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, 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.
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 rounds out the school’s certificate program. 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.
UMass Lowell, in, you guessed it, Lowell, Massachusetts, 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, Pennsylvania, launched 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, gives 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 will be well-trained in analytic techniques, forensic science and lab quality control.
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. 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, New York, 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 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.
University of New Haven in Connecticut has a number of 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, for instance, 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 criminal justice management, forensic computer investigation and forensic psychology.
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 three considerations were kept top-of-mind when selecting the schools listed above:
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 forensics or forensic accounting.
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.
3. The programs included above are all offered by not-for-profit institutions that have earned regional accreditation for their overall academic rigor.