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Forensics Colleges in North Carolina

The Tar Heel State hosts a number of certificate and degree programs in forensics, both online and on-campus. This is not surprising given North Carolina’s proud history with respect to education. In fact, the Old North State boasts the first state art museum and the first public university in the nation: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Government of NC 2016).

So what can a person expect from a forensics college in North Carolina? O*NET (2016)—a data group sponsored by the US Department of Labor—reports that forensic science technicians must be trained in a variety of skills including collecting, analyzing, and carefully documenting evidence from crime scenes; liaising with medical, law enforcement, and other professionals; performing laboratory tests on multiple types of evidence (e.g., fingerprints, bodily fluids, hair, fibers, soils, documents, electronics, tool marks, etc); and testifying as expert witnesses in court. It’s important to note that there are many specialties in forensics such as criminalistics, toxicology, forensic accounting, cybercrime, DNA analyses, document examination, ballistics, arson investigations, and other subfields.

Finally, North Carolina is uniquely strict about who can seek employment in state crime labs. By illustration, the General Assembly of NC passed widespread reforms on the use of forensic science in the state. The new law—the Forensic Sciences Act of 2011—established the Forensic Advisory Board; created protocols to decrease human error in forensics examinations; elucidated rules concerning the admission of forensic evidence into courts of law; and most impactfully for aspiring forensics professionals in NC, has called for the State Department of Justice to hire exclusively certified professionals.

Read on to discover the employment outlook in forensics, as well as to learn about forensics colleges in North Carolina, professional certification, and program accreditation.

Programs for NORTH CAROLINA Students

Arizona State University

Online BS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology

Online MS - Forensic Psychology

Online BS - Criminology and Criminal Justice

Online MA - Criminal Justice

Online BS - Biochemistry

Online BS - Biological Sciences

Stevenson University Online

Online Master's in Cyber Forensics

Online Master of Forensic Science

  • Biology Concentration
  • Chemistry Concentration

Online Master's in Forensic Studies

Online Master's in Forensic Accounting

Online Master's in Forensic Investigation

Online Master's in Digital Forensics

Online Master's in Crime Scene Investigation

Maryville University

Develop into a dual threat cyber security professional

Online MS in Cyber Security

Online BS in Cyber Security

Southern New Hampshire University

BA in Psychology - Forensic Psychology

MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology

BS in Accounting - Forensic Accounting & Fraud Examination

MS in Accounting - Forensic Accounting

MBA in Accounting - Forensic Accounting

BS in Criminal Justice

MS - Criminal Justice

Utica College

Online BS - Cybersecurity

  • Cybercrime & Fraud Investigation
  • Network Forensics & Intrusion Investigation
  • Cyber Operations

Online Financial Crimes Investigator Certificate

Online BS - Fraud & Financial Crime Investigation

Online MS - Financial Crime & Compliance Mgmt

Online MS - Cybersecurity

  • Cyber Intelligence Specialization
  • Computer Forensics Specialization
  • Cyber Operations Specialization

Online MBA - Economic Crime & Fraud Mgmt

Online MBA - Cybersecurity

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Occupational Demand in North Carolina Today

There is excellent news for aspiring forensics professionals in NC: forensic science is a field on the rise. As proof of point, the the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2015) projects that openings for forensic science technicians will increase 27 percent between 2014 and 2024, nearly four times the growth rate expected for all occupations during that time period (7 percent). And this expected addition of 3,800 positions nationally is only one career possibility for people trained in forensic science. Following the completion of a degree program and specialized training, people with degrees in forensics may pursue jobs as crime scene investigators (CSIs), laboratory scientists, toxicologists, medical examiners, forensic engineers, cybercrime analysts, forensic accountants, criminal profilers, forensic nurses, odontologists, document examiners, arson investigators, and more.

The BLS (2014) reported that there were 340 forensic science technicians working in NC with the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $32,540
  • 25th percentile: $35,200
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,670
  • 75th percentile: $51,230
  • 90th percentile: $60,990

These figures are somewhat lower than the national salary ranges found by both the BLS (2014) and Payscale (2016). The BLS (2014) found the following salary percentiles nationwide:

  • 10th percentile: $33,610
  • 25th percentile: $41,900
  • 50th percentile (median): $55,360
  • 75th percentile: $72,230
  • 90th percentile: $91,400

By comparison, Payscale (2016)—an aggregator of self-reported salary data—found slightly lower ranges among its 214 reporting forensic scientists from around the country:

  • 10th percentile: $36,000
  • 25th percentile: $42,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $51,205
  • 75th percentile: $72,000
  • 90th percentile: $85,000

Although the wages in NC are slightly lower than the national averages in forensics occupations, it’s important to note that the cost of living is also significantly lower in North Carolina. By illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2015) found that NC ranked twenty-first among all American states with respect to affordability, boasting savings especially in the realm of housing costs.

