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Forensics Colleges in Colorado

Known as the Centennial State, Colorado (CO) 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. 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 wage nationwide for the occupation was $57,850, according to the BLS (2017). In Colorado, forensic science technicians have an even higher mean wage at $61,980. This is higher than the mean wage for all occupations across the U.S., which as of May 2017, was $50,620. Nationwide, opportunities for forensic science technicians are expected to grow by 17 percent. In Colorado, this job growth is expected to be to be the same over the period from 2016 to 2026, making this an attractive field of study.

To learn about degree programs, certifications, and the job outlook for forensic scientists in Colorado, read on below.

How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Colorado

To become a forensic science technician in Colorado, you typically need to have a four-year degree, with Career One Stop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, reporting that 32 percent of these professionals have earned a bachelor’s degree ( 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:

  • Step 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree (4 years). According to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), an undergraduate degree in biology, chemistry or physics can be particularly pertinent, but students should also take classes in math and statistics and develop solid writing skills.
  • Step 2: Consider master’s level education (2 years). The AAFS reports that jobs in forensic anthropology and psychiatry as well as pathology require advanced education and more niche training. Career One Stop shows that 12 percent of all forensic science technicians in the state have a master’s degree. Earning a master’s degree could add on two or more years of education.
  • Step 3: Seek certification from a national organization (timeline varies). Although certification is not required to practice in the field, some employers may want to see their employees working toward certification or already in possession of it. A list of organizations offering certification is provided below.


The AAFS also lists a variety of characteristics that are important to becoming a forensic scientist. These include:

  • Having curiosity, integrity and the ability to be unbiased
  • Having solid speaking skills, as well as note-taking and observation skills
  • Possessing writing skills to be able to write scientific reports

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.


How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator in Colorado

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, even as little as one year if completing a CSI certificate. In fact, a college education may not even be required to become a CSI when training is offered on the job. 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:

  • Option 1: Complete an education program at a postsecondary college (1 to 2 years). CSI programs can lead to a certificate or an associate degree or, in some cases, be offered as a concentration area or specialization of a bachelor’s degree. These programs may include coursework such as an introduction to criminal justice, fingerprint identification, crime scene photography and more. In some cases, students who complete a certificate program may be able to transfer their credits toward completion of an undergraduate degree.
  • Option 2: Finish a bachelor’s degree (4 years total). Another alternative is simply to complete a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, as this is the recommendation of the BLS, particularly when an individual hopes to become a non-uniformed worker, i.e., not employed through a police force.
  • Option 3: Receive training on the job (timeline varies). Many CSI workers are actually police officers who have completed training through an academy. In this case, they may receive training by working closely with fellow officers already working as CSIs or by completing internal educational programs.

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:


Occupational Demand in Colorado

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 Denver, with a population of more than 682,500 and Colorado Springs, with around 465,000 people (US Census Bureau 2017). The Denver Police Department recently expanded its crime lab to be five times larger than it previously was 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. Forensic professionals may additionally spend substantial time outside of the office or on travel to crime scenes or to work with other specialists.


Featured Forensic Science Colleges in Colorado

While there are a number of forensic colleges in Colorado, as of 2018 none of the programs in the state have earned accreditation from the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).

The University of Colorado Denver offers one of the most highly regarded forensic science programs in the state, which culminates in a bachelor’s of arts in criminal justice, or a master’s degree. Students enrolled in the master’s program may pursue an optional concentration in crime analysis. Relatedly, the school also offers a standalone graduate certificate in crime analysis.

Other forensic science schools in Colorado include: 

  • Colorado Tech, in Denver, offers a bachelor’s of science degree in criminal justice with a concentration in forensic science investigation. The program also offers concentrations in somewhat related fields, such as cybercrime and security or homeland security and emergency management.
  • Metropolitan State University of Denver offers a bachelor’s of science degree in chemistry with a concentration in criminalistics. There are two tracks available, one that requires physical chemistry and two criminalistics internships and the other that requires a full year of physical chemistry and one internship. The latter option also allows students to earn certification through the American Chemical Society (ACS). A minor in criminalistics is also available as part of the school’s bachelor’s of science degree in criminal justice.
  • The University of Northern Colorado, in Greeley, offers a bachelor’s of science degree in chemistry with a forensic science emphasis. Students take a multitude of chemistry classes as well as topics in criminal justice and forensic anthropology. Students at UNC also have the option to choose between other criminal justice, sociology and anthropology classes to broaden their understanding of the field.

Students entering these programs typically need to maintain a C grade average in their coursework. Lab work is nearly always a requirement as in an internship because it allows students to gain more hands-on experience and real-world knowledge.


Hybrid & Online Forensic Science Programs in Colorado

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 because 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: 

  • Colorado Christian University offers a bachelor’s of science degree in criminal justice that can be completed online or at a variety of the university’s campus-based sites, including in Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, Loveland, and other locations. The program is 120 credits total and allows students to complete their education in three tiers: advancing from certificate to associate to bachelor’s degree.
  • The University of Colorado at Denver offers a master’s of science degree in the recording arts with an emphasis in media forensics. This enables students to gain skills in forensic audio, video and imagery, using technology to help fight crime. The hybrid program does include some courses that are completed on-campus, but many of the classes taken online feature discussion boards, interactive learning, reading responses, self-guided lectures, and video conferencing.
  • CU Denver also offers an online bachelor’s degree and an online master’s degree in criminal justice. In fact, a dual degree program is available, allowing students to finish both degrees in five years. At the master’s level, students may be required to complete an internship, as well as three to six credit hours for a thesis, or a three-credit hour capstone project.

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.


Program Accreditation & Certification

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 organization for forensic science programs specifically, institutions 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.

Additionally, a broad number of organizations offer forensic science and CSI 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:

There are 10 fields of forensic science that offer certification through the AAFS, and students can bolster their careers by seeking certification of their skills.

School Name City Forensic
Total Forensics
Grads (2016-2017)
University of Denver Denver x 36
Colorado Technical University-Colorado Springs Colorado Springs x 3

School "total forensics grads" data provided by IPEDS (2018) for the 2016-2017 school year, and includes all certificates and degrees awarded for the following programs: Criminalistics and Criminal Science, Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Science and Technology, Forensic Psychology, Cyber/Computer Forensics, and Financial Forensics and Fraud Investigation.

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