- Distance Learning, Blue Ridge Community College, Accessed April 2017, http://www.blueridge.edu/academics/distance-learning
- eLearning Services, Prince George's Community College, Accessed April 2017, http://www.pgcconline.com/aboutOnlineLearning/degreeCertificatePrograms.html
- Forensics Undergraduate Certificate, American Public University, Accessed April 2017, http://www.apu.apus.edu/academic/schools/security-and-global-studies/certificate-ug/forensics.html
- Investigative Forensics Bachelor's Degree, University of Maryland, University College, Accessed April 2017, http://www.umuc.edu/academic-programs/bachelors-degrees/investigative-forensics-major.cfm
- Law Enforcement, Fox Valley Technical College, Accessed April 2017, https://www.fvtc.edu/programs/public-safety/law-enforcement - 105044
- Online Investigative Forensics Bachelor's Degree, University of Maryland University College, Accessed August 2017, http://www.umuc.edu/academic-programs/bachelors-degrees/investigative-forensics-major.cfm
- Crime Scene Investigator School, National University, Accessed August 2017, h https://www.nu.edu/OurPrograms/CollegeOfLettersAndSciences/MathematicsAndNaturalSciences/Programs/GraduateCertificateinForensicandCrimeSceneInvestigati.html
- Crime Scene Investigation (CSI), UCR Extension, Accessed August 2017, https://www.extension.ucr.edu/certificates/9698316
- Associate in Applied Science in Administration of Justice Studies, Mesa Community College, Accessed August 2017, https://www.mesacc.edu/programs/course-sequences/administration-of-justice-studies-aas
- Crime Scene Technician Certificate, Kaplan University, Accessed August 2017, https://www.kaplanuniversity.edu/degree-programs/criminal-justice/crime-scene-technician-certificate/
- Master of Science in Crime Scene Investigation, George Washington University, Accessed August 2017, https://forensicsciences.columbian.gwu.edu/master-science-crime-scene-investigation
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Several hit television shows have given viewers a peek into the field of crime scene and forensics, and as a result, interest in this field is surging. With all this renewed attention, competition for the top jobs in this sector can be tough. By completing a crime scenes and forensics degree program, you can show potential employers that you have what it takes to get the job done both in and outside of the lab. However, finding the time to get to campus-based classes can be a difficult proposition. Don't let this dissuade you, though: online crime scene and forensics degree programs exist that can take the pressure of time and transportation off your shoulders, and we're here to help you find just the right program to suit your needs.
Featured Online Colleges for Crime Scene & Forensics in 2018
Students wanting to find that perfect school for online education in crime scene and forensics can look to this list for help. We put this list together using the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)'s data and our unique methodology. At the bottom of this page, below our list of five featured online colleges for crime scene and forensics, those who are curious can find details about the methodology used for the selection of this list.
Blue Ridge Community College
Fox Valley Technical College
Prince George's Community College
American Public University Systems
University of Maryland-University College
Degree Overview: Crime Scene Investigation & Forensics
It would be understandable if a new student just starting an online program for crime scene & forensics felt worried that the field might be too much to handle. To help put such uncertainties to rest, this section is a sneak peek of some common courses that may be found in these programs and the skills that will be important for the coursework and the careers to come afterwards, providing a brief overview of what to expect in these programs.
Online Crime Scene Investigation & Forensics Courses
Online programs for crime scene and forensics strive to give students a genuine view of what it's like to work in the field. The following are examples of some of the more common classes that may be available in the program, depending on the specific school students enroll in.
- Fingerprint analysis: Crime scene and forensics professionals often work with fingerprint evidence during a case, so this course is designed to teach students how to do it. Coursework may cover specifics such as latent fingerprint collection, the Henry fingerprint classification system, the presentation of fingerprint evidence in court, legal standards for the use of fingerprints in a case and automated fingerprint systems.
- Forensic pathology: Whether someone has died because of homicide, suicide or accident, forensic pathologists are tasked with determining the cause and manner of death. Forensic pathology classes cover how these professionals examine a body to find out how someone died. Areas covered may include autopsy techniques, anatomy and physiology, estimating time of death, the effects of disease and trauma on a body, and medico-legal terminology.
- Crime scene management: People in this course have the chance to learn about the theories of crime scene management and the legal issues related to evidence. Areas addressed in the class might include topics such as physical evidence collection and preservation, the perishability of certain types of evidence, crime scene documentation through methods such as sketching and diagramming, and safety issues that may arise at a crime scene.
- Crime scene photography: This class generally covers the techniques that are used to capture different types of crime scenes — including assaults, homicides and burglaries — in photographs. Professors may discuss photograph focus and exposure, equipment selection and close-up photography. In addition, documenting specific types of evidence, like blood stains and fingerprints, may be covered. Some courses may require students to complete hands-on exercises.
- Questioned document analysis: Questioned document examiners are often used in cases involving fraud when the authenticity of a document or signature is in question. Students who take this course will likely study the principles of handwriting, paper and fiber analysis, questioned document examination methods and duplication processes.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
Crime scene investigation and forensic analysis requires the ability to reconstruct a crime and find the truth of how it occurred. This is a vital piece of the criminal justice system, and students in online programs for crime scene and forensics are exposed to the skills they need to provide that piece. The following are examples of some of the relevant skills students may obtain in their program.
- Verbal communication: Forensics professionals often give testimony in court, which requires the ability to explain complicated scientific principles to laypeople on a jury. In addition, they must be able to communicate effectively with attorneys, as well as their peers, so speaking skills are needed to convey the important information they have.
