An Overview of Forensics Degree Requirements and Free Online Forensic Courses

Forensics, or forensic sciences, is an all-encompassing term which describes the study and science related to matters of legal and/or criminal interest. A career in this field is highly flexible, allowing individuals to work in laboratory, investigative, and legal settings. Furthermore, forensic experts are always in demand, making this an attractive path for career advancement. Unsurprisingly, a wide variety of natural and social science disciplines have subspecialty areas that fall under the label of ‘forensics.’

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences, which consists of over six thousand professionals specializing in forensic sciences, defines a number of areas, including criminalistics, computer and digital forensics, forensic engineering, general forensics, forensic jurisprudence and law, forensic dentistry, odontology, and medical examination, forensic pathology and biology, physical anthropology, behavioral profiling and criminal psychology, forensic pharmacology and toxicology, and document examination. Needless to say, other areas such as entomology (the study of insects) and forensic accounting, also exist. As the reader might expect, each of the disciplines has its own educational, degree, and certification requirements. For example, medical examiners and forensic pathologists are fully-degreed medical doctors who have a residency in pathology and further fellowship studies in medical examination. By contrast, a field such as criminal psychology and behavioral profiling may be more accessible, requiring a college major in psychology and two or more years of study at the masters degree level. The requirements for other areas, such as laboratory forensics, as well as digital and computer forensics, are more in flux.

Many free online courses are a great way to jump into forensics, get a taste of the disciplines, and even to earn credits towards a degree or certification. For example, the U.S. government now offers classes through the DNA initiative, focusing on both the legal, regulatory and technical challenges surrounding DNA evidence. Classes include the collection of evidence, DNA amplification and extraction, laboratory safety, and population genetics. For individuals interested in general forensics, the US National Forensic Science Technology Center offers free online forensic courses on general areas, including firearms evidence, missing persons, trace evidence. Finally, for students interested in pursuing a career in computer and digital forensics, the Computer Forensic Training Center Online offers free forensic courses on forensic software tools, admissible computer evidence, as well as other knowledge required for the Certified Computer Examiner test.

Many other free online courses are available online from government, non-profit, and for-profit entities. With some sifting, one can find many low cost or free resources to kick off a successful career in this exciting field. Good luck!

Once you’ve realized your interested in the world of forensics, there are a wide variety of Free Online Forensic Courses to take to further your education and interest.

Forensic School

The forensic school system at West Virginia University (frequently shorted to WVU) is often regarded as one of the most robust and comprehensive forensic school programs in the United States. In addition to the various departments at WVU which include a college of law, school of medicine, school of pharmacy, school of journalism and many others the forensic school program stands out as perhaps the most unique and least well known of the many accredited departments.

The lack of public awareness about the forensic school is surprising given the high profile nature of the partner that helped bring the program to the West Virginia University campus. A partnership between WVU and the FBI formed what became an accredited curriculum by the highly respected American Academy of Forensic Sciences. What is particularly special about the structure of the West Virginia University offering is that there is a great deal of breadth and depth with regards to the specific fields of study.

When most people think about the term forensic science their minds conjure up potentially misleading images of visuals they have seen in television shows like CSI or Dexter and in the movies. In actuality the term forensics as it is commonly used refers to a wide spectrum of applications with regards to implementing scientific scrutiny in a manner that advances the understanding of legal implications as they relate to better understanding details of alleged crimes. Trivia buffs will be interested to learn that the etymology behind the word forensics derives from the Latin “forensis” which means “before the forum.” Essentially the Latin correlation relates to authenticating evidence surrounding an event before taking that information to the forum. In this context the Roman use of the word forum essentially means court or trial in modern English.

The West Virginia University forensic school options provide a great deal more than merely bloodstain analysis and toxicology report classes (although those courses are offered). The WVU offerings are as follows:

o Computer forensics (digital storage – also referred to as digital forensics)

o Toxicology forensics (chemicals, i.e. poisons)

o Odontology forensics (dentistry)

o Bloodstain analysis (spatter patterns)

o Textile forensics (cloth and clothing)

o Criminology (sociological behavior study)

o Forensic accounting (auditing and scrubbing number for court proceedings)

o Dactylography (fingerprint analysis)

o Forensic entomology (insect study as it relates to bugs decomposing flesh)

Through specially designed laboratories and staged crime scene locations students at WVU get the closest thing to real world experience available. Lab work is complimented with classroom learning which is primarily held in the Ming Hsieh Hall building on campus. Prospective students interested in majoring in any of the previously described fields are encouraged to contact the University of West Virginia and ask for additional information pertaining to their forensic school.