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Students pursuing an online master’s degree in crime scene investigation learn how to analyze circumstances around crimes to draw conclusions from the evidence collected. This is a broad discipline that integrates principles of criminology, forensics, chemistry, biology, and human anatomy.

Graduates apply knowledge of the criminal justice system, legal process, pathology, crime resolution procedures, and psychology for various career opportunities related to law enforcement. Popular career choices include detective, medical examiner, crime scene technician, criminologist, and lab director.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that police and detectives earn a median yearly salary of $74,910. The median salary for forensic science technicians is $64,940 per year, and this occupation is expected to grow at a particularly fast rate (13%) over the next decade.

An online master’s in crime scene investigation typically requires anywhere from 30-36 credits. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition for graduate school is $12,596 at public colleges and $28,017 at private institutions.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Crime Scene Investigation Program

Choose your area of study

This degree is typically offered as a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS). Some programs will allow you to select a concentration and focus your studies on a particular niche in this field, such as forensic psychology, forensic anthropology, or forensic chemistry. Also, some schools don’t offer standalone degrees for this major but will allow you to specialize in crime scene investigation while enrolled in a master’s in criminal justice program. If you already know what you would like to do after you graduate, look for programs that closely match your career goals.

Research schools and programs

When researching schools and programs, the first thing to check is their accreditation status. This will impact not only the quality of the program but also whether financial aid is available and eligibility for future jobs and educational opportunities. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of accredited schools and programs. Also, for individuals planning to become private investigators, note if the programs meet the requirements for state licensure.

Some of the key questions students should ask when researching online master’s in crime scene investigation programs include:

  • What are the eligibility requirements? Do students need to have an undergraduate degree in a specific field?
  • Are there sufficient networking opportunities?
  • Is experiential learning, such as an internship, required?
  • Who are the faculty members, and what are their qualifications?
  • What support services does the school provide for online students?
  • Does the curriculum match your career ambitions?

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

When researching schools, speak with an admissions counselor for full details about application requirements. Keep track of application materials and deadlines using a checklist or spreadsheet.

The specific requirements will vary by school, but most applicants to an online master’s in crime scene investigation program must submit the following:

  • Completed application and fees
  • Official transcripts from all schools previously attended
  • Letters of recommendation detailing your qualifications, character, and potential for program success
  • A resume or CV that summarizes your education and professional experiences
  • An essay or personal statement explaining your interest in crime scene investigation and why you are a match for the program
  • GRE scores

Find out if there are any requirements in terms of undergraduate major, GPA, or coursework. Some programs may expect students to have prior professional experience in the field as well. Be prepared for the possibility of an interview.

Select your program

Before making your final decision, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Do you want your program to be as online as possible, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a fair amount of in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer? Your school should accommodate your scheduling needs and learning preferences.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

If you haven’t already, speak to a financial aid counselor to get a clear understanding of program costs and available financial aid options, including need-based and merit-based institutional scholarships and grants, fellowships, assistantships, and work-study. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which schools use to determine eligibility for most types of aid, including federal student loans.

Other options include payment plans, which allow students to spread out tuition payments over the course of the term; tuition assistance benefits, if available, from your employer; and tuition discounts and GI Bill benefits for veterans and active-duty military members.

The Top 7 Online Master’s in Crime Scene Investigation Degree Programs

Best Online Master's in Crime Scene investigation Degree Programs

Stevenson University

Oklahoma State University

Saint Leo University

University of New Haven

University of Central Florida

National University

George Washington University

Florida International University

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How We Rank Schools

We only considered programs that are available entirely or primarily online. The options on our list can be completed remotely, although some programs are offered on-campus as well.

All of these programs are offered by regionally accredited schools. This guarantees that the programs meet high standards of quality for postsecondary education and that the degrees and credits earned at these institutions will be widely recognized and accepted.

Once we narrowed the list of programs, we evaluated each of them on the basis of cost, outcomes, reputation, flexibility, and faculty. We then calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Crime Scene Investigation Program?

Most online programs involve 30 to 36 credit hours. Practicum or lab components are common in many courses. Students acquire the expertise to gather, preserve, and protect crime evidence. Approaches and practical skills are necessary to unify information and derive evidence-based conclusions. Theories of crime and criminal justice are studied. Primarily, coursework covers biology, chemistry, physics, law, psychology, human anatomy, and criminal justice.

