Study Crime Investigation Online: Overview of Learning Options

Find out about online crime investigation courses and in which degree programs they're most commonly offered. Get course descriptions, program info and online requirements to make an informed decision.

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Essential Information

Crime scene investigators handle the complex tasks of collecting and securing physical evidence. Rises in financial crime, including identity theft and consumer fraud, have expanded the range of criminal justice career opportunities.

Students interested in pursuing a college education in crime investigation have a number of options, including online certificates and associates, bachelor's and master's degree programs in subjects such as criminal justice or economic crime investigation. These distance learning programs, depending on degree level, are available at community colleges, four-year universities and private distance learning colleges. In addition to for-credit programs, some schools offer non-college credit crime investigation certificates through their continuing education departments. All of these programs may be available entirely online or in hybrid formats that include residencies.

Online undergraduate programs provide general education along with foundational knowledge and skills in crime scene investigations, which could help them prepare for entry-level positions in government agencies, laboratories and insurance companies, among others. Graduate programs, which are usually designed to advance professionals' skills, require applicants to have a bachelor's degree and often relevant work experience.

Program Information and Requirements

Online students attend class by accessing a virtual classroom to interact with their facilitators and submit coursework. Most online programs require minimum technological proficiencies, including basic computer skills. Students should make sure their computers are capable of running virtual crime simulations, as these are a part of some online programs. Many programs can be completed totally online, but some schools require short campus-based residencies. This tends to be more common at the graduate degree level.

Certificate in Criminal Justice

Students who wish to pursue law enforcement or corrections careers may benefit from an online criminal justice certificate program, which includes criminal justice and crime scene investigation fundamentals.

Course Topics

Certificate programs typically focus on basic criminology principles, supplemented by coursework focusing on correctional procedures. Programs may include the following coursework:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Criminology
  • Substantive Criminal Justice
  • Procedural Criminal Justice
  • Correctional Process

Certificate in Economic Crime Investigation

Escalating numbers of low-level crimes involving monetary and information resources has increased the need for criminal investigators. Certificate programs train students to use criminal justice techniques and procedures to identify financial crimes, which may qualify them to work as internal financial crime investigators or seek employment with a law enforcement agency.

Course Topics

Like criminal justice programs, an economic crime course of study establishes a foundation in criminal justice concepts. This knowledgebase is supported with information technology, finance and accounting coursework, including:

  • Forensic Accounting
  • Fraud Auditing
  • Information Security
  • Fraud Prevention and Detection

Criminal Justice Associate of Applied Science Degree

This degree program has the advantage of preparing the student for a criminal justice career, as well as providing the academic foundation necessary for a more advanced course of study. Students have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be a crime scene investigator.

Course Topics

Associate-level students receive a combination of general education classes, including math, humanities and English composition, supplemented with the following types of core classes:

  • Law Enforcement Operations
  • Judicial Function
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminology

Bachelor of Science in Economic Crime Investigation

The knowledge and practical skills obtained from this course of study qualify students to work in law enforcement cybercrimes divisions as well as organizational in-house investigators. This program enables students to understand the role that criminal investigative techniques play in the investigation of criminal acts.

Course Topics

Mandatory coursework includes a foundation in mathematics, computer science and economics, supported by a core program, which may include:

  • Jurisprudence of the Criminal Law
  • Law of Economic Crime
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Forensic Accounting
  • Criminal Justice Research Methods

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

Students who successfully complete a criminal justice bachelor-level program have a wide variety of potential employers, including law enforcement agencies, corrections and private agencies. A well-balanced curriculum promotes a blend of academic and practical knowledge necessary for a successful career.

Course Topics

Crime scene investigation principles are explored in a variety of courses designed to familiarize students with key criminal justice, corrections and criminal law concepts. Coursework may include the following:

  • Crime and Criminology
  • The Police Function
  • The Adjudication Function
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Criminal Law

Master of Science in Economic Crime Management

A master's level program focuses on cultivating knowledge and expertise necessary to investigate financial crime as well as developing leadership skills. This educational focus may lead to a multitude of career opportunities in the public as well as the private sector, including management positions.

Course Topics

Program participants explore a variety of subjects designed to develop competencies in areas that may include:

  • Fraud Management and Technology
  • Financial Investigation
  • Fraud Analysis
  • Advanced Economic Crime
  • Legal Concepts of Criminal Fraud

Graduate students in an online program typically complete a culminating course or experience, such as a thesis or major project.

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Existing law enforcement, corrections officers, probation officers and law clerks are only a few of the professionals who could benefit from this course of study, which prepares students for research and analysis of complex topics.

Course Topics

A master's level criminal justice degree program enhances the student's leadership and investigative skills. Required coursework may include:

  • Organizational Behavior and Leadership in Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Investigations
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Restorative Justice
  • Terrorism and Homeland Security

As with other master's programs, a project, thesis or comprehensive exam may be required of prospective graduates.

Prospective undergraduate students interested in crime investigation can choose from among online certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree programs designed to introduce them to the criminal justice system. Online master's degree programs are also available for current professionals who want to advance their careers.

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