Graduate Certificate Programs for Forensics and CSI

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Many recent college graduates may complete a bachelor’s degree without specific career goals in mind. What interested someone at 17 or 18 may have lost its luster after four years of schooling or students may only be exposed to some careers as they near the completion of their degree or even after a few years of professional experience.

For people for whom this rings true, a graduate certificate in forensic science and crime scene investigation can come in handy. This type of certificate can provide the additional training needed by working professionals who want to build new skills or supplement existing ones so that they can pursue a career in this fascinating field. For those who are particularly ambitious, a graduate certificate 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 available online and others requiring on-campus classroom or lab experience. 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 Washington University

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 program focuses on crime scene investigation and processes.

The program requires five classes of core work (15 credits) and one elective class at three credits for an 18-credit program. Students can later use their credit hours to complete a master’s degree in forensic science with a concentration in crime scene investigation.

The curriculum includes courses such as photography in the forensic sciences; science of fingerprints; crime scene investigation; medicolegal death investigation; and investigation of child abuse. Students only need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university to be accepted for this program.

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Accreditation: AFSS; Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months or less
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,950 per credit

Iowa State University

Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, allows students to 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 round out the school’s certificate program. Some of the courses in the curriculum are an introduction to molecular biology techniques; medical bacteriology; current issues in crime and justice; characterization methods in materials science; nondestructive evaluation; and forensic anthropology.

It should be noted that the certificate program is designed to complement a student’s education who is pursuing a master’s program in another discipline such as anthropology.

  • Location: Ames, IA
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months or less
  • Estimated Tuition: Residents of IA ($5,498 per semester); non-residents of IA ($13,924 per semester)

University of Massachusetts Lowell

UMass Lowell provides a graduate certificate in forensic criminology that can be completed entirely online. This program is ideal for full-time graduate students and working professionals who are interested in taking this certificate part-time. The certificate should provide useful skills to those working in fields like criminal justice, law, nursing, public health, psychology, and social work.

Two core classes are required as are two electives that include options such as criminological theory, sex crimes & offenders, victimology, and mental health & criminal justice. 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.

Applicants to the program must have a baccalaureate degree with a minimum grade point average of 2.8 for acceptance into this certificate program. The faculty of the program includes full-time faculty members who are experts in their fields and adjunct faculty who bring real-world experience to online classroom discussions.

  • Location: Lowell, MA
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months or less
  • Estimated Tuition: $585 per credit

Mercyhurst University

Mercyhurst University, in Erie, Pennsylvania, launched a year-long graduate-level on-campus certificate program in forensic and biological anthropology in the fall of 2014. The program allows students 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 applications.

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. Made up of 15 to 18 credits, the program includes courses such as forensic archaeology; fragmentary human osteology; biological anthropology perspectives of death; geoarchaeology; and paleoanthropology.

Admission requirements include a completed online application, a bachelor’s degree in any discipline from an accredited school, official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended, a current resume, a letter of intent, three letters of recommendation, GRE scores, a personal interview, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international applicants whose records are written in a language other than English.

  • Location: Erie, PA
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,026 per credit

The University of Florida

The University of Florida in Gainesville offers various 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, and forensic toxicology. All certificates can be completed entirely online and require students to do 15 credits of coursework. Students completing the certificates will be well-trained in analytic techniques, forensic science, and lab quality control.

The forensic death investigation certificate includes courses such as forensic analysis of DNA; forensic anthropology; and introduction to forensic medicine. The certificate in forensic DNA & serology includes instruction in biological evidence and serology; blood distribution and spatter; forensic analysis of DNA; and mammalian molecular biology. The forensic toxicology certificate includes coursework in drug biotransformation & molecular mechanisms of toxicity; forensic toxicology; general toxicology; and toxic substances. Finally, the graduate certificate in forensic drug chemistry includes courses such as forensic toxicology; synthetic medicinal chemistry; medicinal chemistry of drugs of abuse; and pharmaceutical analysis.

Applicants will need a baccalaureate degree in a natural science subject from one of the institutional accreditors with an upper-division grade point average of 2.0 or higher to apply for the program. Applicants whose native language is not English should submit TOEFL or IELTS test scores.

