Online Forensic Science Graduate Degrees
Online Forensic Science Graduate Programs live at the intersection of the legal and medical fields. Some programs look at criminal justice through the lens of science, to help students develop an ability to piece together crime scene evidence. Other programs may take a microscope to criminal behavior or cyber crime.
written by Rana Waxman
Online Forensic Science Graduate Programs: Overview
There are a range of Online Forensic Science Graduate Programs and degrees—including masters, doctoral, and certificate options. A graduate level forensic science degree could acquaint students with modern industry practices and innovative methods used in investigations and evidence collection.
In some cases, accredited online forensic science programs are offered through a university’s department of criminal justice and legal studies. However, other academic departments (e.g., chemistry, biology, accounting, psychology) might offer forensic science as an emphasis or concentration.
Many programs include a wide variety of advanced courses in areas such as chemistry, biology and criminalistics, which students could take via pre-recorded lectures or modules. Aside from coursework, students could become familiar with the intricacies of scientific research and independent inquiry.
Sometimes, there is an internship which could fit seamlessly into a student’s busy life, since arrangements are often made close to a student’s home base. Laboratory work could also be necessary, and online schools for forensic science may work in some type of residency or, students might have access to a local lab.
What Is Forensic Science?
Forensic Science is all about the application of any science and scientific methods to the law and crime solving. Branches of forensic science are rooted in disciplines such as the physical, biomedical and social sciences.
What Is the Difference Between Criminalistics and Forensic Science?
Criminalistics is one of many divisions in the field of forensic science. Criminalists use scientific techniques to investigate and solve crimes. They are largely concerned with the analysis of evidentiary items and might testify in court as to his or her findings.
For this reason, online forensic science degrees with a focus in criminalistics might provide in-depth coursework in areas such as firearms and tool marks, DNA and serology, Drugs, Alcohol and Toxicology. That said, students who pursue a forensic science degree online often take courses in criminalistics within the requirements.
Types of Forensic Science
As a science, forensics are unbiased and seek out the truth of what happened so that justice could be served. In this multi-faceted field, there are several types of forensic science that could be studied independently through an online program. Keep professional goals in mind to help you determine which online forensic science degree course list might be appropriate for you.
Forensic Psychology is where the field of psychology meets the law. Students might learn how to assess the mental health of perpetrators and establish criminal profiles.Curriculums could prepare students with the skills necessary to apply psychological theory to criminal behavior.
Forensic Entomology is often quickly defined as the study of bugs, though it is somewhat more complex. In effect, this is the branch of science that looks at insects and their offspring. That said, there are several ways that insects might be used vis a vis the criminal justice system. For instance, they could cause accidents, be used as weapons of abuse, indicate neglect, and show up in decomposed remains.
Forensic Anthropology is the application of the science of physical or biological anthropology to the legal process. Students of this discipline primarily focus their studies on the human skeleton. One requirement of individuals who want to sit for the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA) Certification Examination is a doctorate degree.i
Forensic Pathology is concerned with questions such as how and why a victim died, especially in cases when foul play is suspected. Students could learn to perform autopsies and pinpoint the causes and manners of death. They might also collaborate with other forensic professionals such as Forensic Dentists who use dental records to identify human remains.
Forensic Toxicology involves the detection and classification of chemical substances that produce adverse physiological effects. Students might learn how to analyze blood and tissue samples to detect the presence of drugs, alcohol, or other chemicals. Other courses might have students spend time in the laboratory to learn methods such as spectrophotometric and chromatographic analyses.
Digital Forensics could meld course work in criminal justice and computer science. Students might learn about the world of cyberspace and cybersecurity, digital forensics investigation, cybercrime and cyber incident analysis. Other coursework might delve into forensic accounting and how to detect and prevent fraud.
Criminology is the study of crime and criminals. Students might reasonably expect to study the criminal justice system as well as various law enforcement methods and agencies. As a sub field of sociology, there is often a discussion of the social impact of crime and an analysis of crime rates to determine causes and means of prevention.
Online Masters in Forensic Science Programs
Online Masters in Forensic Science programs usually award a Master of Science (MS) degree.A general MS in Forensic Science program typically aims to provide students with a deeper grasp of how to investigate and reconstruct a crime scene.
Curriculums usually encompass multiple disciplines to help students derive a well-rounded knowledge and refined skills. Also, the holistic approach may foster an ability to think critically and solve problems. To cap their program, students may have to conduct some reason on their own to complete a project.
Often, a MSFS online program contains core courses in forensic biology, forensic chemistry, forensic analysis, genetics, statistics and toxicology. A typical program might also cover criminal law and ethics along with a class in quality assurance.
Further examples of possible course topics might include the following.
- Forensic Medicine
- Pharmacology and Drug Analysis
- Forensic DNA Analysis
These courses may be balanced-out with more hands-on techniques in chemical instrumental analysis and DNA technology which might be learned in laboratories. Online students may be afforded the opportunity to reinforce their laboratory skills via internship arrangements with practicing forensic laboratories affiliated with their chosen school for forensic science.
