Known as the Centennial State, Colorado (CO) provides various 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 nationwide and in the state. The mean annual wage nationwide for the occupation was $69,260, according to the BLS (May 2022). In Colorado, forensic science technicians have an even higher mean wage of $75,150. Nationwide, opportunities for forensic science technicians are expected to grow by 11 percent between 2021 and 2031.
Read below to learn about degree programs, certifications, and the job outlook for forensic scientists in Colorado.
To become a forensic science technician in Colorado, you typically need to have a four-year degree, with Career One Stop, a site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, reporting that 31 percent of these professionals have earned a bachelor’s degree (CareerOneStop.org). 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, prospective forensic scientists can:
Following these steps, aspiring forensic science techs in Colorado may seek jobs in various contexts, such as psychiatric hospitals, police crime labs, and government at all levels, to name a few.
The AAFS also 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 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:
The BLS reports that a college education may not even be necessary for 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.
There is excellent news for aspiring forensics professionals in CO: forensic science is a field on the rise. As proof of point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022) projects that openings for forensic science technicians nationwide will increase 11 percent between 2021 and 2031, much faster than the growth rate expected for all occupations during that time period (5 percent). And this expected addition of 2,000 positions nationally is only one career possibility for people trained in forensic science.
The outlook is even brighter for residents of CO. Projections Central (2023) found that demand for forensic science technicians in Colorado specifically is expected to grow 30.3 percent between 2020 and 2030.
Some of the best job opportunities in Colorado could be in its larger cities, simply because greater crime occurrences typically occur in urban areas. These cities may also be home to universities and colleges with laboratories or other resources available to forensic science technicians. In Colorado, two of the largest cities are Denver and Colorado Springs.
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 graduates 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 police departments. Forensic professionals may additionally spend substantial time outside of the office, traveling to crime scenes, or working with other specialists.
In addition to a strong occupational outlook, Colorado boasts salaries that are higher than the national average. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics (May 2022), the 17,590 forensic science technicians across the nation earned an average annual salary of $69,260. In comparison, the 390 forensic science technicians working in Colorado earned $75,150 per year.
In more detailed terms, here is a breakdown of the salary percentiles among all forensic science technicians in the country compared with those in CO (BLS May 2022):
|Number of Forensic Science Technicians Employed||17,020||760|
|Annual Mean Wage||$66,850||$81,370|
The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, PayScale (June 2023), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the forensic science techs reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles for the US:
When reviewing any state or local salary data, it is important to consider the cost of living in that area. For instance, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2023), Colorado ranked 34th in affordability, making it more expensive than the majority of states.
While there are several forensic colleges in Colorado, as of 2023, 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 of arts program in criminal justice, or a master’s degree in criminal justice. These programs in criminal justice prepare students for a changing workforce, as well as continued learning. Graduates use their degrees as stepping stones to executive positions in crime analysis, law enforcement, human services, etc.
Students enrolled in the master’s program may pursue optional concentrations in crime analysis; disasters, hazards, and emergency management; emergency management and homeland security; and gender-based violence. Made up of 36 credits, the master’s degree includes courses such as criminal justice systems, policies, and practice; criminological theory; juvenile justice; victimology; statistics for criminal justice; and law & society.
Relatedly, the school also offers a standalone graduate certificate in crime analysis, an undergraduate certificate in law enforcement; and an undergraduate certificate in victims and victim services.
Colorado Tech, in Denver and Colorado Springs, offers a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice with a concentration in forensic science investigation for applicants interested in building cases, taking criminals off the streets, and solving crimes. Combining the best of practice and theory, students in this program will develop a strong foundation in corrections, law enforcement, and the courts and foundational forensic investigative knowledge.
Comprising 182 credits, this program includes courses such as ethics in criminal justice; introduction to criminal justice; law enforcement operations and report writing; introduction to homeland security; American corrections; victimology; juvenile delinquency; criminal law; criminology; advanced crime scene forensics; and forensic psychology.
