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Forensics Colleges in Hawaii

Some forensic science students have always had an interest in forensic science, following the likes of well-known investigators like Henry Lee and Michael Baden while others find themselves looking for an exciting career to enter. Whatever a student’s background, it is never too late to sharpen forensic science skills, a path that can be taken by completing one of the forensic science programs in Hawaii (HI).

A forensic science education can help prepare graduates for a career in a lab. Typically, students need to complete a bachelor’s degree specifically in forensic science or a field like biology, chemistry, biology, physics or physical anthropology, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). At the graduate level, a forensic science degree may enable involvement in research, further investigative skills or facilitate entrance into administration or upper-management. At the doctoral level, it may enable a forensic technician to ultimately become a professor or lab director. Entering crime scene investigation (CSI) is another choice, although this path keeps its professionals mostly out in the field, documenting crime scenes and finding and storing the right pieces of crime scene evidence. A four-year forensic science degree may be helpful in entering CSI, as may completion of a police academy program. Other options are to work on a certificate or associate degree program specifically in CSI.

Forensic science is a relatively high paying career, both nationwide and in the state. The mean annual wages for forensic science technicians, as of May 2017, were $62,220, according to the BLS. In Hawaii, forensic science technicians fare nearly as well with mean wages at $58,030, shows the BLS. Although this isn’t as high as the nationwide average, it is still remains above the mean wages for all occupations combined in U.S., which were, of as May 2017, $50,620, according to the BLS. Nationwide, opportunities for forensic science technicians are expected to grow by 17 percent between 2016 and 2026. In Hawaii, this job growth is also expected to be 25 percent, from 2014 to 2024, but pay can depend on a number of factors (CareerOneStop.org 2017).

How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Hawaii

Becoming a forensic scientist most often requires a four-year bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS. Most students need at least a high school diploma or GED to enter a postsecondary program. High schools classes in biology, calculus, chemistry and physics can be particularly relevant. Once accepted into a postsecondary institution, students could:

  • Step 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree (4 years). This four-year education should help students obtain broad knowledge in biology, chemistry and physics, according to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). Other valuable skills important to forensic science include communication, math and statistics. As far as education in the U.S., Career One Stop, a site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, shows that 32 percent of all forensic science technicians had a bachelor’s degree.
  • Step 2: Pursue a master’s degree (2 years). This degree may be particularly helpful when students want to specialize in an area or becoming involved in research. In fact, it is necessary for entering some fields, according to the AAFS, but can add two or more years onto study. Of course, advanced education can be pursued while already employed in the field, but it could then take longer to complete a master’s degree part-time, up to five years. Why consider a master’s degree? In Hawaii, Career One Stop shows that 12 percent of forensic science technicians had a master’s degree in the U.S., and this potentially provides a competitive edge.
  • Step 3: Consider a PhD (timeline varies). This terminal degree could lead someone to become a professor in forensic science or even to oversee a forensic science lab. The time required to complete this degree can be extensive, however, often two or more years going full-time or up to five or more on a part-time basis.
  • Step 4: Obtain certification from a national organization. Certification is not required to practice as a forensic scientist, but it can certainly provide evidence of your skills. Employers may be interested in hiring individuals who already have certification or are working toward it. A full list of organizations offering certification or membership is provided toward the end of this article.

What other types of skills are essential to become a forensic scientist? The AAFS says that curiosity and integrity are important as well as the ability to solidly communicate with others and to effectively take notes and carry out documentation. Forensic scientists also need to remain professional at all times, and stay composed no matter what they may see as a result of a crime.

Pursuing a CSI Education in Hawaii

CSI is another branch of forensic science that may be of interest. Instead of being in the lab, this will put you out in the field at the scene of the crime or traveling to consult with other professionals about what may have happened. The steps for entering CSI are not as direct as for forensic science and primarily depend on how much time you want to invest in your education. Some ways to enter CSI include:

  • Option 1: Pursue a certificate or associate degree. Many certificate programs in CSI only take a year to complete or may take up to two years if you decide on an associate degree. These programs should provide the fundamentals to you: give you a background in criminal justice, teach you how to collect evidence at a scene and even to take photographs that can be used in a court of law.
  • Option 2: Complete a bachelor’s degree. Because the BLS recommends the bachelor’s degree as an entry point into CSI, this may be a optimal choice for those interested in the field. This may be a particularly pertinent selection when someone wants to enter CSI through an alternative route to that of training through a police academy.
  • Option 3: Training through an academy or police force. In rural areas, some crime scene investigators may be able to pick up skills by simply working with others on the job. In this case, a CSI program may not be necessary. However, becoming trained while already employed as a police officer may be another point of entry. You may need to work with others on the police force already trained in CSI or complete internal programs at an academy to gain necessary skills.

