Forensic Investigation Schools: How to Choose

Forensic investigation programs cover topics as diverse as DNA analysis, fingerprinting, court testimony and forensic photography. Public and private colleges and universities across the U.S. offer associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs as well as certificate programs in forensic investigations and forensic science.

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Quality forensic investigation programs provide students with a solid foundation in forensic science courses, complete with laboratory experience. Programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Schools with Forensic Science Programs

These schools offer programs related to forensic science and crime scene investigation:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (In-state, 2015-2016)*
Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AR 4-year, Public Associate $8,050 (undergraduate)
California State University-Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $6,355 (undergraduate), $6,738 (graduate)
Buffalo State University-SUNY Buffalo, NY 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $7,669 (undergraduate), $10,870 (graduate)
CUNY-John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York, NY 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $6,810 (undergraduate), $10,130 (graduate)
Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 4-year, Public Master's $16,122 (graduate)
Pennsylvania State University - Main Campus University Park, PA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $17,514 (undergraduate), $19,328 (graduate)
West Virginia University Institute of Technology Morgantown, WV 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $7,632 (undergraduate), $8,568 (graduate)
Boston University Boston, MA 4-year, Private Master's $47,422 (graduate)
George Washington University Washington, DC 4-year, Private Master's $50,435 (graduate)

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Here are some items to consider when choosing a forensic science school:

  • It is important for students to make sure they meet the program's minimum admissions requirements. For instance, some schools restrict admission to students who have completed basic courses in science and math in order to provide a strong foundation for specialized forensic courses.
  • Students should try to find programs that have been accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).
  • Students who plan to specialize within the field of forensic investigations should look for programs that offer courses in their particular area of interest, which may include may include engineering sciences, anthropology, toxicology and behavioral science.
  • Students should explore the program's forensic investigation facilities. For instance, some schools have buildings dedicated to crime scene training where students receive hands-on experience collecting and analyzing evidence.

Certificate in Forensic Investigation

Some colleges and universities offer certificate programs in forensic investigation that typically take less than a year to complete. These programs are designed for students who seek entry-level law enforcement positions or for those who currently work in an enforcement-related job.

Associate Degree in Forensic Investigation

Several schools offer an associate degree in forensic investigation or crime scene technology. These 2-year programs prepare students for entry-level law enforcement positions or for continuing education at the bachelor's degree level. In addition to science courses, such as physics, chemistry and biology, students also take classes in forensic evidence, courtroom presentation and criminal procedures.

Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Investigation

Bachelor's degree programs in forensic investigation or forensic science usually take at least four years to complete and prepare students for a scientific career as a criminalist. These programs are based on a solid foundation of science courses, including a broad range of physics, chemistry and biology classes. Most programs offer students the opportunity to specialize their education to a particular field of interest within forensic science.

Master's Degree in Forensic Investigation

Master's degree programs in forensic investigation or forensic science usually take at least two years to complete and allow students to develop expert skills and knowledge in the field. Graduates are qualified to give expert testimony and to hold high-level administrative positions. These programs offer specializations within the field, such as molecular biology, criminalistics or forensic toxicology. Most programs require students to complete a research-based thesis project.

Depending on students' educational backgrounds and career goals, they can choose between accredited forensic investigation degree and certificate programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some programs provide opportunities for students to specialize their studies within the field.

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