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Forensic Science Colleges in Oklahoma

You might not think that a world-class institute dedicated to forensic science education and research would be located in Oklahoma (OK), but that is exactly the case with the Forensic Science Institute at the University of Central Oklahoma. And while many students choose to enroll there, there are several other universities in Oklahoma with strong forensic science programs of their own. These programs help students develop or build upon an extensive background in the sciences to prepare for a career as a forensic scientist, as a specialist such as a forensic toxicologist, or even as a university professor or researcher.

Forensic science technicians typically complete an undergraduate degree in a natural science and then a master’s degree specifically in forensic science, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of course, there is more than one educational path to obtaining a job and building a career, but the acquisition of more and more knowledge allows graduates to pursue more nuanced forensic science fields, such as in forensic anthropology or forensic pathology. As it is, a bachelor’s or master’s degree built upon a strong science foundation may enable graduates to pursue employment in a forensic science lab.

Another alternative to consider is crime scene investigation (CSI). Many people pursue this by starting off with a career in law enforcement and then gaining CSI skills and training on the job. However, not all crime scene investigators are law enforcement officials and those that want to be employed as civilians may find it helpful to obtain a bachelor’s degree in crime scene investigation or technology.

Forensic Science Careers in Oklahoma

The BLS reports that the mean annual wage for forensic science technicians nationwide was $61,2200, as of May 2017. Although BLS data specific to Oklahoma is not available for 2017, Career One Stop, which sources its data from the US Department of Labor, indicates that the median salary in OK for forensic science technicians is $65,050.

It is also important to note that Oklahoma also has an extremely low cost of living. In fact the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center reports that Oklahoma is ranked third for the lowest cost of living in the country, with only Mississippi and Arkansas being more affordable. Also, it’s important to note that the forensic science technician occupation offers mean annual wages higher than the nationwide average — which were $450,620, as of May 2017 — for all occupations combined.

Job opportunities for forensic science technicians across the country are expected to grow by 17 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than average job growth for all occupations and could result in some 2,600 positions becoming available. Of course, the BLS reports that those with master’s level education in forensic science may have the best job opportunities as well as those who specialize in areas of DNA analysis or digital computer forensics. In Oklahoma, job demand for forensic science technicians is expected to be even higher at 27 percent (CareerOneStop.org).

How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Oklahoma

There are several different college programs that can start students toward becoming a forensic science technician or a forensic scientist in Oklahoma, but it’s important to remember that the more specialized an interest, the more training may be needed for that specific discipline. The most common pathway to this career is outlined below.

Step 1: A bachelor’s degree.

Students can complete either a degree in biology or chemistry at this level or could find a program specifically in forensic science that combines both of these natural science fields or even allows for a track in either of them. Those choosing a bachelor’s degree in forensic science will gain extensive knowledge in the sciences, but may also be likely to take classes in math and even criminal justice.

Step 2: A master’s degree.

Students will want to complete a degree specifically in forensic science at this level, but may also be able to choose a specific track, such as biology, chemistry or crime scene investigation. Because forensic science is such an interdisciplinary field, other elements that could be part of a master’s program include a thesis, original research and an understanding of the law. A master’s degree could take as little as two to three years of full-time study to complete, and longer with part-time study, but some accelerated programs also may be available.

Step 3: A PhD or other doctoral-level learning.

Students interested in entering a field such as forensic anthropology, forensic psychology of forensic pathology need to complete this terminal degree. However, this degree also could be valuable to anyone wanting to head up a crime scene lab, teach at a university, be involved in research or even launch a career on their own. The time commitment needed to complete doctoral level education can be extensive, with two to three years often a minimal possible investment.

An education is not the only thing needed to become a forensic science technician. There are many personal attributes that also are important to the career, some of which may be developed in college, but others that are often inherent or established over time. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) describes some of these traits as intellectual curiosity, the ability to remain unbiased and a strong sense of personal integrity. Good communication, note-taking and observation skills also are important.

