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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 detectives, medical examiners, crime scene technicians, criminologists, and lab directors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports criminal investigators, police, and detectives earn a median yearly salary of $83,640. The median salary for forensic science technicians is $61,930 per year. Between now and 2030, jobs for forensic technicians will increase by 16% and private investigators’ jobs by 13%.

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 graduate tuition is $12,394 at public colleges and approximately $26,621 at private institutions.

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

Choose your area of study

Within the field of crime scene investigation, there are a number of specialization options and career paths. Before starting their research, students should determine their desired area of specialization so they can find a program that meets their needs. Some common concentration areas within crime scene investigation include:

  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Forensic Science
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Forensic Chemistry
  • Theories of Crime and Criminal Justice

This is also a good time for students to establish what they need from a program in terms of scheduling (asynchronous or synchronous online classes), enrollment (full-time or part-time), and type of degree (Master of Science and Master of Arts are most common for a crime scene investigation program).

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?
  • Is it a synchronous or asynchronous online program?
  • Are there sufficient school networking opportunities?
  • Is experiential learning, such as an internship, required?
  • Who are the faculty, and what are their qualifications?
  • What support services does the school provide for online students?
  • Does the curriculum match your career ambitions?

There are many ways students can gather information, including visiting the school’s website, contacting the school’s admissions office, reading online reviews, following school and program social media accounts, and attending virtual open houses and information sessions.

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

As you gather information, some schools may stand out as more aligned with your interests, needs, and budget. At this point, you can eliminate any schools that don’t sufficiently meet your needs and focus on applying to the ones that do. Some students may only apply to one or two programs, while others submit several applications to increase the odds of acceptance. Students applying to multiple programs should remember that most schools charge application fees and budget accordingly.

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

With this list, we sought to identify the best master’s in crime scene investigation programs. The list includes Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), and Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ) degrees.

Another criterion was that programs be available entirely or primarily online. All of the programs on our list can be completed remotely, although some programs are offered on-campus as well.

All of the programs are offered by regionally accredited schools. This guarantees that the programs meet high standards of quality in 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. Anticipate learning about crime resolution procedures, the legal process, and police accountability. Learners discover the conventions and protocols of death investigations.

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 photography technical 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. The course teaches 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

Crime scene investigation (CSI) has captured the imaginations of many through popular TV shows and movies. While the on-screen portrayal of crime scene work often sensationalizes it, the real-world field of CSI is a crucial component of criminal justice and law enforcement. Private detectives and investigators make a median salary of $52,120 per year, and job opportunities for those with a master’s degree are expected to increase by six percent by 2032.

Career paths

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 analyst — uses specialized techniques such as toxicology or ballistics to examine evidence
  • Crime laboratory director — oversees the operation of a forensic laboratory
  • Forensic consultant — offers expertise to legal teams, law enforcement agencies, and private clients
  • Criminal investigator — works within a law enforcement agency on complex cases, leading investigations and collaborating with forensic experts
  • Crime scene reconstructionist — uses evidence and scientific analysis to recreate crime scenes and events

Forensic Scientist

Earning Potential: $60,590-$100,910+ annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in forensic science, crime scene investigation, or related field

Forensic scientists play a crucial role in criminal investigations by applying scientific principles to analyze and interpret physical evidence collected from crime scenes. They use specialized techniques and laboratory equipment to examine evidence such as DNA, fingerprints, firearms, drugs, and trace materials. Their work involves conducting tests, experiments, and comparisons to determine the significance of evidence, establish connections between suspects and crime scenes, and provide expert testimony in court. Forensic scientists work closely with law enforcement agencies to uncover crucial information that aids in solving crimes, ensuring justice, and protecting society from criminal threats.

Crime Scene Investigator

Earning Potential: $46,610-$100,910+ annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in forensic science, criminal justice, crime scene investigation, or related field

Crime scene investigators (CSIs) are responsible for gathering and preserving physical evidence from crime scenes. Their role is vital in helping law enforcement solve crimes and bring criminals to justice. CSIs meticulously document and photograph crime scenes, collect and package evidence, such as DNA, fingerprints, and weapons, and ensure proper chain of custody. They work closely with forensic experts to analyze evidence in laboratories and provide insights to investigators. CSIs must have a keen eye for detail, strong analytical skills, and the ability to maintain the integrity of evidence. Their work aids in piecing together the puzzle of criminal cases and securing convictions.

Forensic Pathologist

Earning Potential: $97,250-$208,000+ annually

Education Required: Master’s in forensic science or crime scene investigation, medical degree and forensic pathology fellowship

Forensic pathologists are medical doctors specialized in investigating the cause and manner of death in cases involving criminal activity, accidents, or unexplained circumstances. They perform autopsies to examine deceased bodies, identifying injuries, diseases, or toxic substances that may have contributed to death. Forensic pathologists work alongside law enforcement to collect evidence, document findings, and provide expert testimony in court. Their crucial role helps determine if a death was natural, accidental, or due to foul play. This field demands a deep understanding of medicine, anatomy, and pathology, as well as attention to detail and the ability to remain objective in challenging situations.

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

How do I apply to an online master’s in crime 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?

Public college graduate tuition averages $12,394, while at private schools the average graduate tuition is $26,621, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Things that can influence the cost of a 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 in 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 take a part-time course load 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.

The median salary for a crime scene technician is $78,983 annually for a person entering the field, according to Those with experience and advanced training can make considerably more.

Earning a degree online offers several benefits and can be an excellent choice for many individuals. 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. There may also be financial benefits to online education, as there will be no costs for housing or transportation.

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