Crime scene investigators perform duties crucial to the success of investigations — they analyze crime scenes, ensure the proper collection of evidence, take photos and create sketches, and record descriptive and statistical information. Many oversee the analysis and submission of evidence for courtroom procedures. Since evidence that is improperly prepared cannot be used in court, the duties of a crime scene investigator help ensure criminal proceedings are fair and just. With the increasing frequency of cyber crime and terrorism, many investigators are also cultivating information technology and data analytics skills.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 17% growth in forensic science jobs and 28% growth for computer forensics and security analysis jobs by 2026. Both growth rates are much higher than the national average of 7%. An online master's degree in crime scene investigation equips you with the theoretical understanding, practice skills, and professional development necessary to pursue one of the fastest expanding fields in the U.S.

What are the best crime scene investigation programs of 2020? Here are our top 5:

Rank School Location
1 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
2 Florida International University Miami, FL
3 University of New Haven West Haven, CT
4 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL
5 Stevenson University Stevenson, MD

2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Crime Scene Investigation Programs

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

University of Central Florida

Orlando, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 57%

UCF's online MS in forensic science allows working professionals to earn a master's degree in two years. The program focuses on using science and technology to collect and analyze evidence.

This 32-34-credit program features thesis and non-thesis options. All learning takes place online and uses an asynchronous structure, allowing students to learn mostly on their own time.

Students can choose from two concentrations: forensic analysis and biochemistry. The forensic analysis track covers topics like modern chromatographic, microanalytical, and spectroscopic practices. The biochemistry concentration focuses largely on the DNA aspects of forensic analysis.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited postsecondary institution and submit their official college transcripts and GRE scores. UCF is located in Orlando.

2

Florida International University

Miami, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 70%

Located in Miami, FIU offers a professional science master's in forensic science. Students join a cohort and progress through the program over the course of 16 months.

The 32-credit curriculum includes courses that cover forensic chemistry, forensic biology, and organizational behavior. Students also complete a supervised capstone internship at an outside laboratory. Participants need to attend a summer workshop on campus.

Eligible applicants must hold a natural science bachelor's degree from an accredited postsecondary institution and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students should submit transcripts, two recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose. An interview may also be required.

3

University of New Haven

West Haven, CT Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 45%

New Haven delivers a one-year, fully online master of science in investigations. The program comprises 30 credits and 10 courses. Faculty deliver classes asynchronously, enabling professionals to complete their degree while working full time.

Students choose a nine-credit concentration in criminal investigations, financial crimes investigations, or digital forensics investigations. Core coursework covers topics like criminal procedure and forensic sciences.

To apply, prospective students must possess a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Applicants also submit a statement of purpose, a resume, and at least two letters of recommendation. The admissions process does not require GRE scores.

All students pay the same tuition, regardless of where they live. The program also offers a tuition discount for current law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other public safety professionals.

4

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 60%

Focused on various issues relevant to modern crime scene investigators, SLU offers an online criminal justice master's degree with a concentration in forensic science. This 36-credit program prepares students for careers in criminal justice; loss prevention; and local, state, and federal law enforcement.

The program gives students the flexibility to choose from a variety of elective classes, such as correctional leadership, preventing terrorist attacks, and interview and interrogation techniques. Students complete 36 credits and typically graduate within two years.

To enter this online master's program, a prospective student must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and submit a personal statement. SLU's campus sits just north of the Tampa-St. Petersburg metro area in western Florida.

5

Stevenson University

Stevenson, MD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

Based in Owings Mills, Maryland, Stevenson oversees more than a dozen online graduate programs, including a master's in crime scene investigation. Participants of this program prepare to work in roles like evidence collectors, ballistics experts, and crime scene technicians.

Potential courses in this fully online program include crime scene photography, pattern analysis, and expert witness preparation and practice. Students also have the opportunity to complete a research project.

Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students must submit transcripts and a personal statement, and they can bring in up to six eligible transfer credits. There are no application fees or GRE requirements.

Accreditation for Online Degrees

For colleges and universities to grant valid degrees, they need to obtain academic and professional accreditation. Two main forms of accreditation exist: regional and national. Regional accreditation indicates recognition from one of six regional organizations, depending on where the school is located. For example, a college in New Hampshire would receive regional accreditation from the New England Association of School and Colleges. Regional bodies ensure that schools meet state-focused academic and institutional standards. Employers usually prefer regional accreditation because they often deal with state authorities and regulations.