While the bulk of coursework is usually devoted to compulsory topics, many degree plans provide room for students to zero in on an emphasis in a subfield. These concentrations vary between forensic science grad schools. See below for a few examples, then refer to individual programs.
- Human Identity and Trauma Analysis – E.g. research into violent behavior
- Forensic Behavioral Analysis – E.g. forensic anthropology and cultural ecology
- Economic Crime – E.g. corporate fraud and network security
Criteria for admission differ, especially given the array of forensic science programs, though applicants usually need a Bachelors degree. Some Masters programs may require students to have related undergraduate coursework (or a specific major). GRE scores, an essay and recommendations may also be requested in an application.
Online MS in Criminal Justice – Crime Analysis
An online Master of Science in Criminal Justice could provide a holistic set of coursework in the wider area of criminal justice along with a deeper look at crime analysis theories.
Coursework could start off with an overview of the legal and ethical issues and trends in criminal justice. Students might discuss the major crime problems and statistics along with specific crime control issues.
Students might also explore the nature and causes of crime, the diverse justice agencies and personnel and how key decisions are made by these justice agents. With the organic features of the American legal system, participants might study to grasp how criminal justice agency management might impact the quality of service to community residents.
In addition to research methods and statistical applications used in the study of crime, a syllabus might include topics such as the ones listed as follows.
- Computer Applications in Crime Analysis
- Community Policing and Investigation
- The Criminal Intelligence Process
- Geographic Information Systems
To cap their program, students may have to complete a crime analysis project.
Online MS in Forensic Psychology
An online Master of Science in Forensic Psychology (MSFP) program could address the reasons and motives that underlie criminal behavior. Curriculums could immerse students in the psychology of criminality though not necessarily through the lens of counseling.
For instance, the coursework in the MSFP program offered through partner school, NCU examines the use and application of psychology principles in correctional settings. While it does not prepare students to pursue licensure, the strong focus on research and statistical analysis could serve as a platform to a doctoral level degree.
In the NCU program, students might learn how to identify traits of victimization and offenders, antecedents of aggression, and offender treatment strategies. A class in criminal profiling could enhance students’ ability to reason, detect and assess behavior. Other topics might cover the following.
- Offender-authority Behavior
- Prejudice and Bias
- Clinical Definitions of Deviant Behavior
A non-clinical internship and final project may be expected.
DID YOU KNOW?
Employment of forensic science technicians is projected to grow 17 percent from 2016 to 2026 (BLS).ii
Online Forensic Science Certificate
An online Forensic Science Certificate is a non-degree program where students could take graduate level courses to build skills and knowledge in a targeted area. Most certificates are themed around a single topic and might therefore draw the attention of at-work professionals who want to reboot a resume.
For instance, students drawn to cybercrime could look for a Computer Forensics Certificate. This type of certificate might help students learn how to retrieve, preserve and analyze digital evidence. Digital evidence could be anything from documents and images to data, etc. that is stored devices such as personal computers, tablets, and cell phones.
Online students might also learn some of the tools necessary to identify, and appropriately respond to, attacks on local- and wide-area networks. The curriculum might cover a series of Criminal Justice and Cyber Security courses along with electives. Students might tailor their certificate through an emphasis in Cybercrime Investigations or IT Audit/Fraud Examination.
Online PhD in Forensic Science Programs
Online PhD in Forensic Science programs are doctorate degrees that may appeal to students and professionals with niche research interests along with some experience.
Most of the programs at this level fall into one of the subfields of the discipline – (forensic) chemistry, clinical psychology, forensic anthropology etc.—there may be few terminal degree options in forensic science offered specifically online.
Accredited Online Forensic Science Programs
The primary agency responsible for the accreditation of online Forensic Science Graduate Programs is the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). All programs that FEPAC accredits are housed within institutions regionally accredited agencies. FEPAC approval is based on consensus standards for academic quality.
Why Earn a Forensic Science Degree Online?
Online Forensic Science Graduate Programs could make a graduate degree more accessible to busy students and at-work professionals. Sometimes, a university might offer its campus program via a web platform, which usually means the lectures are presented live and then uploaded to the online platform.
Other schools may use modules which are designed specifically for distance learners. Either way, the course management platform typically allows for scheduling flexibility. Material may be viewed from the convenience of a home computer or on-the-go from a mobile device.
Online students are often able to connect with classmates and alumni from around the world through online, interactive discussion boards and forums. This could be an asset for current professionals who want to keep their finger on the pulse of trends and technology used in other areas of the nation and/or world.
Who might want to pursue an online forensic science degree? Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 outlook, a graduate degree in forensic science may be helpful for those who seek advancement in this broad field. iii
Choose an Online Forensic Science Graduate Program
Further investigate options for online forensic science degrees from partner schools. Refine your preference of degree level, then easily contact schools. All you do is fill out an on-page form to take the next step.
[i] theabfa.org/faq/applicants/ | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm#tab-6 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm#tab-4
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