Also, not surprisingly, salaries vary by metropolitan area as well. Here are the annual salary data for the three major regions of NC (BLS 2014):

Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC: 60 forensic science technicians employed

  • 10th percentile: $36,200
  • 25th percentile: $41,210
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,230
  • 75th percentile: $52,500
  • 90th percentile: $58,950

Greensboro-High Point, NC: 30 forensic science technicians employed

  • 10th percentile: $34,060
  • 25th percentile: $36,920
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,810
  • 75th percentile: $53,980
  • 90th percentile: $60,630

Raleigh-Cary, NC: 90 forensic science technicians employed

  • 10th percentile: $33,520
  • 25th percentile: $35,680
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,070
  • 75th percentile: $52,690
  • 90th percentile: $62,110

There is an abundance of places of employment for aspiring professionals in forensics. The BLS (2015) states that 88 percent of forensic science technicians work in crime laboratories, morgues, police departments, or medical examiner offices. Additionally, depending on a person’s specialty, (s)he may work in private laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, ecological research institutes, biomedical research organizations, private investigation (PI) offices, law firms, insurance companies, and other businesses seeking forensic expertise. Although many forensics specialists work during normal business hours, due to the nature of the profession, those who work in criminal investigations may be called upon to work evenings, weekends, and holidays.

One eminent employer of forensics professionals is the North Carolina Department of Justice State Crime Lab, which has branches in Raleigh, Asheville, and Greensboro. This lab provides free forensic examinations to public law enforcement agencies, including local, state, federal, military, and railroad security divisions. The lab is internationally accredited under ISO/IEC 17025 standards, the predominant criteria established to demonstrate a laboratory’s technological competence. In addition to job opportunities, the NC DOJ Crime Lab provides summer internships at the state crime laboratory across all forensic subfields such as trace evidence, digital evidence, latent evidence drug chemistry & toxicology, firearms & toolmark, and forensic biology & DNA.

For more information on job openings in forensics in North Carolina and nationwide, there are several resources:

North Carolina:

Nationwide:

Forensics Programs in North Carolina

For aspiring forensics professionals, there are several reputable degree and certificate programs. It’s important to note that many undergraduates choose majors tangentially related to forensics such as biology, chemistry, sociology, criminal justice, or criminology. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) points out that most schools don’t offer bachelor’s degrees in forensic science since it can be difficult to secure employment without graduate-level training. Therefore UNCW advises that students choose “a more marketable major” and consider a minor in forensics.

For associate degree programs, typical application requirements include sending official secondary school transcripts with a competitive GPA (e.g., >3.0); taking the TOEFL test (for non-native speakers of English); and paying an application fee. For example, Fayetteville Technical Community College provides an associate of applied science (AAS) in criminal justice technology with a latent evidence concentration. Students take courses such as introduction to criminal justice, juvenile justice, crime scene processing, and constitutional law. Additionally, students get hands-on exposure to skills such as classifying fingerprints, recognizing tire-tracks, and computer-assisted crime scene processing. Fayetteville also offers certificate programs in crime scene investigation and latent evidence processing.

For bachelor’s degree programs, typical application requirements include sending official secondary school transcripts with a competitive GPA (e.g., >3.0); submitting official scores from the SAT or ACT tests; taking the TOEFL test (for non-native speakers of English); and paying an application fee. Admissions committees may also prefer candidates with some experience in forensics or related fields such as volunteering through a local police department, hospital, or medical examiner office. Fayetteville State University provides a bachelor of science (BS) program in forensic science with a concentration in either biology or chemistry. For example, the interdisciplinary biology concentration offers advanced instruction in DNA analysis, forensic microscopy, microbiology & immunology, and legal aspects of criminal justice. By comparison, the chemistry concentration involves coursework in forensic professional practice, analytical chemistry, chemical instrumentation, and criminal justice ethics. North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh hosts the Forensic Sciences Institute, a facility which offers forensic science as a minor to students in a variety of undergraduate disciplines. This minor involves the completion of at least 15 credit hours in areas such as fundamentals of forensic anthropology, introduction to forensic science, forensic chemistry, and materials forensics. Finally, North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham offers a bachelor of science (BS) in chemistry with a concentration on forensic science. In a collaboration between multiple departments, NCCU has advanced training in techniques such as DNA analysis, chromatography, and infrared imaging. Courses in this program include legal aspects of forensic science, criminal justice court processes, and statistical methods.