Schools earn national accreditation from organizations with approval from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The ED and CHEA are the most important education oversight bodies in the U.S. They not only oversee national accreditation through their direct subsidiaries, but also bestow power to regional accrediting organizations. As a government entity, the ED provides federal funding and other crucial resources to schools who align their institutional goals to match national standards. Established in 1996 as a private nonprofit, CHEA advocates for its 3,000 member institutions through lobbying, research, and educational initiatives. The council also enforces standardization among its cohort. For more information on nationally accredited online master's in crime scene investigation programs, visit the ED's and CHEA's website.

Ideally, you should enroll in a college or university that holds both regional and national accreditation. Master's in crime scene investigation online programs can also possess specialized accreditation from organizations like the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Crime Scene Investigation Graduates

Master's in Crime Scene Investigation Salary

The table below uses information from PayScale to detail salaries for five possible careers you can pursue upon earning an online master's degree in crime scene investigation. Unsurprisingly, pay increases as you gain more work experience. Education also affects salary, especially for careers that require particular training such as advanced legal knowledge and information technology skills. Location can also pay a significant role in pay rate.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
Crime Scene Investigator $43,501 $40,000 $51,000 $55,000
Forensic Scientist $53,407 $48,000 $60,000 $69,000
Criminal Investigator $58,402 $50,991 $55,496 $68,472
Forensic Computer Analyst $68,993 $60,563 $87,050 $110,000

Master's in Crime Scene Investigation Careers

By pursuing a master's in crime scene investigation, you open yourself up to several impactful and lucrative careers in law enforcement and forensic science. Crime scene specialists can choose to pursue team-oriented positions as probation officers or forensic scientists, or opt for more self-directed jobs as private investigators. Regardless of where they work and what specific roles they occupy, crime scene investigators possess exceptional attention to detail and the ability to collect and assess complex information.

Probation Officer

Usually working for the government, probation officers provide social services to help rehabilitate law offenders on parole or probation. The job usually entails a lot of field work in high crime areas. To handle possible dangerous scenarios, probation officers undergo specialized training on top of earning a college degree.

Median Annual Salary: $50,160

Projected Growth Rate: 6%

Private Investigator

Also known as detectives, these criminal investigators often work as free agents. However, they can also take up positions in police departments and government agencies. Investigators search for information regarding personal, financial, and legal matters to solve cases of missing persons, fraud, violence, and computer crimes. Private investigators usually hold a college degree, but gain most of their skills through field experience.

Median Annual Salary: $48,190

Projected Growth Rate: 11%

Forensic Science Technician

With the option to specialize in crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis, forensic science technicians gather, assess, and prepare evidence for trial. They also collaborate with professionals like toxicologists and odontologists to ensure accuracy. Most technicians hold at least a master's degree, though positions are available for undergraduates with an adequate amount of additional professional training.

Median Annual Salary: $56,750

Projected Growth Rate: 17%

Information Security Analyst

These professionals develop and implement security practices that safeguard an individual's or entire corporation's sensitive data. In a crime scene investigation context, information security analysts collect electronic evidence and pursue cyber criminals. In addition to an advanced college degree and training, these specialists must stay abreast of the latest developments in computer and internet technologies.

Median Annual Salary: $92,600

Projected Growth Rate: 28%

Professional Organizations

While you complete your online master's in crime scene investigation, you should investigate professional organizations in the field. Professional organizations strengthen job prospects by providing additional guidance, resources, and institutional services. Membership in these organizations usually requires an annual fee, but in return you gain access to a network of peers ready to collaborate on research and work opportunities. Professional organizations also host conferences, scholarships, and skill development opportunities such as the on-site training sessions hosted by the Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction.

Financing Your Online Master's in Crime Scene Investigation Program

As you research master's degree in crime scene investigation programs, make sure you think about affordability. The Center for Financial Inclusion cites a staggering 74% increase in U.S. student loan debt between 2004 and 2014, resulting in negative consequences for both individual students and the national economy. However, there are several funding resources that you can use besides loans. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows you to sign up for several awards simultaneously. You should also look into scholarships through community and professional organizations, including these opportunities from the Johnson-Whyte Memorial Foundation Fund.


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