2021 Online PhD in Forensic Science Programs

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If you’re interested in advancing your career in the field of forensic science, you may want to consider earning a PhD in Forensic Science online.

PhD in Forensic Science Programs

Not only can a Ph.D. help you qualify for leadership or management roles in the field of forensic science, but it can also help you qualify for careers in research or academia.

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There are numerous online Doctor of Philosophy in Forensic Science programs that can enable busy professionals to earn a degree while continuing to work.

Online PhD in Forensic Science Programs

Online PhD in Forensic Science Programs

The goal of a PhD program in forensic science is to enable students to solve complex problems and make breakthrough advances in knowledge related to forensic science. With this type of degree, you may advance not only your own career but the field as a whole.

Here are some typical careers for those who study forensic science at an advanced level:

  • Detective
  • Forensic science technician
  • University or college instructor
  • Scientific researcher

Forensic PhD programs typically include a lot of coursework in various sciences, including biology, chemistry, and physics. Your advanced studies will include how to apply scientific knowledge in the legal system to solve crimes.

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While earning a doctoral degree in forensic science, you will likely study the following topics:

  • Crime scene investigation
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Forensic instrumental analysis
  • Trace and microscopical analysis
  • Forensic toxicology
  • Research methods
  • Forensic laboratory management

Many doctoral degree programs also require the completion of a dissertation to contribute new knowledge to the field. In addition, some programs require an internship to help students learn to apply theoretical knowledge in a real-world setting.

Some universities offer specialized doctoral degrees in subfields of forensic science, such as forensic chemistry or forensic psychology.

Forensic Science Careers & Salaries

Forensic Science Careers & Salaries

Most professionals in the field of forensic science are employed by the state or local government, testing laboratories, or medical and diagnostic laboratories. Others may work as investigators, either in private practice or in law enforcement.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’s a wide range of careers related to forensic science, and a doctoral degree will often qualify you for higher starting salaries. Your degree specialization can also impact your job opportunities.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Detectives and Criminal Investigators $86,940
Chemists $79,300
Postsecondary Teachers $70,790
Forensic Science Technicians, State Government $62,570
Fire Inspectors $62,120
Forensic Science Technicians, Testing Laboratories $61,540
Forensic Science Technicians, Local Government $60,870
Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians $54,180
Private Detectives and Investigators $53,320
Forensic Science Technicians, Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories $38,870

Professionals in forensic science can even work as expert witnesses in a courtroom, explaining technical evidence to a jury in order to help either the defense or the prosecution. A PhD in Forensic Science can also help you qualify for teaching positions in colleges or universities.

Forensic Science Doctorate Curriculum

Forensic Science Doctorate

Here are examples of courses you might take as part of a forensic science doctoral degree program:

  • Forensic Instrumental Analysis: This course is intended to further your understanding of instrumental techniques for examining physical evidence, such as spectrophotometry, chromatography, and electrophoresis.
  • Law and Forensic Sciences: This course teaches you how to apply scientific knowledge within the legal system.
  • Forensic Toxicology: This course covers techniques for chemically identifying drugs or other substances that may be present in biological fluids or tissues.
  • Controlled Substance Analysis: You’ll study the chemical compositions of various types of controlled substances.
  • Trace and Microscopical Analysis: This course teaches you how to use microscopes to examine trace evidence, such as hair, fibers, and particles of dust or soil.
  • Ethical Conduct: This course discusses how to determine right and wrong behavior within the field of forensic science.
  • Scientific Communications: This course teaches you how to simplify technical information and effectively communicate with laypeople.
  • Research Methods: This course covers how to ensure that a scientific study gets accurate results.
  • Forensic Lab Management: You’ll learn how to coordinate employees and tasks so that a forensic laboratory can operate efficiently.
  • Forensic Analysis of Explosives: This course explores different types of explosives and how to examine evidence in cases involving explosives.

Exact course requirements can vary at different universities. Most PhD programs include a dissertation requirement as well.

How to Become a Forensic Scientist

How to Become a Forensic Scientist

Most jobs in the field of forensic science require an associates degree or a bachelors degree. Going on to earn a graduate or doctoral degree may open up job opportunities that would not otherwise be available.

For instance, you might be able to find employment as a forensic science lab technician while holding just a bachelors degree. Rising to the position of lab manager or director, though, might require higher education.

