Earning a Master's in Forensic Science Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in Forensic Science Online?

Pursuing an online master's degree in forensic science can help you fuel your passion for chemistry, biology, anatomy, and/or criminal justice. Forensic science careers demand the data collection and reasoning skills these programs supply. As a result, you can make a significant difference in solving cases that might otherwise go cold.

An accredited online master's degree in forensic science prepares you for an array of occupations, including forensic medical examiner, crime laboratory analyst, and coroner. Working professionals can especially benefit from the flexibility of online programs since they allow students to attend class anywhere and anytime. Furthermore, enrolling in online studies, which allows you to remain at home, helps students save money on room and board on or near campus.

If you enjoy science, critical thinking, and safeguarding people, then consider a forensic science program.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Forensic Science Graduates

Master's in Forensic Science Salary

The following tables provide important information for those who earn an online master's degree in forensic science. The first table consists of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data on the top six states for employment of forensic science technicians. In addition to annual salary data, it showcases the number of professionals employed in the occupation in each state. The second table reports pay for forensic scientists by years of experience. It categorizes experience by entry-level (less than 12 months in the occupation) through late-career (more than two decades of employment in the field). PayScale provides the data for this table.

Top Paying States for Forensic Science Technicians

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
California 2,050 $82,650
Illinois 610 $79,630
Nevada 230 $76,160
Massachusetts 50 $75,570
Connecticut 100 $74,560
United States 15,070 $61,220

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pay by Experience Level for Forensic Scientist

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $48,000
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $60,000
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $64,000
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $69,000

Source: PayScale

Master's in Forensic Science Careers

An online master's degree in forensic science hones your attention to detail and ability to analyze evidence that supports criminal justice. A successful career requires patience to gather and assess data, strong communication skills to inform others of critical findings, and leadership know-how to guide teams of colleagues who work with you. In most instances, a forensic science career places professionals in police departments, scientific laboratories, and even federal agencies like the FBI and CIA.

Forensic Science Technician

Annual Median Salary: $57,850

Projected Growth Rate: 17%

This expert collects evidence at crime scenes and analyzes what they gather. Evidence may include weapons, bodily fluids, and fingerprints. In addition, forensic science technicians photograph and often sketch crime scenes, and they sometimes reconstruct them. While a crime scene investigator acts as a generalist forensic science technician, forensic biologists and forensic chemists use chemicals to analyze specific kinds of evidence (such as DNA).

Laboratory Manager

Annual Median Salary: $66,773

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

This professional oversees the daily operations of a laboratory, including evidence analysis. Responsibilities entail establishing procedures and quality controls for lab operations. The manager must also supervise technicians and ensure the lab maintains necessary chemicals and supplies. An online master's degree in forensic science equips lab managers with the leadership and technical skills this career demands.

Postsecondary Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $60,400

Projected Growth Rate: 12%

This career requires delivering instruction beyond the content students learn in high school. A postsecondary teacher generally works in a university setting, overseeing administrative duties in addition to lecturing, conducting research, and writing scholarly papers. A master's in forensic science prepares teachers to develop curricula to teach college-level classes in this subject.

Forensic DNA Analyst

Annual Median Salary: $51,011

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

This occupation entails performing genetic and chemical analysis of evidence samples to create a genetic profile of those involved in a crime. Doing so requires following procedures to avoid specimen contamination. The reports a forensic DNA analyst drafts for crime scene investigators and police help shed light on criminal cases. This professional may also testify in court about his or her findings.

Research Scientist

Annual Median Salary: $77,639

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

An advanced degree in forensic science prepares this expert to design and execute experiments, including those to support criminal justice activities. Experiments allow research scientists to draft papers on their findings and present at professional conferences to help inform the field. A master's degree sharpens their writing skills, which they also require to apply for research funding.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statstics / PayScale

What Can I Expect from an Online Master's in Forensic Science Program?

Online courses for a forensic science master's degree vary by school and program, but most offer a similar curriculum. The best institutions ensure graduates' ability to transition seamlessly from college to career. The following descriptions of forensic science classes highlight what you can expect to study.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Forensic Science

Forensic Microscopy

Learners understand the theory and application of microscopy when it comes to analyzing trace evidence (e.g., hair, soil, fibers, glass). In addition to an emphasis on microscopy procedures, the course explores microscopical contrast techniques and gives students the opportunity to analyze evidence in a lab setting.

Crime Scene Investigation and Reconstruction

Students strengthen their observation skills while developing the knowledge and techniques necessary for a successful career in forensic science. In addition to building their evidence-gathering abilities, this class teaches students how to preserve a crime scene, interpret evidence, and synthesize information to recreate elements of a crime.

Forensic Biology

Students examine the fundamentals of identifying bodily fluids and learn how to perform the in-depth lab analysis this evidence collection requires. They not only study current DNA analysis methods, but also how to interpret findings. In addition, the class looks at the historical use of DNA in criminal investigations.

Forensic Separations Chemistry

This course blends theoretical and applied topics to help students understand separation chemistry. Students explore the methods and instrumentation forensic scientists use to analyze toxicology, drugs, arson, trace evidence, and explosives. In addition, the class emphasizes the identification, isolation, and quantification of illicit drugs, and it includes an array of forensic-oriented experiments.

Professional Issues in Forensic Science

Learners consider the legal implications of the field, with focus on expert witness testimony and how legislative decisions affect the gathering, analysis, and court admissibility of evidence. The class also reviews ethical concerns that result from competing priorities and conflicts between good science and the need to expedite work.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Forensic Science Prepares For

  • American Board of Forensic Toxicology: A master's in forensic science can qualify you for the analyst and diplomate certifications. These require at least three years of professional experience post-degree and expertise in analytical toxicology/chemistry, forensic toxicology, forensic alcohol toxicology, or workplace/prescription drug monitoring. You must submit college transcripts, an application, and a $250 fee in addition to passing an exam.
  • American Board of Criminalistics: In addition to an application, this certification requires passing an exam that assesses your knowledge of drug analysis, DNA, the philosophy of criminalistics, and ethics. You can choose an exam that aligns with your specialty to earn certification as either a diplomate or fellow.