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 Online Master's in Crime Scene Investigation Programs?
Florida International University
Florida International University is Miami's first and only public research university and grants associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Through its International Forensic Institute, FIU offers four graduate degrees including the professional science master's in forensic science.
The 32-credit program at FIU covers forensic analysis, forensic science leadership, statistics, chemistry and analysis of drugs, and forensic biology. The career-focused curriculum trains students in current industry standards and techniques to prepare them to work in fields such as forensic toxicology, medicolegal death investigations, and wildlife forensics. This degree also entails an internship requiring students to work in a public or private forensic science laboratory.
FIU's master's in crime scene investigation online caters to professionals working in federal, state, or crime laboratories who want to hone their skills and/or advance their careers. Most degree requirements may be completed online. All students must attend the Modesto Maidique Campus for one summer workshop, and on-campus events such as seminars or workshops may be required for some students. Those interested in this program should speak with an advisor to ensure they can satisfactorily meet all program requirements.
Applicants must have a 3.0 minimum GPA and a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university. They need to submit official transcripts, proof of degree, two letters of recommendation, personal statement, and a complete application.
University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida was founded in 1963 in Orlando and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to grant associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. UCF offers more than 220 programs, 80 of which are online, including a master of science in forensic science with a thesis or non-thesis track option. Online learning at UCF uses an asynchronous format, making it ideal for busy professionals looking to hone their skills and advance their careers.
Industry experts teach this 32-34 credit program, and students use concentrations to tailor courses to their interests and career goals. Coursework includes statistical analysis; advanced biochemistry; atomic spectroscopy; and forensic analysis of various materials including explosives, ignitable liquids, and biological materials. UCF's master's in crime scene investigation online prepares students for careers as crime scene investigators, forensic statisticians, forensic chemists, and forensic scientists.
Students choosing the thesis track must conduct original research and defend their findings to a committee; this option caters to students with work experience in the field of forensic science. The non-thesis track requires a capstone project, which entails submitting a report that addresses a case study or review of current literature using course concepts; it is ideal for students without prior work experience.
To qualify for this program at UCF, individuals need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must also submit GRE test scores, official transcripts, and a complete online application. Tuition rates vary depending on a student's state of residency, so additional documentation is required if students want to qualify for reduced in-state tuition.
Emporia State University
Emporia State University was founded in 1863 in Emporia, Kansas, and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school offers 29 graduate programs, 17 of which are fully online, including a master of science in forensic science. Online learning at ESU uses an asynchronous format, which gives students the flexibility to complete program requirements without commuting to campus. This master's in crime scene investigation online typically takes two years to complete.
ESU's 40-credit program covers criminalistics, molecular techniques, toxicology, and instrumental methods of analysis. The curriculum uses input from industry professionals to ensure students learn the skills needed to gain employment in the workforce. Coursework develops key techniques in forensic biology, toxicology, examining trace evidence, and communication. ESU also offers students the opportunity to complete an internship arranged through the university so students can gain hands-on experience (the internship is not required to graduate).
Individuals interested in this program at Emporia State University must have a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and a minimum 3.0 GPA (GRE test scores are not required). Applicants must also submit official transcripts, three reference letters, an ESU graduate application, and the master of science in forensic science application. Students must supply documentation proving residency in order to qualify for any reduced in-state tuition.
University of New Haven
|West Haven, CT||
The University of New Haven was established in 1920 in West Haven, Connecticut. It is a private university offering degree programs on campus and online, including a master's in investigations. Since this program is 100% online and uses an asynchronous format, students may complete coursework at any time of day without ever having to commute to campus. New Haven is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
The 30-credit program builds on concepts derived from the New Haven criminal justice and forensic science programs. It is designed to prepare students for careers as investigators in the public or private sector. The curriculum teaches core principles and theories in investigations, forensic science, criminal procedures, and supervising and managing the investigative unit and process. Students tailor the program to match their interests and career goals by selecting either the criminal, financial crimes, or digital forensics investigation concentrations. It typically takes two years to complete the master's in investigation online; the accelerated option enables students to complete the program in 10 months.
Applicants must submit official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a complete application to the admissions office. New Haven does not require GRE or GMAT scores or a minimum GPA in previous coursework. However, if an applicant's GPA is below 3.0, he/she should submit a resume, personal statement, and if possible, GRE test scores.
|Owings Mills, MD||
Stevenson University was founded in 1947 in Owings Mills, Maryland, and provides several industry-relevant programs that enable students to launch or advance their careers. Stevenson remains at the cutting-edge of education offering fully online programs that cater to busy professionals. The school's online programs, including the master of science in crime scene investigation, are delivered in an asynchronous format, which gives students the flexibility to complete coursework around other responsibilities. The university is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Universities.
The master's in crime scene investigation online at Stevenson is a 36-credit program consisting of courses in forensic science, pattern analysis, expert witness prep and practice, quality control, and crime scene photography. Coursework focuses on developing professional skills in collecting, examining, preserving, and processing crime evidence. It also includes training in presenting evidence through role-playing exercises. The degree requires a research project and presentation, which entail developing a hypothesis and conducting research to address a real-life scenario using course concepts.
Applicants to Stevenson's program must have a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They need to submit official transcripts, a personal statement, and a complete application. Stevenson offers a standard tuition rate and a reduced tuition rate for students enrolling through a partner organization (e.g., area community college or organization). Students should check with an admissions advisor to determine whether or not they qualify for reduced tuition rate.
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 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%
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.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
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