The basic steps to becoming a forensic scientist are as follows:

  • Earn a high school diploma.
  • Earn a college degree in forensic science or a related field.
  • Seek an internship or work experience.
  • Seek professional certification if desired.
  • Seek higher education if desired.

A PhD can also be helpful if you plan to enter academia as a university professor of forensic science or if you want to conduct original scientific research to advance the field.

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You do not necessarily need to hold undergraduate degrees in forensic science in order to pursue a doctoral degree in forensic science. It is helpful, though, if your previous degrees are in a related field, such as biology or chemistry.

Having a strong scientific background can increase your chances of success in a forensic science doctoral program. In addition to earning degrees, many forensic scientists choose to earn specialty certifications through the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board.

Admissions Requirements

PhD in Forensic Science admissions

Here are some common requirements for admission to doctoral degree programs in forensic science:

  • Graduate degree. You may be required to hold a graduate degree in forensic science or a related field.
  • Official transcripts. A GPA of 3.5 is a common minimum requirement for some schools.
  • Resumé. Some schools want you to have at least 1 to 2 years of experience working in forensic science.
  • Personal essay. You’ll typically submit an essay or personal statement regarding why you are seeking a doctorate in forensic science.
  • Letters of recommendation. Only some schools require reference letters.

Exact admissions requirements may vary at different universities.

Accreditation

PhD in Forensic Science Accreditation

Attending a regionally accredited school helps ensure that you receive a quality education. Employers and other institutions also recognize and respect degrees received from regionally accredited institutions.

Undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs in forensic science can also receive programmatic accreditation from the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, or FEPAC.

A university that has a FEPAC accredited degree program in forensic science will likely also possess institutional accreditation from a regional accreditation agency. For more information about regional accreditation, you can visit the US Department of Education’s website.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

PhD in Forensic Science financial aid

There are many financial aid options that can help you finance your doctoral education if you qualify. You may be able to qualify for state or federal financial aid, grants, scholarships, or employer programs.

Many universities have funding specifically to support PhD students. Student loans can also be an option in some cases. You can try to apply for assistance from a combination of financial aid sources to make your education as affordable as possible.

To apply for federal financial aid, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

What Is a Forensic Scientist?

Forensic science technicians

A forensic scientist is someone who uses scientific evidence to help resolve legal disputes. They usually work for either private or government-run crime laboratories or for law enforcement agencies.

Forensic scientists use knowledge of biology, chemistry, technology, or other scientific disciplines. They can use their specialized skills to figure out what happened to victims of crimes or identify perpetrators in unsolved crimes. They can also explain or present the evidence to attorneys and people working in the legal system.

What Does a Forensic Scientist Do?

Forensic science technicians can visit crime scenes to take photographs and collect evidence for laboratory analysis. They may make sketches or notes about where items were found.

They try to preserve evidence carefully to ensure that they do not damage or contaminate it in ways that would render it unusable. They then take evidence to a laboratory and examine it under microscopes or run DNA tests.

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Some forensic science technicians specialize in examining specific types of evidence in a laboratory setting, such as ballistics or DNA. Others are generalists who primarily work in crime scene investigation, collecting all types of evidence.

Can You Get a PhD in Forensic Science?

A growing number of universities are offering programs in forensic science at the doctoral level.

When pursuing a PhD in Forensic Science, it is useful to have undergraduate and graduate degrees in forensic science or a related scientific discipline. It’s also helpful to have several years of work experience and a strong work ethic.

You can also pursue a PhD in a specialized subfield of forensic science, such as forensic chemistry, forensic anthropology, or forensic psychology.

What Can You Do with a PhD in Forensic Science?

PhD in Forensic Science careers

Those who possess undergraduate or master degrees in forensic science typically work as forensic science technicians, but a PhD can open the door to further career options.

A PhD is often needed for teaching at a college or university or conducting formal research. A doctorate may also help you become eligible for a high-ranking leadership or management position in a forensic laboratory. PhD graduates tend to seek more administrative or leadership positions in the field.

How Much Does a Forensic Scientist Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for postsecondary teachers is $80,790. Police and detectives earn a median salary of $67,290, and the median salary for forensic science technicians is $60,590. Most forensic science technicians make between $36,630 and $100,910 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Professionals who work in forensic science or related fields often receive full-time employment with insurance and other benefits. Crime scene investigators and lab technicians may sometimes need to work overtime or be on-call outside of normal business hours.

