Students with an interest in criminal justice and science can excel in an online crime scene investigation (CSI) program. In these programs, learners gain the legal knowledge and technical skills they need to reconstruct crimes through forensic research. Upon graduation, many learners become forensic science technicians.
Crime scene investigation offers growth that few careers today can provide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs in this field will grow by 17% between 2016 and 2026. Graduates can also become detectives or fire inspectors, for which the BLS projects growth rates of 11% and 10%, respectively. Whatever route students take, they can enjoy careers that are both personally and professionally enriching.
Choosing a Program
Prospective students should carefully research their options before choosing a CSI program. Courses often include subjects like fingerprint analysis, criminal procedure, and crime scene photography. These courses prepare students to serve integral roles in the criminal justice system. Degree candidates learn to collect and analyze crime scene evidence without contaminating it.
Some universities offer specialized courses and concentrations such as cyber forensics or homeland security. Learners who want to excel in specialized careers should ensure that their programs will help them develop the required skills. Even when schools do not have individual plans for these concentrations, students can tailor their degrees by choosing electives relevant to their interests.
Degree candidates should also choose schools that have accreditation. Institutional accreditation demonstrates that the university passes rigorous scrutiny of their academic standards. Employers and other schools recognize degrees from such institutions, but may not respect diplomas from other schools. The costs and lengths of programs should also factor into these choices. For example, learners who already hold associate degrees may choose bachelor’s programs that accept the majority of their credits.
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Online Bachelor’s in Crime Scene Investigation Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
The Best Online Bachelor’s in Crime Scene Investigation Programs
1. Florida State University, Office of Distance Learning
Florida State’s BS in crime scene investigation program prepares students to enter fields such as law enforcement, forensic science, security, and intelligence. The CSI program’s asynchronous format allows students to view lectures and materials and complete assignments at their own pace. Learners may also complete select lab courses in a week-long accelerated semester at the university’s Panama City campus.
FSU’s crime scene investigator online degree requires 60 credits and incoming students must hold an associate degree from an accredited institution. All students must maintain a 2.0 GPA at minimum to graduate. The program includes courses for prospective crime scene investigators, such as crime in media, which covers how the media affects the attitudes and behaviors of criminal offenders, the criminal justice system, and the public. Students explore how news reporting influences policy and how public officials and members of society view crime.
Florida State is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
2. University of Maryland–University College
UMUC, located in the city of Largo, offers a 120-credit investigative forensics bachelor’s degree that prepares students for careers in criminal or civil justice. The program also helps ready individuals for bloodstain pattern analyst, and crime scene and latent print certifications.
The CSI degree online program, which accepts up to 90 transfer credits, features courses on criminal procedure, medical investigations, fingerprint analysis, and firearms analysis. The programs cybercrime and security course offers an extensive exploration of computer-related and technology-related crimes, including state and federal laws and cybersecurity practices.
While most courses in UMUC’s crime scene investigator online degree program take place online, students may take some classes in a hybrid format. All distance courses feature online textbooks and asynchronous schedules, allowing learners to complete their coursework at a personalized pace. Before starting the program, students should have some familiarity with lab work and procedures, including sample preparation and the use of microscopes.
UMUC is regionally accredited from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor’s in Crime Scene Investigation Program?
Each CSI degree is unique. For example, some have concentrations that allow students to specialize in a given area. On the other hand, a CSI degree online can be a concentration within a criminal justice program. However, several classes are standard in these plans. Although the names may vary, most forensics bachelor’s students take the courses named below.
Curriculum for an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Crime Scene Investigation
- Crime Scene Photography: These courses help teach students the technical skills they need to take accurate and informative images of crime scenes. Graduates use this knowledge to interpret photographs and manage investigations.
- Crime Scene Management: It takes critical thinking, management, and resource oversight skills to manage a crime scene. These classes give degree candidates the ability to supervise the first crucial hours of an investigation.
- Criminal Procedure and Evidence: Forensics students learn how the justice system uses evidence throughout investigations and trials. This insight helps degree candidates know how to collect evidence for this purpose adequately.
- Fingerprint Analysis: Fingerprints can be crucial to finding criminals. However, professionals must collect and analyze the samples correctly. These classes give learners the tools they need to use fingerprints to identify people.
- Firearms Analysis: When criminals use guns in their offenses, investigators must identify the firearms. In these classes, degree candidates gain the technical and analytical skills they need to perform this task.
Crime Scene Investigation Careers with a Bachelor’s Degree
A crime scene investigator online degree can lead to several different careers. Many graduates become forensic science technicians who collect and analyze crime scene evidence. People with this degree can also be private detectives or fire inspectors. Many crime scene investigation careers are great for professionals with excellent analytical skills.
Forensic Science Technician: These skilled professionals go to crime scenes to collect photographic and physical evidence. Then they use laboratory equipment to analyze the clues. These workers then provide investigators with reports of their findings. Because investigations and trials rely on these technicians, many employers require candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree.
- Median Annual Salary: $57,850
- Projected Growth Rate: 17%
Private Detective: When private citizens want answers, they can turn to private detectives. These professionals analyze evidence, track suspects, and report their findings to clients. A bachelor’s degree can help make these investigators more marketable and prove their expertise. They must also be licensed to work in many states.
- Median Annual Salary: $50,700
- Projected Growth Rate: 11%
Fire Inspector: Fires often leave behind unique evidence that is difficult to interpret. As such, many jurisdictions rely on fire specialists to investigate these instances. Fire inspectors determine if flames were accidents or the results of arson. Furthermore, they enforce building codes that help keep people safe from fire.
- Median Annual Salary: $56,670
- Projected Growth Rate: 10%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics