2022 Guide: Online Criminalistics and Criminal Science Degree Programs

For students who fascinated by the idea of solving crimes through the use of scientific knowledge and technology, forensic science is an intriguing field. Keep in mind that breaking into this industry requires a degree in criminalistics or criminal science, not just an interest in popular crime investigation shows. After all, you’ll need to know how to collect evidence and analyze it in a laboratory, reconstruct crime scenes, keep records, and more. Fortunately, the best online criminalistics and criminal science programs will teach you all the skills you need to start a career in forensic science.

What Is an Online Criminalistics and Criminal Science Degree Program? 

An online criminalistics and criminal science degree program can prepare you for several career paths in the vast field of forensic science. One of the most popular career paths is a forensic science technician, which requires you to show up at crime scenes to carefully pick up evidence—ranging from bodily fluids to fibers—and bring them back to a lab to be analyzed. Your findings can help solve horrific crimes, so if you like the idea of playing an important role in the mission to protect the public from suspects and get justice for victims, start looking for the best online criminal science programs.

While a forensic science technician is among the most common career paths with this degree, it’s not the only one. Other careers you can consider with a degree in criminalistics or criminal science include fingerprint analyst, blood spatter technician, evidence technician, and forensics manager. These careers focus on different aspects of solving crimes, so you might start out as a forensic science technician and then pivot to one of these specialties. Regardless, it’s clear that you’ll have several careers to choose from when you finish school, so looking at the best online criminalistics and criminal science programs is a good idea if you’re interested in this field.

Why Choose an Online Criminalistics and Criminal Science Degree? 

Graduating from one of the best online criminalistics programs can put you on the path to eligibility for a variety of careers, so job security is a tremendous benefit of this type of degree program. No matter which position in the forensic science field you apply this degree to, you’re likely to end up with a rewarding career where you can help others in the aftermath of a crime. If you gravitate toward science and are detail-oriented, you’ll especially enjoy getting involved in forensic science as a career after college, since you can put your strengths to work every day.

You can complete the degree program for this field of study online, which means you’ll have the flexibility you need if you work a full-time job in the day and cannot make it to traditional college classes on campus. With the best online criminalistics and criminal science programs, you can typically take your classes at any time and from anywhere. As long as you have access to a computer with reliable internet, the best online criminalistics programs can teach you everything you need to know about solving crimes with the help of science, technology, and investigative skills.

How Much Does a Criminalistics and Criminal Science Degree Cost? 

Most of the best online criminalistics and criminal science programs result in a bachelor’s degree for the student. This usually means you’ll be in school for approximately four years unless you move through the program faster than average. Keep in mind that it’s often easier to go at your own pace with online programs than on-campus programs, and this can save you money. If you’re able to take on more courses at once, look for an online program that will let you do so.

An online criminalistics or criminal science degree costs between $9,000 and $30,000. For example, Tiffin University’s online criminalistics program costs about $25,000 for tuition and fees. On the other hand, Grand Canyon University’s tuition for an online degree is about $17,000. While online programs often cost about the same per credit hour as on-campus options, you can usually save money online by living at home instead of moving in a dorm or apartment near campus. You also save money when you don’t have to drive to school every day, which is one reason online programs often appeal to students on a budget.

How Much Do Criminalistics and Criminal Science Majors Make?

One of the most common jobs people seek after majoring in criminal science or criminalistics is a forensic science technician. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for this job was about $60,590—or $29.13 per hour—as of May 2020. That’s definitely higher than the average wage in the U.S., making this degree a good one to get if you want a chance to make a living once you graduate from school.

Of course, your income will vary depending on where you work and how experienced you are in this field. For example, if you work for the government with this degree, you might make a little more than average, as the BLS states that the median annual wage for this type of employer is $62,570. Working in a medical or diagnostic laboratory often pays less, with an annual median income of $38,870 for employees who work in these types of labs. 

The BLS reported that the lowest 10 percent of people in this job—typically those who are new to the field—make $36,630 per year. But the highest 10 percent—the most experienced—can make more than $100,910 per year. So, while there’s a wide range of what kind of income you can expect to make with this degree, on average, you stand a chance at a lucrative career once you complete your criminalistics and criminal science program.

