Forensic science may have shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation to thank for some of its popularity, but don't be fooled by the quick resolutions that occur on television. Crime scene investigators may be involved in lengthy cases that require precise tasks and unglamorous work. They are professionals who must have both the right education and skills to do the job properly.
If you're intrigued by their work, forensic science degree programs can help you get ready for a career as an investigator or a similar occupation. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences notes more than 200 schools in the United States offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field. While most colleges and universities offer their programs on campus, some have online forensic science degrees as well.
Keep reading to learn more about the top colleges for forensic science as well as scholarship options and expected career growth in the field.
Best Colleges for Forensic Science Degree Programs
To identify schools that are the best of the best for forensic science, we looked for institutions that had prominent programs, a variety of student support services and accessible education options. After analyzing the numbers, the following ten colleges and universities rose to the top as the best colleges for forensic science degree programs.
The University of Wisconsin - Platteville holds the distinction of being the top school for forensic science in this survey. With a campus in Platteville, the institution is the fastest growing member of the University of Wisconsin System.
The school also says it is the first and only institution in the Midwest to offer a Bachelor of Science in forensic investigation. It's the most rapidly growing specialty within the school's criminal justice discipline. Students graduate with a background in the liberal arts as well as the practical skills needed to work as a forensic investigator.
UW-Platteville ranks fourth out of all schools surveyed for its admissions rate. It also has the third lowest tuition and the fourth best graduation rate among the institutions on this list.
Located in Hamburg, New York, Hilbert College is a Catholic Franciscan institution that is open to all students. The school was established in 1957 and is named for Mother Collette Hilbert who founded the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, the order that opened the college.
Hilbert College ranks first for having the most prominent forensic science program among all the schools surveyed. The school's forensic science/crime scene investigation program draws traditional students as well as veteran law enforcement officers who are looking to update their skills. Students can earn a bachelor's degree in four years or spend one more year at Hilbert and earn a master's degree as well.
The college has the fifth best graduation rate among the schools listed here and the fourth most affordable tuition.
Waynesburg University is a private, Christian college. It has its main campus in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania although there are three adult learning centers elsewhere in the state. The school was founded in 1849 by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Forensic science is one of four majors offered by the university within the field of forensics. The others are forensic accounting, forensic chemistry and forensic computing. Students benefit from small class sizes and have the opportunity to participate in internships and complete a capstone project. The university offers an annual Mock Crime Scene Workshop and a CSI Camp for high school students interested in the field.
In addition to having a prominent program, Waynesburg University has the second best graduation rate among the best colleges for forensic science degree programs.
Known to many simply as Central or UCO, the University of Central Oklahoma has its main campus in Edmond and a second campus in downtown Oklahoma City. The school was founded in 1890 and enrolls more than 17,000 students.
The Forensic Science Institute at Central has become a leader in educating students as well as practicing professionals. Through the institute, the University of Central Oklahoma offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in forensic science. Those earning a bachelor's degree can follow a general curriculum track or specialize in chemistry, molecular biology or digital forensics.
UCO has the top ranking for affordable tuition among the schools on this list and the seventh best graduation rate. It is also notable for the level of student support services it provides.
In addition to being one of the best colleges for forensic science degree programs, Chaminade University of Honolulu holds the distinction of being the only Catholic university in Hawaii. The school was founded in 1955 and is one of three Marianist institutions of higher-learning nationwide.
The forensic sciences program at Chaminade University results in a Bachelor of Science degree. All students in the program are required to complete an internship with an approved forensic science agency. The university also recommends students complete a research project.
The school ranks eighth overall for the prominence of its program. At 11-1, its student-faculty ratio is the lowest among the schools on this list. It also has the sixth best graduation rate out of these top schools for forensic science.
Based in an Ohio city of the same name, Tiffin University has been educating students since 1888. The private school enrolls a mix of traditional students and adult learners. Its robust online program attracts students from across the world.
Tiffin University offers a bachelor's degree in forensic science that is designed to be interdisciplinary and provide a solid foundation in chemistry, biology and law. Those looking for online degrees for forensic science may be interested in the school's online master's degree in forensic psychology.
In these rankings, TU ranked 5th overall for its admission rate and 13th for the prominence of its program. The school is also notable for providing flexible learning options and a variety of student support services.
The University of New Haven got its start on the Yale campus back in 1920. The private school has since grown to become a nationally recognized institution. Its main campus is in West Haven, Connecticut, and the university has three other Connecticut locations as well as a campus in Italy.
Forensic science students study at the Henry C. Lee Institute for Forensic Science. They can earn either a bachelor's degree or master's degree in the field. There is also a master's degree in forensic technology available, a first of its kind graduate program. All programs emphasize hands-on learning with state-of-the-art equipment.
Overall, the University of New Haven has the third most prominent forensic science program among surveyed schools. It also has the third best graduation rate among the institutions on this list.