Whatever path you choose, certification may be valuable. While a full list of agencies offering certification or membership is provided at the end of the article, two that may be of particular relevance to CSIs include the International Association for Identification (IAI) and the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA). Requirements may vary per organization, so be sure to familiarize yourself with them beforehand.

Occupational Demand in Hawaii

The best job opportunities in Hawaii may be found in some of its larger cities, simply because more crime can occur there. In Hawaii, the cities of Honolulu, Hilo, and Kailua are among the largest. Individuals could look for employment with Honolulu Police Department’s Scientific Investigation Section, a full-service lab accredited in multiple areas, including biology, controlled substances, trace evidence, and others. Additional places to look for employment could include:

Of course, forensic scientists may also be able to work in a morgue or a coroner’s office, particularly when they have training as a pathologist, or for any number of police departments or agencies. Jobs also could be found with federal, state or local agencies as well as private companies.

Featured Forensic Science Colleges in Hawaii

While there are a number of forensic colleges in the Aloha State, none are accredited through the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), the accrediting branch of the AAFS. Graduation from a FEPAC-accredited program is not necessary, however, but could be preferred by employers. You may find that other job candidates in Hawaii have not graduated from a FEPAC-accredited school either, and that the strength of your grades and experiences may speak more to your qualifications. Some of the forensic science schools in Hawaii include:

  • Remington College, in Honolulu, provides an associate degree in criminal justice, allowing students to learn about evidence handling and crime scene investigation among other relevant criminal justice topics. Guest speakers, like individuals from the Honolulu Police Department, come in to help round out real-world learning.
  • The University of Hawaii at West O’ahu offers an undergraduate certificate in applied forensic anthropology. Offered jointly with Leeward Community College, the certificate may be earned by itself or along with a bachelor’s degree, such as a bachelor’s of arts (BA) in social sciences or a bachelor’s of arts in public administration.
  • Chaminade University of Honolulu offers both a bachelor’s of science (BS) degree as well as a master of science (MS) degree in forensic science. In these programs, students learn about the latest technological and scientific advancements in the field, as well as the importance of criminal law. Hands-on experiences provide them with practical knowledge. The graduate program, geared toward recent baccalaureate graduates or professionals already in the field, includes a research component.
  • Hawai’i Pacific University in Honolulu offers a forensic science health minor. However, this is designated for those working on their bachelor’s of science in nursing degree and comprises four core courses, including introduction to forensic science and forensic psychology.

Many degree-based forensic science programs may require students to obtain a specific GPA in classes in their area of study. They may also need to complete an internship or do lab work. Students looking for more opportunities beyond those listed above, may want to explore what online programs have to offer.

Hybrid & Online Programs

Students in Hawaii can find a wide variety of forensic science programs and degrees online. These will vary from the certificate level all the way up to advanced degrees. Classroom discussion, collaborative projects, and video instruction can comprise part of these online programs.

  • Students can enroll in the online diploma program in forensics training available through Ashworth College. Students can progress at their own pace and complete the program in as little as four months. Even though the program is online, enrollees have the option to graduate in a live commencement ceremony.
  • American Military University provides an undergraduate certificate in forensic science that can help students to learn about managing and profiling crime scenes and using physical and psychological evidence and analysis to help identify potential perpetrators. Industry experts, such as individuals from police agencies, sheriff’s offices and even Homeland Security, teach the classes.
  • The University of Maryland Global Campus has an online bachelor’s degree in investigative forensics that includes courses such as crime scene investigation, principles of digital forensics, criminalistics, psychology of criminal behavior and more. An online minor in forensics is also offered.

Additional programs are listed in the AAFS website, including undergraduate, graduate and online certificates. Contact information, e-mail and website URL for these programs are provided on the site.

Program Accreditation & Certification

Enrolling in a FEPAC-accredited program may be helpful to launching a career, but not necessary. Since there are no ground-based FEPAC-accredited schools in Hawaii, students may want to ensure the institution they are attending is regionally accredited. In Hawaii, regional accreditation is granted through the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Someone in Hawaii really wanting to attend a FEPAC-accredited program could seek out one of those offered online, however. FEPAC accreditation can help assure future employees that individuals have received the necessary training to work in a laboratory.

Additionally, a number of different organizations offer forensic science certification that can help provide proof of an individual’s skills. These includes organizations, such as the

The types of certifications available through these organizations will vary and applicants may need to pass an examination or meet other requirements, such as graduating from a program backed by the organization. As well, some of these may offer membership that can include benefits, such as continuing education opportunities, networking and outreach, and even job boards.

School Name City Forensic
Total Forensics
Grads (2016-2017)
Chaminade University of Honolulu Honolulu x 22

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.