Forensic Investigation


About forensic investigation

Physical evidence – from fingerprints and body fluids to firearms marks and computer data – is often the key to solving crime. In this innovative forensic investigation program, you’ll learn to apply your knowledge of forensic science as a crime scene investigator.

Advanced, hands-on training is integral to PennWest California’s forensic investigations degree, a concentration within the B.S. in Criminal Justice program. You’ll learn forensic science methodologies and investigative techniques, including how to:

  • Categorize, identify, collect and process physical evidence.
  • Analyze evidence such as fingerprints, blood spatter, DNA and more.
  • Examine and analyze firearms marks and computer/digital evidence.
  • Maintain the proper “chain of custody” in forensic investigations.
  • Use digital technology and other tools to document and investigate crime scenes.

Position yourself for career sucess.

Forensic investigation programs are interdisciplinary by nature. This degree program provides a solid foundation in the field of criminal justice, plus required courses in forensic science, criminal investigation, law and evidence, and forensic law.

Related electives fuel your passion for solving crimes, with courses such as High-Tech Crime Investigation, Crime Scene Imaging, Cyber Security and Computer Forensics.

You’ll graduate career-ready and prepared for certification as a crime scene investigator, analyst, reconstructionist or photographer through the International Association for Identification, “the oldest and largest forensic association in the world.”

Program Highlights: Forensic Investigation

SOLID FOUNDATIONS: The concentration in forensic investigation builds on PennWest California’s exceptional B.S. in Criminal Justice program. The core curriculum provides a comprehensive, methodical review of major justice functions and operations based on the six content areas identified by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences: administration of justice, corrections, criminological theory, law adjudication, law enforcement, and research and analytic methods.

SPECIALIZED LEARNING: The forensic investigation program provides specialized education in forensic science and builds hands-on skills in identifying, collecting and analyzing physical evidence. Among other activities, students conduct mock crime scene investigations; use digital SLR cameras and other devices to document and reconstruct crime scenes; learn various ways to collect DNA evidence and process fingerprints; and conduct blood spatter analysis.

EXPERT EDUCATORS: Faculty who teach PennWest California’s forensic investigations courses have real-world investigative experience and contribute professional services to support law enforcement. For example, investigators have traveled from overseas to study various aspects of forensic science with Dr. Raymond Hsieh, who also has consulted on the high-profile case of the so-called Smiley Face Killer

Median pay for forensic science technicians, such as crime scene investigators, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Most Affordable 
Ranked the Most Affordable Bachelor’s Program in Crime Scene Investigation and Forensic Science for 2020-21 in Pennsylvania by
icon undergrad for degree

Degree Benefits

Guided by experienced faculty, students gain foundational knowledge and master hands-on skills for conducting forensic investigations. For example, they learn to process fingerprints using super-glue fuming, the ninhydrin test and digital enhancement; photograph crime scenes with digital SLR cameras; enhance and analyze latent prints, tire impressions, documents and security camera footage; and collect, preserve, analyze and present digital evidence. Credit is awarded when students complete the requirements for a faculty-led internship at a criminal justice agency.

icon undergrad for degree

Graduate Outcomes

Students who complete the program coursework and related activities will be knowledgeable about the field of criminal justice and understand the important role of forensic science in crime scene investigations. They will be able to identify, collect and process relevant evidence and understand its role in the criminal justice process. A graduate with a forensic investigation degree may find employment as a crime scene investigator, fingerprint technician, crime scene analyst, reconstruction specialist, or crime scene photographer.


Curriculum and Related Courses


Course Credits
General Education Courses 40 or 41
Building a Sense of Community
UNI 100  First-Year Seminar
ENG 101  English Composition I
Public Speaking
Any Public Speaking Course
Mathematics and Quantitative Literacy
Any Mathematics and Quantitative Literacy Course
Health and Wellness
Any Health and Wellness Course
Technological Literacy
Any Technological Literacy Course
Any Humanities Course
Fine Arts
Any Fine Arts Course
Natural Sciences
Any Natural Sciences Course
3 or 4
Social Sciences
Any Social Science Course
General Education Options
  • Any Ethics and Multicultural Awareness Emphasis Course
  • Any Technological Literacy Course
  • Any General Education Courses (two courses)
Required Major Courses 33
JUS 101  Intro to Criminal Justice Studies 3
JUS 102  Intro to Law Enforcement 3
JUS 103  Correctional Systems 3
JUS 331  Juvenile Justice 3
JUS 361  Court Systems 3
JUS 375  Criminal Law 3
JUS 376  Criminal Procedure 3
JUS 466  Leadership and Ethics in Criminal Justice 3
JUS 495  Research Methods in Criminal Justice 3
JUS 496  Criminological Theory 3
JUS 499  Seminar in Criminal Justice Studies 3
Concentration Courses 12
JUS 105  Introduction to Forensic Science 3
JUS 201  Criminal Investigation 3
JUS 397  Law and Evidence 3
JUS 485  Forensic Law 3
Related Electives 9
Select nine credits from the following:
  • JUS 220  High Tech Crime Investigation (3 credits)
  • JUS 380  Crime Scene Imaging (3 credits)
  • JUS 399  Selected Topics (3 credits)
  • JUS 405  Cyber Security (3 credits)
  • JUS 425  Advanced Criminal Investigation and Law (3 credits)
  • JUS 487  Computer Forensics (3 credits)
  • JUS 488  Cyber Crime Investigation (3 credits)
  • JUS 498  Internship (3 to 9 credits)
Additional Electives 25 or 26
Total 120

Additional requirements, not counted toward the General Education requirements, include:

  • Special Experience Course (1 course required): JUS 499 Seminar in Justice Studies
  • Writing-Intensive Component Courses (2 courses required): Any two JUS approved Writing-Intensive Menu courses
  • Laboratory Course (1 course required): Any Laboratory Course

Program Notes: 42 credits (or 14 courses) of upper-division (300- or 400-level) courses are REQUIRED. Any related electives not listed must be approved by adviser.

Related Courses

What's the difference?

Students often ask, “What is the difference between forensic investigation and criminal investigation?” The two fields may overlap, but forensic investigators generally focus on physical evidence and use forensic science to assist in solving crime. While criminal investigators talk with witnesses or look into a suspect’s background, forensic investigators may be photographing the crime scene, collecting physical evidence and analyzing it at the lab.

Dr. John Cencich

Who teaches forensic investigation courses?

All courses in this hybrid (mixed on-campus and online) program are taught by highly qualified, full-time faculty members who bring top academic credentials and years of professional experience to the classroom. In addition to field experience, professors have a thorough knowledge of laws and the legal system, as well as emerging fields such as cybercrime investigation.