Forensic Science is still so new a discipline that it can be difficult to find a program near where you live. If you’re younger, and you’ve make the decision to pursue forensic science as an unmarried, unattached twenty-something, it’s often easier to uproot and settle near a top-notch accredited program for four years. Such a brick-and-mortar education, we concede, is second to none. But what about returning students? What about those who choose later in life to pursue forensic science as a career?
The last decade has seen an explosion of online schools. In the early days, online schools were rather rudimentary — it often involved just watching a grainy, recorded video of a professor delivering a recorded lecture three nights a week; researching and submitting papers and projects online; and perhaps doing an online timed assessment or essay from time to time.
Fast forward a few years, and web 2.0 technology improved to allow real-time interaction among the students, both audio and video. Forensic topics that may have been unclear could be expounded upon real-time — gone were the days when students would post messages in poorly-designed message boards for fellow students to answer, or IT-unsavy professors to read (maybe) in 3 days when their secretaries printed it out for them.
As forensics has gained traction at colleges and universities around the US, programs are increasingly putting more money into hiring teaching fellows, teaching assistants, and adjunct and tenure-track faculty in forensic science. This investment of capital in forensic science online training has, thankfully, reduced online class size, giving individual students more opportunity to stand out in the (online) crowd.
While online schools will never be able to deliver an identical quality of education as more traditional programs — nothing can replace the real interaction of real students learning in a classroom — new advances in online curriculum have certainly closed the gap. The best programs have leveraged this, and then, in the final credit hours of the program, brought the students to campus a few weeks of capstone research, thesis defense, and final exams. Programs of merit and note in the US are the ones that require this.
What follows below is our list of the top 10 online forensic science training programs in the United States. Where the program offers an online bachelors in forensic science, or an online certificate in forensic science, we’ve stated so. Where accreditation information is known, we’ve presented it. Where infrequent visits to a real campus are required, we’ve also stated it. Importantly, too, is whether the forensic science program or the university that offers the online classes is for-profit or not-for-profit. As a matter of principle, we do not consider for-profit institutions in this ranking.