Becoming a Crime Scene Investigator in Oklahoma

Crime scene investigation is another occupational choice for those interested in forensic science. However, this career requires time spent out at the scene of a crime and consulting with other professionals instead of in a lab analyzing evidence. Below are several options for seeking CSI education.

  • Option 1: Certificate or associate degree. A one-year program leading to a certificate or a two-year program leading to an associate degree can provide students with the foundational knowledge, such as in crime scene procedures and the legalities of CSI, that are essential to the field.
  • Option 2: A bachelor’s degree. Students already having an associate degree may choose to use their credits to complete a full undergraduate degree in CSI. With an existing associate degree, this should take two more years of study, but without an associate’s degree a bachelor’s degree should take four years. In addition to studying CSI in greater depth, students will likely have more options for electives than at the associate degree or lower level. Lab work also will be important.
  • Option 3: A law enforcement career. Many people enter CSI by pursuing a career in law enforcement. This requires completion of an academy, the length of which will vary by jurisdiction but typically is a year or less, and may sometimes even necessitate some level of education. Again, requirements vary by jurisdiction.

Crime scene investigators who also are members of a law enforcement agency may have better opportunities in terms of career advancement and even pay. Another advantage to the law enforcement route, according to the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA), is that law enforcement officials have the ability to arrest people for crimes. That said, law enforcement agencies do hire people who have not gone through an academy, but, in this case, a degree may be highly advantageous as the ICSIA notes: “Those few police agencies that do hire civilian CSIs usually require a college degree and some knowledge of processing crime scenes, but not all agencies have that requirement.”

Forensics Job Opportunities in Oklahoma

There are a number of places to look for forensic science jobs in Oklahoma, particularly with local and state governmental agencies, which employ nine out of 10 forensic science technicians, according to the BLS. One place, of course, is the Forensic Science Institute at the University of Central Oklahoma. This Institute undertakes training and research as it relates to various aspects of forensic science, ranging from evidence collection to analysis as well as reporting and testimony. Of course, professors and professionals also may be needed to teach at this school. Some other places to look or jobs could include the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Forensic Science Center or the Tulsa Police Department Forensic Laboratory.

However, more jobs opportunities, including in crime scene investigation, could be available in Oklahoma’s larger cities, such as Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman and even Broken Arrow, the latter of which has a population of more than 100,000. (Oklahoma City has a population of more than 600,000). While law enforcement agencies may be some of the best places to look for CSI or crime scene lab jobs, universities, private organizations and even corporations also could be another source for career opportunities depending on the niche skills that graduates already have.

Featured Forensic Science Colleges in Oklahoma

There are several opportunities available to students seeking forensic science training through campus-based programs in Oklahoma. This includes programs at the undergraduate and graduate level, and thesis and non-thesis options for master’s degree programs. Some of the forensic science program options in Oklahoma are directly listed below.

  • University of Central Oklahoma, based in Edmond, Oklahoma, offers a bachelor’s of science (BS) degree in forensic science that has three tracks: forensic science, forensic science-chemistry, and forensic science-molecular biology. Each BS track at UCO has bee accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), which is the only accrediting body of its kind. Students who already have a bachelor’s degree also can earn a second degree by completing 30 to 39 credit hours in the program. Both a master of science in forensic science (MSFS) and an MSFS with a biology/chemistry focus also are offered.
  • Oklahoma Christian University offers a bachelor’s degree in forensic science at its Edmond-based campus. Students complete five credit hours in biology, 31 hours in chemistry, 16 hours in forensic science, and five hours in science seminars. A wide variety of electives also are available to choose from. A total of 126 credits are needed to complete the bachelor’s degree.
  • Students attending Oklahoma State University, a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based school, can work on a MSFS thesis program that offers one of four specializations: forensic pathology/death scene investigation; forensic psychology; forensic toxicology/trace evidence and forensic biology/DNA. OSU has earned FEPAC accreditation for its MSFS programs. Professionals already working in the field may want to pursue the non-thesis MSFS option that includes concentrations in arson and explosives investigation, forensic document examination and forensic science administration.