The West Virginia University Institute of Technology is focused on providing practical skills that graduates can quickly put to use in the workforce. Known as WVU Tech, the school is a campus within the West Virginia University system and enrolls more than 1,600 students.
Students can earn a bachelor's degree in forensic investigation from Tech, and the curriculum uses real-world scenarios to teach skills. Available courses cover everything from how to effectively interview witnesses to how to properly work in a lab. The school's Crime Scene House provides the opportunity to participate in a variety of mock crime scenes and processing scenarios.
WVU Tech has the fifth most prominent program among surveyed schools. It also has the second best tuition ranking among the schools on this list.
As a relative newcomer to the higher education scene, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology was incorporated in 2001. The university is a private, non-profit institution and has its campus in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
HU takes a different approach to forensics than the other schools on this list. Rather than a dedicated degree, the university offers a bachelor's degree in integrative sciences which allows students to concentrate their studies in forensics. The program is designed to provide students with a background in chemistry, biology and physics as well as forensics.
Harrisburg University ranks second for the prominence of its program. It is also notable for its student support services, and its open admissions policy can be another reason to consider HU.
Founded in 1926 by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercyhurst University takes the final spot on this list of best colleges for forensic science degree programs. The Catholic university enrolls more than 3,000 students and has its campus in Erie, Pennsylvania.
The Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences houses the university's forensic science degree programs. Students can earn a bachelor's degree in applied forensic sciences. They also have the option of concentrating in forensic anthropology, criminalistics/forensic biology or forensic chemistry. Classes are held in labs outfitted with the latest equipment, and real-world experience is integrating into the curriculum.
Mercyhurst University has the best graduation rate among the schools on this list. It is also notable for its small class sizes, flexible scheduling options and student support services.
Forensic Science Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
The goal for many graduates of forensic science degree programs is to get a job as a crime scene investigator or within a lab processing evidence. To get these jobs, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree.
Career Outlook for Forensic Science Majors
As technology advances, state and local governments may be expected to hire more forensic science experts to help their criminal justice departments solve cases. Below is the expected career growth for some common occupations within the field.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Forensic Science Technicians||$62,490||15,970||14.4%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Forensic Science
Organizations such as the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors and The Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners run scholarship programs for students enrolled in forensic science degree programs and related majors. Plus, many colleges and universities offer their own scholarship programs. Many of these awards are available to students regardless of whether they are studying on-campus or earning online forensic science degrees.
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.0 GPA.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- How Accurate are Crime Shows on TV? Debunking 7 Common Mysths, Rasmussen College, Accessed January 2018, http://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/justice-studies/blog/crime-show-myths-debunked-forensic-experts-tell-what-life-is-real/
- College and University Listings, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Accessed January 2018, https://www.aafs.org/students/college-university-listings/
- Forensic Investigation Degree, University of Wisconsin - Platteville, Accessed January 2018, https://www.uwplatt.edu/criminal-justice/forensic-investigation-degree-program
- Forensic Science/Crime Scene Investigation, Hilbert College, Accessed January 2018, http://www.hilbert.edu/academics/undergraduate-programs/forensic-science-crime-scene-investigation
- Forensics, Waynesburg University, Accessed January 2018, http://www.waynesburg.edu/undergraduate/undergraduate-majors/forensics
- Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science, University of Central Oklahoma, Accessed January 2018, http://sites.uco.edu/forensics/undergraduate/index.asp
- Forensic Sciences, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Accessed January 2018, https://naturalsciences.chaminade.edu/undergraduate/forensic-sciences/
- Forensic Science, Tiffin University, Accessed January 2018, http://www.tiffin.edu/forensicscience
- Forensic Science, University of New Haven, Accessed January 2018, http://www.newhaven.edu/lee-college/undergraduate-programs/forensic-science/index.php
- Forensic Investigation, West Virginia University Institute of Technology, Accessed January 2018, https://admissions.wvutech.edu/academics/majors/forensic-investigation
- Integrative Sciences B.S. Degree, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Accessed January 2018, http://harrisburgu.edu/courses/integrative-sciences-bs/
- Applied Forensic Sciences, Mercyhurst University, Accessed January 2018, https://www.mercyhurst.edu/ridge-college-intelligence-studies-and-applied-sciences/applied-forensic-sciences
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Forensic Science Technicians, Accessed January 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm
- 7 Things to Know Before Becoming a Forensic Toxicologist, Regis University, Accessed January 2018, https://criminology.regis.edu/criminology-programs/resources/crim-articles/becoming-a-forensic-toxicologist
- What is a forensic pathologist? The University of New Mexico, Accessed January 2018, https://omi.unm.edu/about/faq/forensic-pathologist.html
- Nominations, American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, Accessed January 2018, https://www.ascld.org/nominations/
- Scholarship Program, The Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners, Accessed January 2018, https://afte.org/resources/scholarship-program