The Science of Fingerprints


This course has been developed as an introduction to the principles underlying the science of fingerprints. Students will obtain a general understanding of the methodology involved and a foundation to begin comparing all friction ridge skin. It will provide you with a basic, introductory overview of all friction ridge skin, including fingerprints, palm prints, and foot prints. You will learn classification and basic processing and development techniques, but this will in no way replace the physical practice required when dealing with actual casework. These units are designed to be an educational introduction to the science of fingerprints. Naturally, more education and training is required to be considered an expert latent fingerprint examiner.

Cost: $150.00. This course takes 33 hours to complete, on average.


Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Describe how to use and understand the current terminology of the science.
  • Determine the correct pattern type of a fingerprint.
  • Define the three different levels of detail used to accurately compare fingerprints.
  • Describe the ACE-V methodology and how to use it to make accurate decisions when comparing fingerprints.
  • Discuss the current controversies surrounding the science.

Course Structure and Schedule

This is a non-credit course offering 3.88 ILUs. (What is ILU?) Average completion time for the course is 33 hours. The course cost is $150.00 per registration. A certificate of completion will be issued to students successfully meeting course requirements.

Table of Contents:

Unit 1: History of Fingerprints

Unit 2: Morphogenesis of Friction Ridge Skin

Unit 3: Structure of Friction Ridges/Pattern Types

Unit 4: Other Types of Friction Ridge Skin

Unit 5: Classification Systems

Unit 6: Types of Fingerprints and Methods of Fingerprinting

Unit 7: Development and Preservation of Latent Fingerprints

Unit 8: Fingerprint Comparisons

Unit 9: AFIS and Automation

Unit 10: Legal Issues

Unit 11: Case Studies


There are no prerequisites for this class. A printable version of the course content is available in PDF format in the course library for future reference. Course readings are also available in PDF format.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to have prior knowledge of fingerprints?

Answer: No. The course is an introductory course and the basics of fingerprints will be taught.

Computer Requirements

  • Mozilla Firefox (recommended) or Internet Explorer
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • QuickTime
  • Macromedia Flash Player
  • Java

(Free software plug-ins are available in the Getting Started area of the course.)

Basic computer skills required (i.e. turning on your computer, navigating to websites, etc.). The course is user-friendly but support is available if needed.

All Students: Using Internet Explorer (IE) 10? Read info on eCampus Main Page

Instructor Information

Samantha Neal is the Instructional Coordinator for the Forensic Science Initiative, a program that develops research, scientific resources, and professional training for forensic scientists and related professionals. Her primary responsibilities are the development and coordination of online continuing education courses in forensic science and continuing education programs. She has undergraduate degrees in both Forensic and Investigative Sciences and Chemistry.
Contact:, 304-293-5836

Kelly Ayers is an instructional coordinator with Forensic & Investigative Science Outreach. Prior to coming to WVU, Kelly was employed as a forensic services technician with the Asheville, NC Police Department. While there, she was qualified as an expert in forensic identification in North Carolina Superior Court and was published in the Journal of Forensic Identification. She has an undergraduate degree with a double major in Philosophy and Biology from Frostburg (Maryland) State University and was the first graduate of the West Virginia University Forensic Identification Program. Since joining FSI, Kelly has become an IAI Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst and received her Master of Science in Forensic Science Administration from Oklahoma State University. She is responsible for instructing several continuing education courses, courses in the Forensic & Investigative Science Minor, and crime scene related on site courses. Contact:  304-293-0323

Registration Information 

Click on the "Register Now" button at the top to register online through our secure server. You will be receiving email with your online course access information within five working days. Please check your spam or junk folder in case the confirmation email was misplaced there. Call 1-800-253-2762, or email if you have any questions. Major credit cards are accepted.

Check our FAQ page for refund policy and class access information.

Group Discount

We offer discounts for groups over 10. All individuals in the group need to register for the same course to take advantage of the discount. Discount rates vary by group size as follows:

  • 10-20 people 10% off
  • 21-30 people 15% off
  • 31-40 people 20% off
  • Above 40, contact for special pricing

Interested in a group discount?  Please contact the Continuing & Professional Education office at (304) 293-7570 or email us at for a coupon code.

Check our FAQ and Refund Policy for refund and class access information.


Bob Johnson“I have been in the field of Law Enforcement and Forensics for over 25 years. I have amassed thousands of hours of training during that period. Having participated in three forensic programs offered by WVU, I wish to comment on the experience that I have had. The courses are very well constructed, and the goals are reasonable and attainable if you stay with the process. The instructors are very knowledgeable, and are willing to help on any issue. I have participated in many different courses using different formats in the way the courses were taught. My WVU experience was one of the best I have had in my career. The program should be used by as many people in the field as possible.”

Michael Kouris

"All the classes that I have enrolled in have been great. The courses have so much information. I am very confident that any situation I come in contact with will aid me.

I want to thank all the teachers and staff of West Virginia University for the service they provide to law enforcment and other public service employees.

Great Courses."

Clyde Letreta"Thank you so much for sending my certificate!..Never thought at my age I’d complete a college course. I really liked the way it was set up and the easy online access. I’m just starting out in the fingerprint world and found this course to be so educational and interesting for a first time student like me. I have already told a bunch of my co-workers here at the Kauai Police Department about this course and how much it would benefit them in their everyday police work when dealing with finger prints. Aloha from Kauai Hi."

Erica Robertson

"This was an excellent class and I really enjoyed it. I definitely will be taking more classes through your school in the future."