For more information on various forensics programs—including options in computer forensics, crime scene investigation (CSI), cybersecurity, criminal profiling, forensic accounting, forensic engineering, forensic anthropology, forensic nursing, and more—please visit the forensic programs page.

Hybrid & Online Forensics Programs

For working professionals, parents, and people with other time commitments, there are many online and hybrid forensics programs available. In addition to a quality on-campus forensic science program, Western Carolina University (WCU) offers an online bachelor of science (BS) degree in criminal justice. The curricula includes theories of crime, statistical analysis for criminology & criminal justice, and legal liability of criminal justice personnel. Also, students have several extracurricular opportunities such as joining the Student Association of Criminal Justice Affairs (SACJA) or even studying abroad. Notably, GetEducated.com ranked WCU as the “#1 Best Buy” among its 2014 college affordability rankings. Another school, the University of Mount Olive, has locations throughout NC and provides an online bachelor of science (BS) in criminal justice and criminology with instruction in juvenile justice & delinquency, victimology & advocacy, punishment & corrections, and law enforcement. Mount Olive also boasts small class sizes and a generous policy for transferring credits. Finally, the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services (NCIDS) has free online forensics training in a variety of specialty topics such as digital forensics for attorneys, presumptive & confirmatory forensic tests, and cell phone forensics, among others.

For more information on distance-based education and specialities, please visit the online forensic science degrees page.

Professional Certification in Forensics

As mentioned in the introduction, the General Assembly of North Carolina passed widespread reforms on the use of forensic science in the state. The new law—the Forensic Sciences Act of 2011—established the Forensic Advisory Board and has called for the North Carolina Department of Justice to hire exclusively certified professionals. Therefore, it may be advisable to seek professional certification.

Prerequisites for certification typically include completion of a formal training program; one- to three-years of experience in the field; professional references; and completing an examination.

There are a variety of organizations which provide professional certification to forensic science professionals nationwide. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has recognized 17 specialty organizations including:

Forensics Program Accreditation

Prospective forensics students in North Carolina are encouraged to verify the accreditation status of their programs. The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) is the primary institutional accreditation authority in this region which is recognized by the US Department of Education.

Additionally, the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) accredits forensic science programs. As of February 2016, there were no programs in NC with FEPAC accreditation.

Depending on one’s specialty, other forensic program accreditation bodies can include:

Ultimately, although institutional or programmatic accreditation may not be necessary to enter a career in forensics, these approval bodies can serve as indicators of quality by evaluating the administration, school finances, student support services, faculty effectiveness, facilities, program mission statement, and other relevant factors. 

Programs for North Carolina Students

Arizona State University

Online BS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology

Online MS - Forensic Psychology

Online BS - Biochemistry

Online BS - Biological Sciences

Stevenson University Online

Online Master of Forensic Science

  • Biology Concentration
  • Chemistry Concentration
Maryville University

Online MS in Cyber Security

Online BS in Cyber Security

School NameCityWebsiteDegrees AwardedCertificates AwardedTotal Forensics Grads
Fayetteville Technical Community CollegeFayetteville181937
Catawba Valley Community CollegeHickory14822
Forsyth Technical Community CollegeWinston Salem18220
Wake Technical Community CollegeRaleigh13316
Nash Community CollegeRocky Mount14014
Stanly Community CollegeAlbemarle9312
Guilford Technical Community CollegeJamestown10010
Western Carolina UniversityCullowhee808
Southwestern Community CollegeSylva718
Coastal Carolina Community CollegeJacksonville606
Saint Augustine's UniversityRaleigh505
St Andrews UniversityLaurinburg404
Fayetteville State UniversityFayetteville303
Wayne Community CollegeGoldsboro202
Piedmont Community CollegeRoxboro101

School data provided by IPEDS (2013), and includes all certificates and degrees awarded for the following programs: Arson Investigation, Computer Forensics, Forensic Accounting, Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Psychology, Forensic Science and Technology, and Law Enforcement Investigation

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