What Is the Job Outlook for Criminalistics and Criminal Science Degree Holders?

The most common job for those with this degree is a criminal science technician. This job outlook is bright, as BLS expects it to grow 14 percent from 2019 to 2029. This is much faster than the average for all jobs, which is 5 to 8 percent.

Scholarships for Criminalistics and Criminal Science

Graduating from one of the best online criminalistics and criminal science programs can help you get a job that pays well. But in the meantime, you might have trouble affording the tuition for the program you want. While the flexibility of online programs means you can keep your job while you work on your degree, it can still be hard to keep up with all the costs of going to school. Therefore, it’s helpful to get financial aid whenever possible.

Student loans are an option for many people, but you have to pay them back once you’re done with school. For this reason, you should look for grants and scholarships, as this is free money you don’t have to pay back. The good news is there are several scholarships for students who attend the best online criminalistics programs. Check with your school for scholarship opportunities or consider the following options:

AFTE Scholarship Program: The Association of Firearms Trademark and Tool Examiners (AFTE) awards $2,000 to students seeking a degree before starting a forensic science career.

ACS Scholars Program: The American Chemical Society (ACS) offers minority students up to $5,000 to get a degree in toxicology, forensic chemistry, or similar subjects.

ASCLD Program: The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) annually awards $1,000 to qualifying students in forensic science programs.

Donald Handeland Scholarship: This program awards up to $3,000 to Alaska residents who are pursuing a degree in science or engineering, including forensic science.

Floyd E. McDonald Scholarship: This scholarship program awards $1,000 to qualifying college juniors and seniors pursuing a degree in forensic science with at least a 3.0 GPA. 

George H. Robinson Memorial Scholarship: This program awards students $1,000 to use toward tuition at the school of their choice as they pursue a degree in forensic science or criminal justice.

Heinlein Society Scholarship: This program offers $2,000 to female students majoring in math, engineering, physical sciences, or biological sciences at a four-year university.

J. Edgar Hoover Scientific Scholarship: Every year, the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation’s scholarship awards $25,000 to a student seeking a forensic science degree.

NEAFS Scholarship Program: The Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists (NEAFS) has a scholarship program offering $1,000 to students seeking a degree in forensic science in northeast states.

NJAFS Forensic Sciences Scholarship: The New Jersey Association of Forensic Scientists (NJAFS) gives $1,000 annually to New Jersey students studying forensic science, chemistry, biology, or natural sciences.

Phoenix AISES Scholarship: This program awards $500 to $1,000 to students who are Native American, Alaskan Native, or Native Hawaiian and majoring in a STEM field—such as forensic science—at an Arizona university.

Ridgeline International Community Scholarship: This is another scholarship that awards students majoring in science, math, engineering, or technology, as it provides $5,000 to each student selected. 

Stantec Equity & Diversity Scholarship: With this award, students who belong to an underrepresented group and are pursuing a STEAM major—such as criminal science—have the chance to be awarded $1,500 to $10,000 each.

William A. Snare Memorial Scholarship: This scholarship gives $500 to students seeking a forensics-related major at a college that’s based in Nevada or California.

FAQs About Criminalistics and Criminal Science Degrees 

Summary Information

  • Programs typically take 48 to 60 months to complete
  • Online, on-site, and accelerated programs are available for students
  • Popular specialties include firearms and ballistics, blood spatter, pathology, and toxicology
  • Increase job opportunities by getting a master’s in criminalistics

  • Provides the training necessary for forensic science technicians
  • Degree can be used for a variety of careers in forensic science, even for specialists like fingerprint analysts
  • Graduates will be prepared to enter a fast-growing industry
  • Fully online programs offer students flexibility and convenience as they work on this degree

  • A high number of scholarships are available for students seeking a criminalistics or criminal science degree
  • Program costs are highly variable from one school to another,
  • Flexible online programs allow students to keep working while earning a degree, helping with education expenses
  • Higher-than-average job outlook and salary expectations in this field make criminal science programs worth the money for most students

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