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Forensic Science Colleges in Rhode Island

From the Rhode Island State Crime Lab to its custom-built mobile crime lab, students have many opportunities to pursue forensic science jobs in the Ocean State. Students who want to pursue a career in forensic science can start by seeking educational opportunities locally or head online to look for programs related to forensic science or crime scene investigation (CSI).

To be able to work in a crime lab and help analyze crime scene evidence, a bachelor’s degree is typically needed, according to the BLS. In an undergraduate degree program, students gain knowledge in the natural sciences, including biology and chemistry, which can help them to analyze the variety of evidence like bodily fluids, clothing fibers, and DNA, that they might encounter in a crime lab. A master’s degree in forensic science can be a particular advantage to obtaining a job in the forensic science technician field.

Another option for people who are more interested in working in the field (as opposed to in the lab) is to pursue a career as a crime scene investigator. The CSI career may be best pursued through admission to and completion of a law enforcement academy. Still, some individuals also are able to enter the field as a civilian using CSI education provided through an undergraduate program. According to the BLS, a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences or in forensic science may be helpful to enter this field, but students also may be able to find degrees specifically in crime scene investigation or crime scene technology to help procure a job.

Forensic Science Careers and Salary Information in Rhode Island

The mean annual wages for forensic science technicians nationwide were $71,540, according to the BLS (May 2023). The BLS does not provide wage information for forensic science technicians specifically working in Rhode Island (RI), but there, as elsewhere, job opportunities could be best for those who have a master’s degree in forensic science, have expertise working with DNA, or are knowledgeable about digital computer forensics. It also may be valuable to note that the mean annual wages of forensic science technicians nationwide exceeded those for all occupations combined in the U.S., $65,740, according to the BLS (May 2023).

Nationwide job demand for forensic science technicians is expected to grow 13 percent from 2022 to 2032, according to the BLS (2023)—a rate that is over four times the average for all occupations (3 percent). The expected rate of growth for forensic science technicians could result in 2,300 new positions becoming available during that time.

How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Rhode Island

The BLS reports that a bachelor’s degree is important to obtaining entry-level work as a forensic science technician but that those with a master’s degree in the field may find the most job advantages. Indeed, with more education, graduates can begin to seek very nuanced fields of forensic science. Below we list the most common degrees pursued by those interested in forensic science.

Step 1: A bachelor’s degree.

Whether in natural science, like biology or chemistry, or in forensic science, which should combine education in both of these fields, a degree strongly based in the sciences can help students seek work in a crime lab. A bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete and should include significant hands-on learning, particularly in science labs.

Step 2: A master’s degree (optional).

This degree, which typically can take two years of full-time study to complete, can enable students to specialize in nuanced fields, such as crime scene investigation, biology, or chemistry. Again, the field is one that is interdisciplinary, so students may be required to take classes in fields other than science so that they can apply a criminal justice context to their science learning.

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

Students interested in becoming forensic scientists in fields like forensic pathology or forensic psychology typically need a doctoral-level education. A degree at this level may allow professionals to head up a crime lab for a law enforcement agency, take a lead role in a private lab, or teach classes at a college. Research and a dissertation could be required as part of this degree, which could take two or more years to complete, given part-time or full-time study.

There are also elements outside of an education that are important to becoming a forensic science technician or forensic scientist. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) reports these as the ability to remain unbiased, having intellectual curiosity, and possessing personal integrity. The BLS also indicates good communication skills, the ability to be detail-oriented, and strong critical-thinking capabilities are important on the job.

Becoming a CSI in Rhode Island

Crime scene investigation is also a career that typically needs a bachelor’s degree for entry, reports the BLS. Of course, many people enter the CSI occupation by completing a law enforcement academy, but others are able to obtain employment by completing a degree and seeking employment with a law enforcement agency as a civilian employee. Below are routes for obtaining a CSI education.

Option 1: Certificate or associate degree.

Both certificates and associate degrees can be found in CSI or crime scene technology and can take one to two years, respectively, to complete. Students may take some science classes but also will learn about crime scene photography, evidence collection, and presenting evidence in court.

Option 2: A bachelor’s degree.

This degree takes four years to complete unless a student already has an associate degree and is transferring those credits into a bachelor’s degree program. At this level, students may find internship opportunities or capstone projects required as part of their degree and should be able to take numerous elective classes.

Option 3: A law enforcement career.

The truth is that many people enter the CSI field by completing a law enforcement academy and pursuing a career with a law enforcement agency in one capacity or another. The educational requirements for admission into an academy and employment on the job vary and, in some cases, could require a degree. If this is the case, undergraduate training in CSI could be an advantage to making a start in a law enforcement career.