- Math and science: Crime scene and forensics workers must understand the underlying scientific principles that guide the work they do, as well as statistics, in order to analyze evidence effectively. As a result, they must develop math and science skills to make sense of what is found at crime scenes.
- Learning: The forensics field is constantly changing, so it's important that professionals keep abreast of new methodologies as they develop. Strong learning skills, as well as a sense of curiosity, are needed to motivate workers to continue attending classes and seminars long after they've completed their degree.
- Detail orientation: Evidence at a crime scene tells a story about what happened, and in order to ensure that story is complete, workers must pay close attention to everything around them. To thoroughly and properly process a crime scene, they should be detail oriented enough to find even the smallest piece of evidence.
- Written communication: Professionals in the forensics field are required to document their work thoroughly in order to give attorneys what they need to win a case. Written communication skills are necessary to create reports detailing the tests they've done and their findings.
CSI and Forensics Specializations
The science behind crime scene investigation and forensics is always evolving, so it's a good idea for people in these jobs to stay abreast of new developments. One way these professionals can keep their knowledge current is by earning a certification — which can also open doors in their careers.
Those who are interested in a credential can get one from the International Association for Identification, which offers the following designations:
- The Certified Crime Scene Investigator is for workers who have completed at least 48 hours of instruction and one year of professional experience.
- The Certified Crime Scene Analyst is earned by professionals who have completed at least three years of work experience and 96 hours of coursework.
- The Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst is for more seasoned professionals with six years of experience in the field and 144 hours of training. In addition, those who want to earn this credential are required to work as a crime scene instructor, write an article in a professional journal or make a presentation at an industry association meeting.
In addition, the International Crime Scene Investigators Association offers a certification for professionals with at least two years of experience working for a law enforcement agency like a state police department, municipal police department or country sheriff's office. The American College of Forensic Examiners Institute has designations for those who demonstrate expertise in areas like crime scene investigation, homicide, trials, death investigations and psychological autopsies.
Crime Scene & Forensics Career Outlook
Apprehending murderers to shoplifters and everything in between, crime scene and forensics professionals are on the front lines of the crime-solving business. Each worker in this field is part of an intricate puzzle that helps to apprehend offenders and prevent crimes whenever possible. These are their stories.
People who pursue detective and criminal investigator careers conduct investigations on behalf of local, state or federal law enforcement agencies. After they have finished their investigations, they make recommendations on whether or not district attorneys have enough evidence to pursue prosecutions. The specific job titles of these professionals include police detectives, criminal investigators, intelligence analysts, fire inspectors, immigration and customs inspectors, and special agents. Workers in these careers are responsible for examining crime scenes and making sense of the evidence, checking the condition of the victim, testifying in court, creating reports that detail their investigation, working with informants, interviewing witnesses, interrogating suspects, getting information from law enforcement databases and making predictions about possible future crimes based on past data.
Criminal investigators and special agent careers involve investigating suspected violations of local, state and federal laws, as well as working closely with prosecutors to secure convictions. They obtain warrants for searches and arrests, create investigation reports, collect evidence, conduct surveillance and serve subpoenas. Professionals are expected to have several important skills, such as active listening, verbal and written communication, time management, decision making and problem solving abilities. In addition, a certain degree of skill with technology is important, so they can use systems like the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System and National Crime Information Center database. Extensive knowledge of public safety, law and government, and psychology is also relevant to the position.
People in police identification and records officer careers are responsible for collecting, identifying and classifying evidence at crime scenes — which goes a long way toward helping investigators and prosecutors as they work on cases. Specific job duties include packaging, storing and retrieving pieces of evidence; comparing fingerprints using the Henry Classification or Automated Fingerprint Identification systems; interviewing suspects, witnesses and members of law enforcement; presenting evidence in court; photographing accident and crime scenes; and searching a scene for trace evidence like fibers, hairs, fingerprints or glass fragments. To do this job, workers are expected to have strong monitoring, speaking, writing, complex problem solving and time management skills. These professionals are also known as crime scene technicians, forensic specialists, crime scene investigators and criminalists.
Intelligence analysts — also known as criminal research specialists and criminal intelligence analysts — use data to understand crime patterns. In many cases, these professionals can anticipate and prevent certain criminal activities, such as terrorist attacks. Their diverse job duties include: collecting human intelligence by interacting with crime suspects and witnesses; monitoring telephone calls and other communications to make predictions about future crimes; using databases and software that house crime information; preparing reports that describe the activities of an investigation; and collecting information using radar and radio equipment. Those who pursue intelligence analyst careers should have expertise about how different types of crimes, such as narcotics, gangs, car theft and money laundering, are performed, as well as how to combat and prevent them.
Forensic science technicians are on the front lines of investigations because they're responsible for collecting and analyzing the evidence that will be used during the course of a case. While some people have become interested in pursuing forensic science technician careers because of popular crime dramas on TV, these programs only scratch the surface of what these jobs entail. People who become forensic science technicians are responsible for handling and examining evidence that can solve crimes, which entails taking photographs and creating sketches of a crime scene; cataloging and preserving evidence; and determining the best method for collecting items at a scene. Back at the lab, their duties change, becoming focused on analyzing evidence using chemical and biological tests; examining items under a microscope; reconstruction crime scenes; and working closely with experts who have specialized knowledge, such as toxicologists, entomologists and odontologists.