The Best Online Crime Scene Investigation Programs
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What Colleges Have The Best CSI Programs?
Crime scene investigation requires a wide range of skills and specialized training. Our list of the best online bachelor's degrees in crime scene investigation explores the programs that are most likely to help students succeed.
Pursuing a career as a crime scene investigator can be lucrative and exciting. Sometimes called crime scene technicians or forensic investigators, these detectives specialize in crime scene investigation, responsible for identifying, collecting, and preserving physical evidence at crime scenes. Students can learn how to become a crime scene investigator through a bachelor's program.
Employers — especially federal agencies like the FBI — increasingly require crime scene investigators to hold a bachelor's degree. The best bachelor's degrees in criminal justice include coursework in crime scene evaluation, evidence collecting, and documenting crime scene investigations. Many professionals also have specialties in areas like fingerprints, DNA, or tire or footwear impressions.
Crime scene investigators enjoy steady job growth and the potential to earn a high salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual salary of more than $86,000 for detectives and criminal investigators in 2019. BLS also projects a 3% increase in employment for detectives and criminal investigators from 2018-2028.
The following ranking represents some of the nation's best online bachelor's in crime scene investigation programs.
Featured Online Crime Scene Investigation Programs
Best Online Bachelor’s in Crime Scene Investigation Programs
Online Bachelor's in Crime Scene Investigation Programs Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
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Featured Criminal Justice Programs
What Is a Crime Scene Investigation Degree?
Students seeking a career as a crime scene investigator or forensic technician often seek out a BS in crime scene investigation or criminology, though many schools only offer crime scene investigation as a concentration within a criminal justice or law enforcement degree. These programs also help students develop soft skills in judgment, empathy, and perceptiveness.
Earning a bachelor's in crime scene investigation typically requires coursework in human anatomy, physics, criminology, forensic science, and crime scene photography. Students can augment the degree with a particular specialty through electives like fingerprint analysis, cyber forensics, or blood-spatter analysis.
After completing a bachelor's degree, many crime scene investigators undergo on-the-job training, which can include shadowing a detective or crime scene investigator on an open case.
What Should I Expect From a Bachelor's in Crime Scene Investigation Program?
Bachelor's degrees in crime scene investigation offer a unique combination of theoretical and technical skills. This often includes broad coursework in forensic science that trains students to apply best practices in collecting and preserving evidence. Below are a few example courses that a student in one of these programs might take.
Crime Scene Investigation Curriculum
Crime Scene Photography
A critical skill for aspiring crime scene investigators, crime scene photography courses vary by program. Some programs include basic photography skills in handling equipment, including understanding things like exposure and shutter speed, while others explore more technical aspects, like digital reflex single-lens camera systems, scales/markers, filters, and flash photography.
A forensic science course examines scientific methods of processing physical evidence in order to solve a crime. Topics include identifying and isolating biological materials -- like blood, DNA, or hair -- and implementing practices commonly used in the field, like blood pattern analysis and trace evidence processing.
This course provides students with an overview of crime and punishment, both as a concept and as enacted through the U.S. legal system. Students develop a thorough understanding of common crimes, criminal law terminology, and the burden of proof in criminal defense.
Crime Scene Investigation Careers
Students who pursue higher education and have experience in crime scene investigation can enter their choice of careers. While a bachelor's degree meets the minimum standard for entry-level crime scene investigator requirements, it also provides a foundation for other careers in forensic science or law enforcement.
The following careers are popular among graduates of crime scene investigation programs.
Criminal investigators help solve criminal cases by gathering information and evidence from crime scenes, witnesses, suspects, and related parties. They commonly specialize in a particular type of crime, such as fraud, homicide, or white-collar crime. Many law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, require candidates to hold at least a bachelor's degree and undergo extensive on-the-job training.
Criminal investigators must complete police academy training and be sworn in as law enforcement agents to be eligible for promotion to this position. In addition to physical strength and stamina, candidates should demonstrate strength of character through traits like empathy, leadership, perceptiveness, and sound judgment.
Median Annual Salary
Projected Growth Rate
Forensic science technicians collect and process physical evidence at crime scenes to support criminal investigations. They may work as criminalists or crime scene investigators -- focused on identifying and collecting evidence -- or they may work in a lab as a forensic chemist or forensic biologist. Forensic science technicians can also specialize in cyber crime, becoming digital forensics analysts or forensic computer examiners.
Forensic science technicians need at least a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related field, plus on-the-job experience. They must undergo supervised training in specialized lab procedures before they can operate independently, which often requires passing a proficiency exam for each specialty. The field also offers a variety of optional professional certifications.
Median Annual Salary
Projected Growth Rate
This occupation includes detectives and criminal investigators, sheriffs, and patrol officers, who are charged with protecting people and property. Whether working for municipal, state, or federal law enforcement agencies, they must routinely respond to emergency and nonemergency calls. However, police departments in the United States have faced backlash for corruption and abuse of power, and you should carefully consider your goals before pursuing this career.
Most police jobs require only a high school diploma, though detectives often need a bachelor's degree. Federal agencies like the FBI often require a college degree as well. Police officers must complete police academy training to qualify for entry-level jobs, and most detectives start their careers as police officers.
Median Annual Salary
Projected Growth Rate
Popular Questions About CSI Degrees?
How Long Does It Take to Complete a Bachelor's in Crime Scene Investigation Program?
Most bachelor's in crime scene investigation programs take four years to complete, though some schools offer accelerated completion times and flexible scheduling through online courses.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Crime Scene Investigation?
Graduates with a bachelor's in crime scene investigation qualify for jobs as crime scene investigators or criminal investigators within local, state, and federal law enforcement.
How Much Do You Make as a Crime Scene Investigator?
Detectives and criminal investigators earn a mean annual wage of $86,030. The lowest 10% earn an estimated annual wage of $44,860, while professionals in the 90th percentile earn an annual wage of $139,180.
Where Does a Crime Scene Investigator Work?
Local, federal, and state governments employ most crime scene investigators. However, some work for the U.S. Postal Service, psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, or colleges and universities, as professors of crime scene investigation.
What Is a Bachelor's in Crime Scene Investigation?
A bachelor's in this concentration of criminal justice or law enforcement introduces students to the standard practices of and science behind crime scene investigation. Earning one of these degrees often meets requirements for employment as a crime scene investigator, although professionals may also undergo on-the-job training.
What Is the Difference Between a Crime Scene Investigator and Forensic Technician?
Crime scene investigators identify and collect evidence at a crime scene. Forensic technicians process that evidence in a lab or scientific facility.
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