond tuition, degree-seekers also incur costs for facilities fees, housing, meals, transportation, books, and supplies.

College is a major investment, but students can take advantage of various financing options to help lower their out-of-pocket expenses. Every first-time freshman should fill out the FAFSA, which provides need-based aid in the form of grants and low-interest loans. Other great sources of aid include private scholarships and grants from organizations, corporations, individuals, and your prospective school.

If you need to take out loans, carefully review and compare loan terms and repayment options before signing.

Jobs for Bachelor's in Forensic Science Graduates

A bachelor's in forensic science prepares you for a variety of job opportunities in criminal investigation. Most professionals in this field work at crime scenes and in laboratories, with job titles like crime lab analyst, crime scene investigator, or forensic chemist.

Although the BLS does not provide specific salary data for specialized careers within forensic science, technicians across the field can expect to earn a median annual salary of $59,150. Exact income potential varies by employer, years of experience, certification, and geographic location.

Advanced forensic science careers, like forensic anthropology or forensic psychology, require master's or doctoral degrees. Professionals in these positions tend to earn annual salaries of $63,670-$80,370.

Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians assist law enforcement in solving criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence in a laboratory. Technicians must follow strict standards to maintain evidence integrity. These professionals commonly work for local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies; independent crime labs; and coroner's offices.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related field, plus on-the-job training
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +14%
  • Median Annual Salary: $59,150

Computer Forensics Investigator

Also called forensic computer examiners or digital forensic analysts, these professionals specialize in collecting and analyzing evidence contained in computer hard drives, mobile devices, and other digital storage systems. Computer forensics is a relatively new field with many career applications.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree with a digital forensics concentration; certification may improve job prospects
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +14%
  • Median Annual Salary: $59,150

Crime Lab Analyst

Crime lab analysts handle and process various types of evidence to determine their significance in investigations. These professionals produce reports on their findings and may testify in court as expert witnesses. Crime lab analysts often specialize in a certain area such as blood splatter, tire impressions, or ballistics.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree in forensic science, physical science, or a related field, plus on-the-job training
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +14%
  • Median Annual Salary: $59,150

Crime Scene Investigator

Crime scene investigators are generalist forensic science professionals who serve multiple functions in a criminal investigation. They often collect physical evidence at crime scenes and analyze the evidence in labs or offices using technical and scientific techniques. Many CSIs are sworn police officers.

  • Required Education: Varies; bachelor's degree in forensic science or related field; police academy training
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +14%
  • Median Annual Salary: $59,150

Forensic Anthropologist

Forensic anthropologists interpret evidence to identify human remains and determine causes of death. This specialized discipline is highly competitive. Forensic anthropologists may work for the FBI, state crime labs, research institutions, and museums.

  • Required Education: Most employers require a master's, though a bachelor's may be accepted with extensive relevant experience.
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +5%
  • Median Annual Salary: $63,670

Choosing the Best Forensic Science College

Our ranked lists provide a great resource to start searching, but selecting the best forensic science college requires you to consider other factors as well. Things to keep in mind include:

Make sure any prospective institution you consider holds either regional or national accreditation from a recognized agency. Some forensic science programs hold an additional layer of accreditation from the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.
Faculty Background and Credentials
Look for schools with experienced forensic scientists on staff. Individuals with work experience in criminal investigation can provide both quality instruction and unique insights into the forensic science field.
University Resources
Hands-on experience and networking are invaluable for the forensic science major. Aim for a school with advanced laboratory facilities, local forensic internship opportunities, and robust career services.
When researching colleges, look for forensic science degrees with top reputations that list employers of recent program alumni. You want to earn a degree respected for its professional results.
Future Education Opportunities
An advanced degree can improve your employment prospects in the competitive forensic science field. Consider selecting a university that offers a master's program in forensics. Some schools even provide dual degree options that allow learners to earn a bachelor's and master's simultaneously.

Should You Get Your Degree Online?

Once a common target of negative stigma, the modern online college continues to grow rapidly in popularity. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 20% of undergraduates enrolled in at least one distance education course in fall 2018. Fourteen percent studied exclusively through remote learning formats.

Some of the best forensic science colleges in the nation offer online degree options designed to make learning more accessible for the busy, working student. Top benefits of studying online include flexible scheduling, the ability to learn at home or on the go, and the potential to save hundreds on campus-based fees. 

Learning at a distance also requires you to make a few sacrifices, like giving up the social aspects of in-person classes and on-campus living. Before you commit to a remote forensic science degree, ask yourself whether the online experience best fits your needs. Things to consider when weighing your options include:

  • Program technology requirements
  • Your at-home learning environment
  • Your preferred learning style
  • Your comfort level with communicating digitally

Forensic Science Degree FAQs

How do I become a forensic scientist?

A bachelor's degree fulfills the minimum education requirement to become a forensic scientist. For some employment opportunities, forensic scientists need relevant experience in criminal justice, police academy training, or a graduate degree.

How long does it take to get a bachelor's degree in forensic science?

For a first-time student, earning a forensic science bachelor's degree takes approximately four years of full-time study. Part-time learners require additional study time. Associate degree-holders who transfer to a bachelor's program typically graduate in two years.

What can I do with a degree in forensic science?

After graduating from the best forensic science colleges, professionals go on to pursue opportunities in a variety of forensics subfields, including blood spatter analysis, toxicology, digital forensics, ballistics, or DNA profiling.

How much do forensic scientists make with a bachelor's degree?

According to the BLS, forensic science technicians earn a median annual salary of $59,150. Exact earning potential varies by occupation, employer, experience, and geographic location. Specialized forensic scientists with advanced education typically earn more.

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