Forensic science and crime scene investigation (CSI) have become popular fields of study in the U.S. and today several major universities offer related degree programs. For example, Texas A&M University offers a well-known program in forensic and investigative sciences, while Pennsylvania State University has a crime scene investigation camp and a related program ranked #5 by the U.S. News and World Report (2013). University of Califonia at Irvine offers one of the best clinical laboratory forensic science degrees in the nation, and innovator Columbia College has a laboratory criminology program that dates back over 20 years. John Jay College of Criminal Justice at SUNY and Saint Louis University are both top 10 schools for crime scene investigation, and offer deeply science-based undergraduate forensic science degrees.
Fortunately for budding forensic scientists who are watching their wallets, a number of economical community colleges offer certificates and degrees in forensics. Virginia's Community Colleges, for instance, offer associate degrees in forensic science that are designed to be transferred towards a 4-year degree. Pima Community College offers a Crime Scene Management certificate program, while Tallahassee Community College has a Crime Scene Investigation certificate program and Nashville State Community College offers Crime Scene Investigation A.A.S degrees with an emphasis on Police Science. You can learn more about which community colleges and universities in your area offer CSI and forensics programs by browsing through our “colleges by state” directory.
Because laboratory forensic science and crime scene investigation rely so heavily on hands-on experience, it is difficult to find 100% online programs. Required courses like DNA testing, serology and sample analysis must be completed in a lab. For this reason, most of the “online” criminal investigation degrees are actually hybrid programs: many of the content courses are online, but the lab courses must be completed on campus. A good example of this type of program is the distance Associate Degree in Crime Scene Investigation from Everest University Online, which provides all courses except one online.
Still, these hybrid programs are often a perfect choice for the student who is already working or can’t travel often to attend school. Several hybrid forensic science programs take time constraints into account and provide compressed lab experiences over the course of a few weekends or months.
There are a few forensic science schools that offer 100% online programs, such as the bachelor’s degree from Salem International University, but do careful research before enrolling in a program without a hands-on lab component to ensure that you understand the prerequisites. Some online programs are designed for working professionals with lab experience.