At Metropolitan State University’s bachelor of science in criminal justice & criminology program, students will explore the causes and effects of criminal behaviors and victimization, from human trafficking and white-collar crime to serial killings and cybercrime. Graduates will learn the three arms of America’s Criminal Justice system: law enforcement, courts, and corrections.
Notably, this program also has a substantial internship program, including placements in district attorney offices, probation and parole departments, sheriff’s offices, police departments, and other ancillary agencies such as safe houses, halfway houses, and rape awareness and assistance programs.
Made up of 120 credits, the program includes courses such as introduction to corrections; American judicial system; research methods and basic statistics for criminal justice professionals; American policing; criminological theories; criminal justice and the social structure; federal law enforcement; criminal law; probation and parole; and juvenile justice and delinquency.
The University of Northern Colorado, in Greeley, offers a bachelor of science degree in chemistry with a forensic science emphasis. This bachelor’s degree is designed to prepare students to enter the forensic science field by providing them with background courses in physics, chemistry, criminal justice, and sociology along with laboratory experiences and an internship. Notably, students in this program will be required to complete a minor in criminology and criminal justice or anthropology.
Consisting of 120 credits, the program includes courses such as forensic chemistry; principles of biochemistry; instrumental analysis; chemical analysis; organic chemistry; principles of chemistry; survey of physical chemistry; and organic chemistry. The minor in criminology and criminal justice includes courses such as introduction to crime theories, criminal justice; correctional systems; juvenile justice; and criminal behavior analysis.
Graduates of this concentration will have career opportunities with government agencies, crime labs, manufacturers, and other employers.
Students entering these programs must maintain a C grade average in their coursework. Lab work is nearly always required in an internship because it allows students 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 fully online programs. Online delivery programs 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 fully online master of science program in criminal justice, providing students with the competencies necessary for becoming successful leaders in the criminal justice system. The program also has an optional emphasis on Campus, Event, and Organizational Safety (CEOS).
Applicants to the program must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum grade point average of 2.5.
The program comprises 36 credits and includes courses such as ethical leadership in criminal justice; resolving ethical dilemmas in criminal justice; professional partnerships in criminal justice; juvenile crime; mental health and criminal justice; crime scenes and forensic evidence; criminal profiling; and application of constitutional law.
Notably, Colorado Christian University also offers an online associate of science degree in criminal justice; an online bachelor of science program in criminal justice; and an online certificate in criminal justice.
The University of Colorado at Denver offers a master of science degree in the recording arts, emphasizing media forensics. This enables students to gain forensic audio, video, and imagery skills, using technology to help fight crime. The hybrid program includes some courses completed on-campus, but many online classes feature discussion boards, interactive learning, reading responses, self-guided lectures, and video conferencing.
As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as computer forensics; principles in forensic sciences; mobile phone forensics; criminal and civil litigation; research techniques; court testimony; image comparison and photogrammetry; forensic audio analysis; and recovery and processing of CCTV systems.
Notably, the University of Colorado at Denver also offers a 120-credit online bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice and a 36-credit online master of criminal justice program.
Colorado Technical University has a fully online master of science program in criminal justice, where students will analyze issues of policy, society, and law, and learn to develop effective strategies for confronting issues faced by criminal justice practitioners. Students in this program will explore terrorism and Homeland Security management, discuss current trends in criminal justice, and examine issues related to crime prevention, juvenile justice, and victimology.
Students can either choose the general track or go for the homeland security concentration. The curriculum of this 48-credit program includes courses such as advanced review of criminal justice; criminology and public policy; issues of diversity in criminal justice; terrorism and homeland security management; special topics in criminal justice; court services management; and corrections management.
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.
Other national online schools also provide online forensics and CSI programs that may interest students seeking similar programs in Colorado.
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, institutions can be regionally accredited through organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). 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, many organizations offer forensic science and CSI certification or membership that can attest to an individual’s skills and knowledge. There is an abundance of organizations offering national professional certification. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has recognized 10 agencies. These include:
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.
Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.