Most South Dakota residents with an interest in forensic science as a potential career know that they will need to possess at least some level of higher education in order to be met with success in the field.

Most people working in forensic science in the state will possess at least a bachelor’s degree, usually in a subject area such as forensic science itself, general forensic studies, forensic psychology, computer forensics, crime scene investigation, criminal justice, or a related field.

No matter what degree level and major you choose, knowing how to find the right school and get started with your classes is important.

You should first begin the selection process by deciding what type of school you want to attend. This will help to narrow down your search field and to make the process of choosing a school less overwhelming. Most prospective forensic scientists will choose to attend a traditional college or university.

However, the rigid schedules of these institutions and the length of time that they usually take make them not a realistic option for some students. The good news is that, if you fall into this category, you still have some choices.

You can, for example, choose to attend a community college or a trade or technical school, from which you can generally earn an associate’s degree in two years or less. Such institutions tend to be more affordable than traditional institutions.

Plus, they often design their programs with non-traditional students in mind, making it easy for them to balance the demands of school with a busy work or family life. Keep in mind, though, that for true success in the field, you will need to transfer the credits earned to an undergraduate degree program at some point.

If you don’t think that a community college or a trade or technical school is the best choice for you, then you might also consider an online school, which will give you the most freedom in terms of when you “attend” class and do your work. Just be sure that, if you go this route, you proceed with caution, because for every good online school out there, there a ton of scams just waiting to take (and waste) your money.

Make sure any school you attend is fully accredited and legitimate, or it won’t benefit you in the long run.

One of the most commonly attended schools in the state across the board is Colorado Technical University, located in Sioux Falls, offering an online associate’s degree program in criminal justice, as well as a traditional bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice with an emphasis on forensic investigation, and an online bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice with an emphasis on human services. Another choice is Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, offering a bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice.

Then, there’s Kalian Community College of Sioux Falls, which has an associate’s degree program in justice studies. Similarly, Mount Marty College, located in Yankton, has an associate’s degree program in criminal justice, and bachelor’s degree programs in criminal justice, and forensic science. Then, there’s National American University, which has locations in Rapid City and Sioux Falls, and offers an associate’s degree in criminal justice, as well as an online bachelor’s degree in the same.

Plus, don’t forget about Sinte Gleska University in Mission, offering associates and bachelor’s degree programs in human services, or Southeast Technical Institute of Sioux Falls, which offers an associate’s degree program in law enforcement science. Students can also attend the University of Sioux Falls, offering a bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice.