Online Colleges with Degrees in Forensics: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online forensic school. Read more to get an overview of the program options, delivery methods, and common topics offered for the field of study.

There are several online forensic schools that offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the field. Before enrolling, however, prospective students should make sure a school's curriculum covers the forensic specialty they're interested in and determine whether or not they'll be able to fit all course requirements into their schedule.

How to Select an Online Forensic School

Forensics programs train students in the methods of gathering and using evidence to solve a crime. Careers in forensics can be found through several different online degree programs, including criminal justice, information technology and medical forensics. Some universities offer online programs in this area, as do online, for-profit schools. Students should then weigh the program focus with their career direction and scheduling flexibility.

Career Direction and Program Focus

There are different careers that require a degree in forensics, such as computer forensic technician, forensic investigator or forensic analyst, with some positions requiring higher-level degrees. Criminal justice and information technology are the most common online bachelor's programs offering a focus in forensics. The core curriculum in a criminal justice program focuses more on criminal forensic investigation and criminal profiling; whereas information technology concentrates on digital crime and digital forensics. Master's degree programs in forensics delve more into biological science and medical areas, with classes in biological evidence and toxicology.

Scheduling Flexibility

Online forensics degree programs, especially at the master's degree level, are designed for scheduling flexibility to allow students to continue working full-time. In this type of program, classes do not normally operate on any given schedule. Instead, students access their coursework online whenever they choose to and submit assignments and tests by a given due date. Alternatively, some programs may feature classes run on a more scheduled basis, requiring students to attend live-streaming lectures or real-time conferences. Comparing options available for each program may help students find a program aligned with their current schedule.

Online Degree Options for Forensics

Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Forensic Science

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice with a focus in forensic science is designed to teach students forensics from a criminal prosecution standpoint. Many online criminal justice degrees follow a relatively strict class schedule, but allow students to log in asynchronously to allow for scheduling flexibility. Classes include:

  • Criminal justice management
  • Restorative justice
  • Juvenile law and justice
  • Forensic psychology
  • Contemporary corrections

Online Bachelor of Science in Information Technology - Computer Forensics

This type of program approaches forensics by focusing first on computer technology. The forensic investigative aspect of the program is a secondary focus. The program also probes the legal aspects of computer forensics. Online computer forensics programs are taught over the Internet, students upload assignments and online materials through online learning platforms. Students in these programs learn how about:

  • Malicious software
  • Mobile computing analysis
  • Network security
  • White collar crime

Online Master of Science in Forensic Science

A master's degree program in forensic science often deals with the medical side of forensic investigations. Online master's degree programs in forensic science offer full-time and part-time options. Lectures and assignments are typically presented through online course management systems. Completion of supervised independent research and a master's thesis is usually required. Students in these programs explore:

  • Biological evidence
  • Toxicology
  • Forensic genetics
  • Statistical analysis
  • Applied molecular spectroscopy

Schools with Online Programs in Forensics

The University of Maryland University College offers a 120-credit bachelor's degree program in investigative forensics that can be completed fully online or in a hybrid format. Coursework includes virtual labs and covers topics in criminal justice, crime scene investigation and more. Prospective graduate students can also pursue an online master's degree in digital forensics and cyber investigation.

Liberty University provides a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Crime Scene Investigation that also requires 120 credits. Some law enforcement officials may be able to earn life experience credit toward the degree. Students learn the necessary skills for a forensics career and develop a solid understanding of the criminal justice system.

The University of Florida offers an online master's degree program in forensics with four available specializations in forensic DNA and serology, forensic science, forensic toxicology and forensic drug chemistry. Students pursuing the online graduate certificate can also pursue a forensic death investigation specialization in addition to the forensic DNA, toxicology and drug chemistry options.

Students considering online bachelor's and master's degree programs in forensics may want to keep in mind a program's specialization options, as some focus on computer forensics while others are more geared toward crime scene investigation or lab analysis. Students will also want to determine if they'll be able to meet any synchronous course requirements.

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