The Forensic Enterprises, Inc. website reports that lifting and moving weight up to 100 pounds is essential on the job. Other physical requirements include kneeling, stoping, reaching, and climbing at crime scenes since each will be unique and different. Investigators need to understand a significant amount about photography, such as how lighting, distortion, and resolution can affect the ability to sufficiently document crime scenes, which is just one way formal education can be important for this career.

Rhode Island Forensics Job Opportunities

Providence is Rhode Island’s largest city with a population of more than 175,000 people, but Warwick and Cranston are also cities having significant populations each of more than 81,000 people. Larger populations relative to the rest of the state make these cities prime places to look for jobs.

Additionally, prospective forensic science technicians can look to specific organizations for jobs, such as the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory, located in Kingston, R.I. (with a population of just over 6,000). The crime lab provides a range of scientific evidence services related to local, state, or federal crimes, including services related to firearms, trace evidence, and latent prints. The lab also hosts continuing education classes throughout the year for forensic professionals. Other places to look for jobs in the state include the:

Keep in mind that 86 percent of forensic science technicians are employed by local or state governments, according to the BLS. Agencies at these levels could provide some of the best job opportunities, although private institutions, either within Rhode Island or in other states could also be sources for job leads.

Forensic Science Programs in Rhode Island

When it comes to forensic science education in Rhode Island, there are just a few campus-based options. Science classes, in some form or another, will almost always be an important component of forensic science education, although CSI programs may have fewer scientific courses as part of a degree program than a forensic chemistry program, for instance.

The Community College of Rhode Island

The Community College of Rhode Island’s Criminal Justice & Legal Studies Department offers an associate degree in law enforcement.

This Warwick, RI-based school requires students to take classes such as criminal law; law of evidence; and criminal procedures. A 3-credit capstone project also is required, focusing on case studies in criminal law, and integrating material learned in five different courses. While no specific science classes are part of this program, this degree could be useful for acceptance into a law enforcement academy. The program comprises 61 credits.

  • Location: Warwick, RI
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years

Salve Regina University

Salve Regina University offers a certificate in digital forensics, featuring instruction in network traffic analysis, web log analysis, malware reverse engineering and cyber-infrastructure analysis. This four-course program is offered both online and in-person. The required courses include principles of digital forensics and advanced digital forensics. Then, students choose two courses among electives, including network forensics, mobile forensics, insider threat, or special topics.

  • Location: Newport, RI
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: One year

Roger Williams University

Rogers Williams University offers a bachelor of science (BS) in forensic science degree. Based in Bristol, RI, the school allows students to choose either a biology or chemistry track. Criminal justice classes comprise a part of the degree program, no matter what track students choose, and a statistics course and a minimum of five forensic science electives also are required.

As part of this program, students learn how to analyze, examine, and testify about physical evidence, preparing them for successful careers as forensic science technicians. Notably, students in this program will have a unique opportunity to be fully immersed in processing crime scenes through Roger Williams University’s virtual-reality crime-scene training program. Created by Karla-Sue Marriott, director and professor of forensic science at RWU, this VR program lets students process crime scenes and use a blood spatter simulator to calculate bloodstain patterns.

The curriculum includes courses such as civil and criminal procedure in the US courts; introduction to criminal investigation; forensic science; law of evidence; introduction to criminal justice; and principles of chemistry.

Roger Williams University also offers an undergraduate degree in criminal justice that includes courses such as introduction to criminal justice; substantive criminal law; constitutional law; survey of methods in criminal justice; criminology; juvenile justice; and policing in America.

  • Location: Bristol, RI
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years

University of Rhode Island

The University of Rhode Island is also based in Kingston and offers an 18-credit minor in forensic science that comprises six classes in all. In addition to one criminalistics class, students also must complete a three-credit practicum related to forensic science or become involved in research. It also is suggested that students take at least one chemistry course.

In addition, the school also offers a bachelor of science program in chemistry and forensic chemistry emphasizing a solid preparation in chemistry supplemented by an introduction to the field of forensic science. Moreover, there is also a bachelor of arts program in criminology and criminal justice preparing students for entry-level positions in criminal justice and related fields.

  • Location: Kingston, RI
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: One to four years

In addition to these options, students also can pursue undergraduate degrees at Rhode Island schools that focus either on biology or chemistry. Having a four-year degree in one of these fields could then enable them to go on and pursue a master’s degree in forensic science available either in another state or through suitable options online.

Hybrid & Online Programs

Online degrees in criminal justice can provide students with options in crime scene investigation or crime scene technology as can online bachelor’s or master’s degrees in forensic science. Below are a variety of options that can be found online and that may provide busy students with flexible options when it comes to their learning and instruction.

Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University (CTU) offers a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in forensic investigations, which is available online through this school. The degree is 182-quarter credits in length and is offered at the Colorado Springs campus.

The program comprises 66 credits of general education courses, 56 credits of criminal justice core, and 60 credits for the forensic investigation concentration. Courses include ethics in criminal justice; introduction to criminal justice; juvenile delinquency; advanced crime scene forensics; forensic photography & crime scene documentation; forensic psychology; introduction to ridgeology; and forensic criminology.

  • Location: Colorado Springs, CO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years

American InterContinental University

American InterContinental University (AIU) offers a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice with a focus on forensic science that can be completed online in as little as 36 months.

Courses in this 18-credit program include introduction to criminology; introduction to criminal law; foundations of corrections; crime victim studies; constitutional issues in criminal procedures; criminalistics; criminal investigation; psychopathology and criminality; and medicolegal death investigation.

  • Location: Chandler, AZ
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years

Liberty University Online

Liberty University Online has a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice program with a focus on crime scene investigation that is available online. The BS program allows students to gain analytical and scientific knowledge related to forensics and the law. At least 50 percent of the 120 credit hours in the program must be taken through the university and 30 of the 120 credits must be taken at the upper-undergraduate level.

Courses include introduction to criminal justice; criminal justice research & writing; juvenile justice; introduction to forensics; crime scene photography; crime scene management; criminology; criminal investigations; and court & expert witness testimony.

  • Location: Lynchburg, VA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years

University of Florida

Through its Department of Pharmacology, the University of Florida offers four master’s degrees in forensic science and five graduate-level certificates that are available online. The master’s degree programs are available in forensic science; forensic DNA and serology; forensic drug chemistry; and forensic toxicology. These programs require 32 credits each while the certificates can be completed in as little as one year.

The forensic science master’s degree includes courses such as biological evidence and serology; principles of forensic science; forensic toxicology; applied statistics for data analysis; special topics in forensic science; crime scene investigation; biosecurity and microbial forensics; and forensic analysis of DNA.

  • Location: Gainesville, FL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Master’s degree (two to three years); graduate certificates (less than a year)

Roger Williams University

Roger Williams University offers an online graduate certificate in digital forensics where graduates learn about solving computer crimes like data sabotage, financial fraud, and viruses. Through hands-on training, students will discover how investigators analyze, manage, and acquire evidence collected from mobile devices and computers, as well as how to present this evidence in court.

Made up of nine credits, the program includes courses such as digital forensics; digital forensics hardware and acquisition; and mobile device forensics.

This certificate program can be stacked with cybersecurity, cyber specialist, or cloud computing certificates (must earn three total), along with a thesis project, to earn the MS in cybersecurity program.

  • Location: Bristol, RI
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: One year

View a larger list of schools offering online forensics degree programs.

Program Accreditation & Certification

Programmatic accreditation through the AAFS, founded in 1948, can be important when seeking a job, but not all forensic science programs across the U.S. have accreditation through its Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, or FEPAC.

For example, accreditation requires, among many other facets, that 50 percent of full-time forensic science staff have a doctoral degree and that the program has at least one relationship with a forensic science lab. Programs that have not earned FEPAC accreditation can still provide a reputable education. In fact, FEPAC only accredits those programs that focus heavily on sciences, meaning many CSI and criminal justice programs would not even be eligible to apply. Still, students should be sure to investigate a school’s institutional accreditation more thoroughly if it lacks programmatic accreditation.

While none of the schools in Rhode Island have FEPAC accreditation, they may have regional institutional accreditation through the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), which is another way of assuring students of a quality education when it comes to their learning.

Another way to prove your forensic science skills is to seek certification. At upper-education levels, this is known as board certification, and it could be available through organizations such as the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA) or the American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO).

Graduates could also seek certification through the International Association for Identification (IAI) or the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA), both of which offer numerous certifications particularly related to CSI.

Those who wish to have detailed information on credentialing within each subfield of forensics can visit our programs or careers pages.

Students also may wish to become members of a forensic science organization, which could provide opportunities to attend conferences, receive continuing education, or network with others. Some of these include the:

Additionally, there may be a forensic science club or organization at the school that you attend, a forensic science honors society, or even other opportunities to become involved in forensic science in your community, any of which could lead to networking and job leads when it comes time to look for employment.


Farheen Gani

Farheen Gani writes about forensics schools across the United States, and has covered topics such as forensic chemistry and forensic science and biochemistry since 2018. She writes about healthcare, technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).


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.