Online Colleges for Criminal Investigation Degrees: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online criminal investigation school. Keep reading to get an overview of the program options, career opportunities, and common topics offered for the field of study.

At many schools, online studies in criminal investigation fall under the umbrella of criminal justice or criminology. The best approach when searching for a school is to decide how you plan to use your degree and how long you wish to spend on your studies, as well as checking the admission requirements.

How to Select an Online Criminal Investigation School

One should understand a few key factors when choosing online schools in criminal investigation. Elements of criminal investigation are often included in undergraduate and graduate degrees in criminal justice and criminology, which can be found online. Online schools offer associate, bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice and criminology. A student's career goals and the length and cost of the degree program must be considered when choosing an online criminal investigation degree program.

Program Level and Time Requirements

An associate's degree program requires fewer credit hours than a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree, which really focuses in on a student's area of interest, requires fewer credit hours than an associate degree. Of course, master's degree programs feature more advanced coursework and have greater admissions requirements than associate's degree programs.

Career Goals and Education Requirements

Applicants should consider their career goals, and the education requirements for those careers. If they wish to work in law enforcement, security or a crime lab, an associate or bachelor's degree might be appropriate. For those who want to teach about criminal investigations and criminal justice in post-secondary schools, a master's degree is often required.

Tuition and Associated Costs

Many programs charge students a fee for each credit hour completed while others charge a flat fee. In some cases, the fee includes course materials and textbooks. Depending on the school, students may be required to obtain computer equipment or media, including a Web camera. Schools will set their tuition requirements before or at the time registration. Students may not learn of required materials until they obtain a syllabus for each class they wish to complete.

List of Common Online Criminal Investigation Programs

Online Associate of Art in Criminal Justice

Applicants can expect to complete anywhere from 60-96 or more credits as they work toward the associate's degree in criminal justice. Upon completion of this program, graduates may find entry-level careers in law enforcement, as investigators or crime scene technicians. These programs take approximately 2 years to complete, and during that time, some of the skills that students learn include documentation and classification of fingerprints. Students take courses in:

  • Law enforcement
  • Criminal law
  • Criminal justice system
  • Corrections and the courts

Online Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice

If applicants do not have credits from a community college or associate degree program, they can expect to earn a bachelor's degree in four years. Bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice allow students to concentrate their studies in specific areas, including criminal investigation. For those who specialize in criminal investigation, required course work includes learning about:

  • Blood stain and advanced crime analysis
  • Leadership in criminal justice
  • Collection and preservation of evidence
  • Criminal behavior

Online Master's Degree in Criminal Justice

An online master's degree in criminal justice prepares students for a career teaching in a college or university setting, or as probation or corrections officers. A master's degree in criminal justice requires that students complete at least 36 credit hours, taking theoretical and technological courses. Students take courses in:

  • Survey criminological theories
  • Computer applications
  • Statistics
  • Prevention and treatment of crime and delinquency

Schools with Online Criminal Investigation Programs

Arizona State University offers a fully online Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice, as well as a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice. The undergraduate program focuses on communications, analysis, and research in order to prepare students for work in higher-level criminal justice occupations. The graduate courses culminate in a capstone thesis that can be completed in as little as eighteen months.

Portland State University also features an online bachelor's degree in criminology and criminal justice. There are no campus visits required for this degree, and along with the bachelor's, other certificate and graduate certificate programs are available to supplement a student's program. Curriculum focuses on leadership, criminal behavior, and crime analysis. Applicants must have at least 30 semester hours of college work to transfer into the program. With eligible transfer credits, it is possible to finish the program in a little over a year.

Florida State University offers both a bachelor's and master's degree in criminology. The bachelor's program, a part-time program designed for working individuals and those who already possess at least an associate degree, requires completion of an oral competency. The master's program requires each student to already hold a bachelor's degree, and the 36-credit program has a selection of electives in advanced areas.

Potential criminal investigation students will want to look into the level of study they wish to pursue in an online program when choosing a school. Both undergraduate and graduate options are available, and certain programs may have courses more tailored to their preferred specialization.

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