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Crime Scene Investigation Certificate Programs

Crime scene investigation certificates help students to learn about the fundamentals of crime scenes, including that ever-important component that should be always on the mind: detail, detail, detail. Students in CSI certification programs can learn how to handle and preserve evidence as well as write reports and present material in a court of law. At an advanced level, these programs can give students the opportunity to delve deeper into the biology and physiology of CSI, even providing potential credit toward a master’s degree, or the opportunity to learn further about investigation techniques, such as evidence handling, and the use of digital photography in capturing a crime scene.

Prerequisites for a certificate in crime scene investigation

CSI certification programs at the undergraduate level may not require a prior degree or education. However, students interested in crime scene investigation do often have a deep interest in the field or currently work in law enforcement or a similar type of setting. Certificates at the master’s degree level typically require students to have an undergraduate degree and an understanding of the depth of work that can come with advanced education. Sometimes certificates obtained at the graduate level, such as through National University, an online school, can be applied toward completion of a full degree at a later date.

Featured Programs

Boston University

Ranked #4 by U.S. News: Best Online Graduate CJ Program

Online Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ)

  • Strategic Management Concentration
Utica College

Online Financial Crimes Investigator Certificate

Online BS in Economic Crime Investigation

Online MS in Financial Crime & Compliance Mgmt

Stevenson University

Coursework online. Capstone on-campus.

Online Master's in Forensic Studies

  • Accounting Track
  • Investigations Track
  • Interdisciplinary Track
St. Joseph's University

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ)

  • Federal Law Enforcement Concentration
  • Intelligence & Crime Analysis Concentration
Regis University

Online BS in Criminology

Common crime scene investigation certification courses

Typically, students gain knowledge about the broad scope of crime scene investigation in a program, including how to document findings, take photographs, and even present evidence in court. Below are sample courses that can be found through CSI training at the undergraduate level, but the scope of learning will depend on the requirements for the certification and the focus of the program.

  • Forensic Report Writing: Provides students with information about best strategies for documenting facts and how to understand all the elements needed to create a comprehensive forensic report.
  • Blood Stain Pattern Analysis: Students learn how to determine the geometric points of origin in bloodstains and to understand the limitations inherent in pattern interpretation. They also gain knowledge about presenting their findings in court and useful ways to display their information in court.
  • Crime Scene Management: Crime scene investigation is about more than just collecting evidence, it also requires a deep understanding of the processes necessary to preserve materials and a crime scene site. Students learn about legal issues, management, and theories of physical evidence in this course.

Depending on the scope of the program, students could take many other classes. This is true at the University of California, Riverside, where students are immersed in additional classes that include Crime Scene Photography, Forensic Entomology and Rules of Evidence. Students in the school’s program also complete a one-unit CSI practicum that allows them to use their skills of evidence collection and preservation, including diagramming and photography, in a mock crime scene, and to do a written report and group presentation afterward.

At the graduate level, students will find their courses to be much more rigorous and that a strong foundation in the sciences may be helpful. Sample courses at the graduate level could include:

  • Forensic Pathology I and II: Students learn the anatomy, physiology and terminology that applies to a physical body that has typically undergone sudden death, including by Sudden Infant Death syndrome or drug overdoses, and also understand the injuries that present as a result of trauma, such as rape or sexual assault.
  • Advanced Criminalistics: Understanding where evidence is analyzed is important, which is why this class about the operations of a forensic science laboratory has high relevance. Students learn about the correct procedures for documenting lab results and how a forensic scientist often is called on to act as an expert witness.
  • Digital Evidence: This class provides students with an understanding of digital-related crimes, including identify theft and Internet fraud. As part of this class, students learn about the theories and processes inherent in digital investigation.

Students may take many other classes, including such as at National University, Law and Criminal Procedure and Fingerprint Analysis, all of which can be applied toward the school’s master degree in forensic science. For an advanced certificate at a campus-based institution, students can turn to George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va., for a graduate certificate in the forensic sciences with a concentration in crime scene investigation. The 18-credit certificate requires 12 credits in the area of concentration, which in this case would be CSI, although other concentrations are offered.

Hybrid and online CSI certification programs

Like in many other subject areas, students seeking CSI certification programs can find options online. Some of these may be hybrid programs, meaning they combine online learning with some classroom instruction or they be offered entirely online. Below, several different options are listed.

  • The National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC) has a 16-hour program in crime scene investigation that can be completed online at a student’s own pace. The course covers topics such as physical evidence, firearm evidence collection and trace evidence. A certificate of completion is given to students who complete the course with at least a 75 percent.
  • Kaplan University offers an online crime scene technician certificate that is 44 credits in length, but includes 25 credits in prerequisites. Students take courses such as Criminal Investigation, Forensic Fingerprint Analysis, and Homeland Security. They also complete a 3-credit independent study project based around an area of interest and approved topic of inquiry. Students may also find this certificate available on campus at various Kaplan University sites.

Accreditation

When it comes to completing a CSI certification program through a community college or university, students will want to ensure that the school has been accredited through an accrediting agency. This helps to ensure that the programing and instruction at a school meet specific standards in learning and that students are receiving a quality education. For example, George Mason University is accredited through the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Programs offered through centers or other organizations may have different type of accreditation, but it’s always best to ask if the school or program is accredited. Students might also find that some programs or schools are additionally accredited through the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.