  • Location: Gainesville, FL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months or less
  • Estimated Tuition: $575 to $625 per credit

National University

National University is based in La Jolla, California, but has campuses throughout the state and one in Henderson, Nevada. NU offers a graduate certificate in forensic and crime scene investigations which can be completed online or on campus. 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.

Seven courses, comprising 31.5 quarter units are required for the certificate. As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as forensic pathology; crime scene investigation; advanced criminalistics; digital evidence; law and criminal procedure; and fingerprint analysis.

  • Location: San Diego, CA
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months or less
  • Estimated Tuition: $872 per quarter unit

Iona College

Iona College, in New Rochelle, New York, is another school providing a graduate certificate that focuses on forensic criminology and criminal justice systems. The certificate is designed for students who have 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, or social work.

Students are required to take five three-credit classes completing a total of 15 credits. The curriculum explores topics such as victimology; profiling violent crimes; advanced deviant behavior; advanced criminology; and forensic health issues, the law, and the criminal justice system.

  • Location: New Rochelle, NY
  • Accreditation: Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months or less
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,360 per credit

The University of New Haven

The University of New Haven in Connecticut has several 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 criminal investigations certificate, for instance, is 12 credits in total and entails the completion of three required courses and one elective class. The curriculum includes topics such as title IX and predator investigations; investigative intricacies in death investigations; crimes involving children; domestic violence and abuse investigations.

Candidates applying to this certificate program must complete the graduate school application form and submit official transcripts showing completion of the undergraduate or baccalaureate degree along with two letters of recommendation.

Other certificates available in the school include criminal justice management, financial crimes investigation, forensic psychology, forensic genetic genealogy, cybercrime investigation, and many more.

  • Location: West Haven, CT
  • Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months or less
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,055 per credit

Stevenson University

Stevenson University offers an entirely online graduate certificate program in crime scene investigation providing students with the knowledge and skills needed for evaluating crime scenes and selecting the appropriate steps that have to be followed to document, collect, preserve, and process evidence. Students in this program will be trained in processing forensic evidence, ethically reporting findings, and effectively communicating these findings in a courtroom setting.

To get accepted into the program, applicants must complete an online application, have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0, and submit official college transcripts from all previous academic work.

Comprising 18 credits, the program includes courses such as a survey of forensic science; crime scene photography; physical evidence at crime scenes; crime scene investigation; and pattern analysis.

  • Location: Owings Mills, MD
  • Accreditation: Commission on Higher Education, Middle States Association of Colleges and Universities
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months or less
  • Estimated Tuition: $705 per credit

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington offers an online graduate certificate program in forensic science: crime scene investigation (CSI) providing students with the necessary training, experience, and a deep theoretical understanding about the application of methods, techniques, and proper procedures of forensic investigation and evidence recovery.

Admission requirements for the program include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in the U.S. or its equivalent, official transcripts of all college coursework, a statement of purpose, a current resume, and three letters of recommendation.

Consisting of 18 credits, the program includes courses such as forensic science foundations; seminar in crime science investigation professional development; expert testimony and challenges in court; crime scene photography; research in forensic science; and death investigations.

Graduates of the program will be prepared to secure entry-level forensic science positions with job titles such as crime scene technicians, crime scene investigators, crime scene analysts, forensic investigators, forensic science technicians, and evidence technicians.

  • Location: Wilmington, NC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months or less
  • Estimated Tuition: Residents of NC ($276.62 per credit); non-residents of NC ($1,119.73 per credit)


No list of graduate certificate programs is complete without the acknowledgment that there are many other certificates available at the graduate level. However, for this list the following three considerations were kept top-of-mind when selecting the schools listed above:

  1. 1. The graduate certificate specifically ties into crime scene analysis, investigation, or forensics. Many additional graduate-level certificates in forensics can be found, but they correlate to very niche fields, such as computer forensics or forensic accounting.
  2. 2. Most of these programs do provide an option for an elective or electives, giving students the choice in personalizing their certificate or gearing it toward the subject or subjects that interest them.
  3. 3. The programs included above are all offered by not-for-profit institutions that have earned regional accreditation for their overall academic rigor.

Farheen Gani

Farheen Gani is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).