Students may complete a bachelor’s degree, but not come to develop specific career goals until they have been out in the work world gaining experience and insight. This is where a graduate certificate in forensics science and crime scene investigation can come in handy. It can provide the additional training needed by working professionals who want to build new skills or supplement existing ones. It can also build the foundation for later completion of a master’s degree, as schools often allow these certificate credits to be transferred over. As you look through our list, you’ll find variations among the certificates, with some even available online. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) has accredited very few graduate certificate programs, but those that do have this accreditation have been noted on this list.
George Mason University, located in Fairfax, Va., within the National Capital region, offers a graduate certificate in forensics to provide students with the laboratory experience helpful to gaining employment. The AAFS-accredited program provides general knowledge in the field that can be useful in many applications, but also takes a look at criminal law and anthropology. Students learn how to develop DNA profiles and to understand toxicological results. Six three-credit classes comprise the certificate program and include a capstone project that focuses on investigation of a real-world crime scene.
George Washington University, located right in the heart of the nation’s capital, provides students with the option to continue their learning through a graduate certificate in Forensic Investigation, accredited through the AAFS. With a slightly different purview than a certificate in forensic science, this one focuses on crime scene investigation and processes. The program requires five classes of core work (12 credits) and one elective class at three credits for a 15-credit program. Students can later use their credits hours to complete a master’s degree in forensic science with a concentration in crime scene investigation. As an aside, the school also offers a 15-credit certificate in latent fingerprint investigation.
Iowa State University, students can complete a graduate certificate in forensic science available through the Department of Anthropology. The certificate program is interdisciplinary and helps students learn about research and development and the technologies and science important to counter-terrorism. To complete the certificate, students need to take 12 credits, 10 of which can be selected from a broad list of classes including Issues in Crime and Justice or Principles of Toxicology. A one-credit course that includes an off-campus seminar and another one-credit course of independent study rounds out the school’s certificate program.
UMass Lowell, in, you guessed it, Lowell, Mass., provides a graduate certificate in forensic criminology that can be completed entirely online. Two core classes are required as are two electives that include options such as Criminological Theory, Sex Crimes and Offenders and Victimology. Students should note that not all of the elective classes are available online. However, course descriptions are provided on the website, giving students additional insight into the course selections they can make in completing this program. The certificate should provide useful skills to those working in fields like criminal justice, law, nursing, public health, psychology and social work.
Mercyhurst University, in Erie, Pa., is launching a year-long graduate-level certificate program in forensic and biological anthropology in the fall of 2014. The program, which is accredited by the AAFS, is intended to give students the opportunity to expand their learning beyond the undergraduate level into areas that interest them. Students who like forensic anthropology will be able to gain practical experience and also be better prepared for graduate-school application. The five-course program is particularly geared at helping students who want to complete the master’s degree in forensic and biological anthropology at the school to fill in their learning gaps.
University of Florida in Gainesville offers sundry graduate-level certificates in forensic science to help meet the needs of working professionals. These include forensic drug chemistry, forensic death investigation, forensic DNA and serology, forensic toxicology, and veterinary forensic sciences. Most of the certificates can be completed entirely online and require students to do 15 credits of coursework. Students completing the certificates should be well trained in analytic techniques, forensic science and lab quality control.
National University, based in La Jolla, Calif., but with campuses throughout the state and one in Henderson, Nevada, offers a graduate certificate in forensic and crime scene investigations. Seven courses, comprising 31.5 quarter units are required for the certificate and include Digital Evidence, Forensic Pathology and Law and Criminal Procedure. The certificate is designed to provide new skills to those who want to enter the forensics and crime scene field or are already employed in it. Students who complete the certificate may be able to apply some or all of their credits toward a master’s degree in forensic science through the school.
Iona College, in New Rochelle, N.Y., is another school providing a graduate certificate which focuses in on forensic criminology and criminal justice systems. Students are required to take five three-credit classes, several of which include Advanced Criminology, Profiling Violent Crimes and Victimology. The certificate is designed for students who have potential careers in forensic science in mind or who are already working in the field. It could also be appropriate for those working in criminal justice, law and paralegal studies, nursing, psychology and social work.
University of New Haven, Conn., has sundry graduate-level certificates available to those who already have a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree. These certificates may be perfect for people who want to enroll in a short course of learning at the graduate level. The school’s forensic science/advanced investigation certificate is 18 credits in total and entails completion of four required classes, such as Advanced Investigation and Survey of Forensic Science. Students also take two elective courses. Other certificates available in the school include, but are not limited to, criminal justice management, forensic computer investigation and forensic psychology.
Syracuse University, in New York provides a 12 credit-hour graduate certificate program in medicolegal death investigation intended for mid-career professionals. One three-credit gateway course is required, but students can then complete their other nine credits in classes as varied as bloodstain pattern analysis, crime scene investigation, forensic entomology, forensic pathology or many others. One three-credit course can also be transferred into the certificate program. Professionals benefitting form this certificate include those working as coroners, first responders, forensic scientists or legal and medical professionals.
No list of graduate certificate programs is complete without the acknowledgement that there are many other certificates available at the graduate level. However, for this list the following two considerations were looked in at in terms of selection:
1. The graduate certificate specifically ties into crime scene analysis, investigation or forensics. Many, many additional graduate-level certificates in forensics can be found, but they correlate to very niche fields, such as computer.
2. Most of these programs do provide an option for an elective or electives, giving students choice in personalizing their certificate or gearing it toward the subject or subjects that interest them.
Barry is Managing Editor of ForensicsColleges.com, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, which he co-founded. Barry was previously VP for a financial software company, and currently sits on the board of a K-8 school and lives with his wife and daughters in the San Francisco Bay Area.