Expect core and elective classes discussing forensic documentation, blood pattern analysis, child abuse investigation techniques, and tool mark identification. Enrollees may complete a capstone project, also called an exhibit or thesis. Students concentrating on computer forensic science can expect to work in a lab most often. Crime scene investigators work at the scene of the crime most of the time.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in crime scene investigation degree program

  • Crime Scene Photography. Students learn how to document evidence for investigation and use it in the courtroom. Learners develop technical photography skills to present clear evidence.
  • Bloodstain Pattern Analysis. This class focuses on bloodstain patterns to make critical inferences about violent crime. The course comprises both lecture and lab components.
  • Forensic Toxicology. Students apply analytical and organic chemistry principles to learn forensic toxicology basics. Learning to detect drugs and other substances in body fluids is a primary focus.
  • Expert Testimony and Challenges in Court. This course reviews how expert witnesses offer empirical evidence in criminal cases. Learners study mock testimonials and case studies.
  • Death Investigations. Enrollees examine how investigators document scenes and perform preparatory body examinations. How to identify environmental evidence is explored.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Crime Scene Investigation?

Career outlook

The career outlook for individuals with a master’s in crime scene investigation is promising, with opportunities in both the public and private sectors. Thanks to advances in forensic science and technology, the demand for skilled crime scene investigators continues to grow. Having a master’s degree in crime scene investigation can lead to higher-paying positions and increased earning potential.

Career paths for individuals with an online master’s in crime scene investigation include the following:

  • Forensic science technician — Collect evidence at crime scenes and analyze evidence in laboratories.
    • Median annual salary: $64,940
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 13%
    • New job openings projected: 2,600 annually
  • Police officer or detective — Conduct patrols, respond to emergency calls, and investigate crimes.
    • Median annual salary: $74,910
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New job openings projected: 64,500 annually
  • Private detective or investigator — Conduct surveillance and collect evidence for attorneys, individuals, and businesses.
    • Median annual salary: $49,540
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 6%
    • New job openings projected: 3,800 annually

Online Master’s in Crime Scene Investigation Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in crime scene investigation degree program?

Although application requirements and processes vary by school, most institutions use a similar approach for accepting online applications. Students can complete their application and submit supporting materials through the school’s website. The only information students may need to submit in hard copy form are their undergraduate transcripts.

Pay attention to deadlines, particularly if the school only admits new students once or twice per year. Failure to submit all required application materials by the deadline can impact your ability to start during your desired term.

If you have questions or concerns about what application materials you need to submit or how to submit them, contact the school’s admissions office for clarification.

How much does an online master’s in crime scene investigation degree cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual cost of graduate school tuition is $12,596 at public colleges and $28,017 at private colleges.

The following factors can influence the cost of your degree:

  • The type of school you’re attending (public versus private)
  • Additional fees assessed by the school for technology, labs, academic resources, and student support services
  • Personal expenses such as technology, books, and other course materials
  • Time away from work

For the most accurate information on program costs, speak directly to a financial aid counselor at the school.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in crime scene investigation degree?

This ultimately depends on how many credits the program requires and how long it takes you to complete them. Most online master’s in crime scene investigation degrees require 30-45 credits, which can be completed with 1-2 years of full-time study or 2-3 years of part-time study.

Students enrolled in an asynchronous program may be able to finish faster, as they can take classes at their own pace. Accelerated programs are another option for students who want to complete their degree as quickly as possible, as they condense all coursework into a shorter time frame.

Meanwhile, students may take longer than average to finish if they only attend school part-time or need to temporarily pause their program due to life circumstances.

Is an online master’s in crime scene investigation worth it?

Earning an online master’s degree in crime scene investigation can be a worthwhile investment, especially if you have a strong interest in forensic science and criminal justice. A master’s program equips you with in-depth knowledge and skills in crime scene investigation, making you a sought-after expert in your field. It also prepares you for doctoral work if you wish to continue your education.

Online programs offer flexibility for working professionals and those with other commitments, allowing you to balance your education with your current lifestyle. There are abundant opportunities to network with professors, industry professionals, and other students to help build a valuable network.

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