Known as the Centennial State, Colorado provides a variety of forensic science and crime scene investigation (CSI) programs to interested students. By attending a forensic science college in Colorado, students can learn the essentials for the career, including how to collect evidence from crime scenes, undertake analysis in laboratories, and even present evidence in courts, depending on the occupational role they pursue.
Both online and campus-based programs are available in Colorado. While students typically start by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the field, many professionals actually have an undergraduate degree in the natural sciences, and then pursue a master’s degree in forensic sciences, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Interested students may also be able to find degrees that take less time to complete, such as a certificate in CSI, or an associate degree in forensic science, but an education in CSI typically prepares students for field work, while an education in the forensic sciences usually prepares them for work in a lab, or at the upper level, even the chance to be involved in research.
Forensic science is a career that pays well, both nationwide and in the state. The mean annual wages, as of May 2014, for the occupation were $58,610, according to the BLS. In Colorado, forensic science technicians have an even higher mean wage at $61,790. This compares fairly well with the mean wages for all occupations across the U.S., which as of May 2014, were $47,230, reports the BLS. Nationwide, opportunities for forensic science technicians are expected to grow by 6 percent. In Colorado, this job growth is expected to be even higher, at nine percent, from 2012 to 2022. However, pay can vary based in skill, certifications and even time on the job.
To learn about degree programs, certifications, and the job outlook for forensic scientists in Colorado, read on below.
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To become a forensic science technician in Colorado, you typically need to have a four-year degree, according to the BLS. A high school diploma or GED is usually required to seek entry into any postsecondary program, but background classes in biology, calculus, chemistry and physics could be particularly helpful. From there, you can:
Also, the AAFS lists a variety of characteristics that are important to becoming a forensic scientist. These include:
In all, it could take four or more years in Colorado to be able to work as a forensic scientist. However, it is up to the individual to decide if they want to pursue forensic science beyond four years and complete either a master’s degree or even a PhD, which could add multiple years to their education.
Becoming a crime scene investigator could be an alternative to completing a full forensic science degree and take less time in terms of an academic investment, as little as one year if completing a CSI certificate, as an example. In fact, a college education may not even be required to become a CSI when training is offered on the job, according to the BLS. As a result, the steps needed to enter the CSI field can vary based on an individual’s goals, but some of these steps could include:
The BLS reports that a college education may not even be necessary in rural areas, where someone already has on-the-job training and has learned the necessary CSI skills by working closely with others. Finally, certification (different from a certificate) is available to individuals working in CSI who want proof and validation of their skills. A full list of agencies offering certification or membership is provided at the end of this article, but those of particular pertinence to CSIs include:
Some of the best job opportunities in Colorado could be in its larger cities, simply because greater occurrences of crime typically occur in urban areas. These cities may also be home to universities and colleges that have laboratories or other types of resources available to forensic science technicians. In Colorado, two of the largest cities are Colorado Springs, population above 649,000 and Colorado Springs, with around $439,000 people. The Denver Police Department recently expanded its crime lab to be five times larger than previous and to combine more services under one roof. In addition to looking for employment opportunities with this agency, recent graduate of forensic science colleges in Colorado might also look at:
Forensic scientist technicians can also work in morgues and coroners offices as well as for crime labs and for police departments. They may additionally spend substantial time outside of the office or on travel to head to crime scenes or to work with other specialists.
While there are a number of forensic colleges in Colorado, only one campus-based school is accredited through the American Academic of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). This is the University of Colorado, Denver, which offers a bachelor’s of arts in criminal justice as well as a master’s degree. Often, criminal justice programs like these will encompass forensic science learning through classes or specializations. As well, a graduate-level crime analyst certificate is available through the Master of Criminal Justice program at the school, and comprises five classes.
Other forensic science schools in Colorado include:
Students entering these programs often need to maintain a C grade average in their coursework. Lab work is nearly always a requirement as in an internship because it can enable them to gain more hands-on experience and real-world knowledge.
Students in Colorado may be looking to combine online learning with campus-based instruction or programs that are fully online. Programs using online delivery can provide students with increased flexibility, and save them time when they do not have to commute to and from class. While there are not many hybrid or online programs in Colorado specifically focused on forensic science, there are several related programs, including criminal justice and media forensics programs:
A variety of accredited programs through the AAFS are also available online. These are broken down into undergraduate and graduate level programs. Online certificates are listed too, and all contact information, including the e-mail address for the director, and website information is posted.
Students planning to enroll in a forensic science program should look to see if it is accredited through AAFS’ accrediting branch, the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). While this is the primary accrediting branch for forensic science, schools can also be regionally accredited through organizations, such as the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Graduation from a FEPAC-accredited program is not necessary for obtaining a job, but it may be preferred by some organizations when they hire employees. A web page on the Ohio University clarifies this further by saying: “Choosing an accredited program is added assurance that your education will assist you in establishing a career in forensic sciences by meeting the requirements of employers in the laboratory.”
Additionally, a broad number of organizations offer forensic science and SCI certification or membership that can attest to an individual’s skills and knowledge. The requirements will vary for each of these organizations, some of which are listed below:
In fact, there are 11 fields of forensic science available in all, according to the AAFS, and students may be able to find certifications in many of these different fields to validate their skills.
|School Name||City||Website||Degrees Awarded||Certificates Awarded||Total Forensics Grads|
|University of Denver||Denver||www.du.edu||22||0||22|
|Colorado Technical University-Online||Colorado Springs||www.coloradotech.edu/online-degree-programs||22||0||22|
|Colorado Technical University-Colorado Springs||Colorado Springs||www.coloradotech.edu/colorado-springs||10||0||10|
|Pueblo Community College||Pueblo||www.pueblocc.edu||0||2||2|
School data provided by IPEDS (2013), and includes all certificates and degrees awarded for the following programs: Arson Investigation, Computer Forensics, Forensic Accounting, Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Psychology, Forensic Science and Technology, and Law Enforcement Investigation