Alternatively, students who want to attend other schools in the state might just choose to work on an undergraduate degree in biology or chemistry and supplement that with criminal justice or forensic science electives as they are available. They can then continue their education at the graduate level at one of the schools above, out of state or even through an online program, which is discussed directly below.

Hybrid & Online Programs

A broad number of criminal justice programs are available online that could include courses in CSI and the related forensic sciences. However, the programs that are available specific to forensic science will be more limited in general, but those that are offered online are likely to be in greater supply at the graduate level. Several online program options are listed below.

  • In addition to its on-campus programs, Oklahoma State University offers a hybrid master’s of science in forensic science (MSFS) degree that allows students choosing the non-thesis route to specialize in forensic document examination or forensic science administration entirely through online instruction. The arson and explosives non-thesis option mainly has online classes, but also features hybrid courses that require some on-campus attendance.
  • As an out-of-state option, Stevenson University, which is based in Stevenson, MD, offers an MSFS with three courses of study: biology, chemistry or crime scene investigation. Courses are available using a variety of on-campus and online programming, enabling students to work from their homes in some cases. The school also boasts a Center for Forensic Excellence to promote relationships with law enforcement and in the forensics community in the area.
  • Colorado Technical University offers an online bachelor’s of science degree in criminal justice completely online with a focus on forensics investigation. Classes start on a rolling basis and include those such as advanced crime scene forensics, forensic photography and crime scene documentation, and medico-legal death investigations

Online education is important in providing students with flexible options when it comes to their education, particularly if they have other commitments, such as a full-time job or a family to raise. Check out our list of online forensic science programs to find a more complete list of programs available online at the undergraduate, graduate and certificate level for those who may be interested in a forensic science career.

Program Accreditation & Certification

The AAFS accredits programs through its accrediting arm, the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, or FEPAC. Because the accreditation process through FEPAC is rigorous, there are not many accredited programs in forensic science available across the U.S., making the existence of three FEPAC-accredited programs (at UCO and OSU) quite notable. However, not all forensic science or CSI programs have or need this accreditation to provide a valuable and recognized education. Indeed, FEPAC only accredits those programs that are highly focused on science coursework, making many CSI and criminal justice programs ineligible for accreditation.

For those programs that have not earned FEPAC accreditation, students should be sure to review a school’s institutional accreditation. For instance, in addition to its FEPAC accreditation, Oklahoma State University has earned institutional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

Graduation from a FEPAC-accredited school could be beneficial when it comes to seeking employment, but students could also seek certification in their specific CSI or forensic science discipline to increase job competitiveness. Numerous CSI certifications are available through the International Association for Identification (IAI) or the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA) while board certification is available in some fields, such as forensic anthropology and forensic pathology. The AAFS provides more details on its website about some of the certifications available based on specific forensic science discipline.

Students may also wish to become a member of a forensic science organization, which could provide opportunities to attend conferences, receive continuing education or network with others. Some of the organizations offering either certification or membership include the:

Organizations available at the state or regional level also could provide recent forensic science graduates in Oklahoma with even more opportunities. These could include the Oklahoma Division of the IAI or the Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists, whose annual conference is being held in Oklahoma City in October 2015.

School Name City Forensic
Total Forensics
Grads (2016-2017)
University of Central Oklahoma Edmond x x x 123
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Tulsa x 54
Rose State College Midwest City x 36
Oklahoma Christian University Edmond x 2

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.


Willow Dawn Becker

Willow is a blogger, parent, former educator and regular contributor to www.forensicscolleges.com. When she's not writing about forensic science, you'll find her blogging about education online, or enjoying the beauty of Oregon.