8 Subjects In Online Forensic Science Degrees (With Courses)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 September 2022

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The forensic science field introduces you to collecting, studying and delivering scientific evidence for the police to present to the court of law. Acquiring a forensic science degree can teach you how laboratory experiments and a thorough knowledge of chemistry, physics and mathematics make you eligible as a forensic scientist for the justice system. Learning about the course content can help you decide whether this is a career that you wish to pursue. In this article, we explain what an online forensic science degree is, evaluate eight subjects in such courses and look at forensic science programmes.

What is an online forensic science degree?

An online forensic science degree is typically a three-year course that explains investigative methods and how to use laboratory equipment to conduct experiments during the evidence-gathering phase. While some subjects like environmental studies and inorganic chemistry are essential for performing tests, others, like behavioural science and documentation, help in decoding and recording data. There are topics linked to identifying criminals through handwriting analysis and blood pattern recognition in cases of crimes such as forgery or assault. Along with this, such courses teach you important forensic science topics like toxicology, forensic anthropology and DNA breakdown and study.

Related: How To Become A Forensic Psychologist: A Complete Guide

8 common subjects in an online forensic science course

Here are eight subjects you may come across while pursuing a degree in forensic science:

1. Forensic biology

In this subject, you explore how procedures and principles in biological science assist you in collecting evidence regarding a case. Instructors may elaborate on how a comprehensive understanding of tissue and cell samples can resolve legal issues. Since forensic biology involves the study of the human body's constituents, whether a saliva sample or a hair strand, you may discover how to perform biological experiments that help in legal investigations. Another topic you study is detecting and mapping DNA samples from bloodstains and additional physical evidence. Some instances may teach you the basics of dentistry and epidemiology as well.

2. DNA isolation

As the name suggests, DNA isolation teaches the specifics of isolating DNA after extracting a sample. It also explains how to use gear during DNA experimentation with the primary goal of generating a DNA profile and helping provide evidence. You may learn how to cleanse DNA using natural or chemical methods while separating it from its surroundings, such as cellular components and proteins. Once separate, you study how to use successfully isolated DNA to develop evidence diagnosis and drug testing tactics. Moreover, DNA isolation helps analyse fingerprints and also determine patronage in particular cases.

3. Forensic ballistics

As criminal cases may involve shooting incidents, you learn how to evaluate incidents and evidence material from gunshot wounds, bullets, cartridges and other firearm components. Forensic ballistics breaks down each piece of equipment under the ammunition category and offers practical experience in identifying bullets, barrels, firing pins and many indentation types on the evidence. You are introduced to multiple 2D and 3D microscopes to perform a comparison between bullets and cartridge cases. Some of the comparison mediums include the borescope, Striagraph, periphery camera and photographic comparison. In short, you become skilled at identifying the weapon source of a fired bullet.

Related: A Guide To Forensic Science Careers (With Salary Information)

4. DNA profiling

DNA profiling is a branch of forensic science that attempts to trace the origin of body-fluid samples found in evidence materials or crime scenes. It often requires a strong biology, physics and mathematics foundation to conduct tests on DNA samples and identify their source. Owing to the biological nature of this subject, it can assist in figuring out family relationships and the identity of disaster victims. This subject also educates you on genetics and molecular biology. Such lessons can prepare you for the duties of DNA analysts and give you practical experience in a variety of DNA profiling methodologies.

5. Blood pattern analysis

To make it simpler to identify blood stains and reconstruct a crime's events, forensic science courses teach you how to examine the distribution, state, size and location of blood stains. Forensic scientists typically use swab samples to determine the DNA profile of the blood and follow up on the characteristics of the stains. The course teaches a series of analytical blood recognition concepts that help find the wound's cause, the direction of the attack, the victim or attacker's positioning and even the attacker's movements right after the crime. Such details may guide senior investigators to recreate the sequence of events.

6. Personal identification

This subject explains how to identify the source of any human component, be it living, unalive or partially damaged. Besides being an essential tool in crime scene investigations, it might give insights into the victim's age, race, gender and bodily characteristics. Students typically come across facial reconstruction techniques and use their knowledge of DNA identification to take up personal identification projects. You might perform practical tests through hypothetical crime situations during exams. Also, being aware of personal identification methods in forensic science makes you eligible to solve missing persons, impersonation and bomb blast cases.

Related: How To Become A Toxicologist: A Step-By-Step Guide

7. Arson and explosion investigation

Arson and explosion studies introduce you to properties of materials vulnerable to fires, types of fires and the entire research and evidence preservation process. Typically, students learn how to investigate and differentiate natural, electrical or human-made fires, whether at the fire scene or in the laboratory. You may perform experiments on fire debris and determine the initial cause of the fire and whether it was intentional or accidental. Another field of crime this subject covers relates to bomb blasts and other explosions, along with proven methods to gather, examine and predict outcomes of arson cases.

8. Cyber forensics

This sub-field of forensic science focuses on gathering, analysing and recovering digital information in cyberspace. You learn varying tactics to track the digital activities of criminals, discover their location and uncover their identity. To improve your knowledge of cybersecurity architectures, you study various anti-breaching principles and how to recover deleted data from hard drives and memory cards. As the course progresses, topics related to forensic psychology, mobile forensics, biometric image processing and forensic engineering may guide you in becoming a cybercrime forensic specialist.

Career prospects after an online forensic science course

Here are three job opportunities you can apply for after completing your forensic science degree:

1. Forensic scientist

National average salary: ₹27,558 per month

Primary duties: As a forensic scientist, you are responsible for examining evidence and coming to conclusions regarding the crime. While you may spend most of your time in the laboratory conducting scientific experiments, you may also communicate with law enforcement officers to present the results. Some situations may require you to create reports with graphs and images reporting your findings. Depending on your cases, you can work with chemicals and microorganisms to come to evidence-based conclusions on criminal activity.

2. Crime investigator

National average salary: ₹1,63,344 per year

Primary duties: Criminal investigators use evidence-gathering methods to search crime scenes and collect any possible proof of crime for their laboratory team. You might use this information to identify correct suspects and organise a chain of custody for your research. In certain instances, you can retain records to verify facts and complete a storyline. Based on your duties, you may conduct interrogations and record statements to match them to any physical evidence.

Related: How To Become A Criminologist (Skills, Advantages And Careers)

3. Police officer

National average salary: ₹29,012 per month

Primary duties: In the field of forensic science, police officers study crime scenes and mark the areas and items that could be evidence. If higher authorities permit it, they collect such evidence and preserve it for laboratory testers to examine. Often, you take images on the crime scene and use image modification tools to trace a criminal's actions. Some police officers may even work on securing crime locations by creating barriers around the perimeter and monitoring any suspicious activity in the area.

Which online forensic science degree can you apply to?

You can apply for a three-year course in Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science. Provided you have cleared the 12th grade in the science stream with a minimum of 70%, you are eligible for admission. Forensic science aspirants can also apply for the following programmes:

  • six-month course with an Advanced Diploma Certification in Forensic Science and Criminology

  • six-month course in Diploma in Document Examination

  • six-month course in Diploma in Fingerprint Examination

  • one-year course with a Post Graduate Diploma in Cyber Crime Investigation and Computer Forensics

  • one-year course with a Post Graduate Diploma in Forensic Psychology

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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