Can I Study Forensic Science Online?

forensic science degree programs online

Yes, a growing number of universities are offering forensic science degree programs online, even at the PhD level.

Online doctoral programs in forensic science are usually intended for professionals who already have work experience in the field of forensic science. Some online programs may require you to occasionally visit campus for exams, meetings with an advisor, or other activities.

Bachelor- or master-level online degree programs in forensic science, or even an online masters in forensic psychology, may enable you to complete local internships. This would allow you to perform hands-on work and gain connections without needing to commute to campus.

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Forensic Science Online?

PhD in Forensic Science Online

You can generally complete a PhD in 3 to 5 years, depending on how many credit hours are required by your particular program and how long it takes you to complete your dissertation.

Some PhD programs do not require a dissertation. Non-dissertation programs can usually be completed in 3 years if you take classes full-time. It is possible to work on an online PhD part-time, but it may take you longer to complete your degree.

What’s the Difference Between Digital Forensics vs. Cyber Security?

Digital forensics is a subfield of forensic science that involves examining electronic evidence. Not surprisingly, a digital forensics degree is worth it for many students wishing to enter this field.

How is digital forensics different from cyber security?

Digital Forensics Cyber Security
  • Involves using knowledge of computers and other devices to solve crimes
  • May work on cases of digital crime, such as identity theft
  • May work on cases of physical crime, such as examining digital files from a suspect’s device
  • Usually work for or with law enforcement officials or legal experts
  • Involves trying to prevent digital crimes from happening in the first
  • Ensures that websites and digital databases have safeguards against cyberattacks
  • Generally concerned only with digital crimes
  • Usually employed by private companies

Both digital forensics experts and cyber security experts possess extensive technological knowledge.

Is a PhD in Forensic Science Worth It?

Yes, a PhD in Forensic Science is worth it for many students. The field of forensic science is growing rapidly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of forensic science technicians is expected to grow 14% over the next decade, which is much faster than the average rate of growth for all occupations.

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Additionally, a career in forensic science provides opportunities to play an important role in the justice system. A PhD can also help you qualify for careers in research or academia, where you may even instruct future forensic science technicians.

Universities Offering PhD in Forensic Science Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online, on campus, or in a hybrid format.

Florida International University

Florida International University

Florida International University offers a Ph.D. in Chemistry with an emphasis in Forensic Science. To graduate, students must complete 32 credit hours with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and submit a statement of purpose, 3 letters of recommendation, and official transcripts.

Florida International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University offers a Ph.D. in Forensic Science. Students must complete 86 credit hours beyond their bachelor’s degree to graduate. The program only offers a fall semester start. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in a related field with a GPA of 3.5 or higher and 3 letters of recommendation.

SHSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida offers a Ph.D. in Chemistry with the option to study Forensic Science. To graduate, students must complete 72 credit hours beyond their bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Applicants must submit official transcripts, GRE tests scores, 3 letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume.

The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Walden University

Walden University

Walden University offers a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology. The program allows students to add 1 of 6 different specializations to their degree. Options include Crisis Repose, Legal Issues in Forensic Psychology, and a self-designed path. Those interested in the program may apply online through the school’s website.

Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

West Virginia University

West Virginia University

West Virginia University offers a Ph.D. in Forensic Science. The curriculum for the program consists of coursework and research-oriented projects. To graduate, students must complete independent research projects. Applicants must have GRE test scores of 300 or higher, a research writing example, and 3 letters of recommendation.

West Virginia University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your PhD in Forensic Science Online

PhD programs in Forensic Science Online

Getting your PhD in Forensic Science can open the door to advanced career opportunities in the field of forensics, research, or academia.

If you are a busy working professional, an online degree program may provide you with the flexibility you need to fit school into your schedule. There are many different online degree programs available, including part-time, full-time, and accelerated tracks.

If you’re ready to start your doctoral journey, you can begin by exploring online forensic science PhD programs from accredited universities.

Ready to start your journey?
Amy Wilson
WRITTEN BY
Amy Wilson
Amy attended the University of Georgia, enrolling in both online and on-campus classes. Her research and writing focuses on how differing education methodologies can affect student outcomes, as well as making education accessible to more students.