Forensic science is the application of science to the law. Encompassing courses in chemistry, biology, physics, and law, forensic science degrees can prepare you for a scientific career investigating crime. Forensic science technicians may work as crime scene analysts, who collect evidence from the crime scene; forensic analysts, who perform scientific analysis in laboratories; criminalists, who perform both crime scene and laboratory duties; or forensic computer examiners, who investigate cyber crimes. If you want to gather and identify evidence against criminals in order to help keep our community safe, attending one of the many forensic science colleges in the country may be right for you.
Forensic Science Degree Overview
Forensic science programs offer degrees at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level. Forensics may also be offered as a concentration for majors in criminal justice, computer and information security, and crime scene investigation, among others.
Preferred Degrees for Forensic Science Laboratory Technicians
In order to become a forensic science technician in a laboratory setting, you will typically need a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences, such as chemistry or biology, as well as a master’s degree in forensic science.
Preferred Degrees for Crime Scene Investigators
In order to become a crime scene investigator, you must either have a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, with a strong background in the natural sciences, or you must be a trained police officer. As a police officer, varying educational backgrounds will be accepted, including just a high school diploma for some districts.
Forensic Science Degree Requirements
Requirements Will Vary
Requirements for forensic science degrees vary depending on the degree level you pursue. Anyone who wants to go into the forensic science field should ensure that they take plenty of courses in mathematics, chemistry, and biology.
Undergraduate Degree Prerequisites
The admissions requirements for associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in forensic science are typically a high school diploma or GED, minimum required GPA, and minimum required SAT/ACT scores. Associate’s degrees will typically take two years to complete, and a bachelor’s degree will typically last four years.
The admissions requirements for master’s and doctoral degree programs are usually an undergraduate degree in a related field, a minimum required GPA, minimum required GRE scores, and strong letters of recommendation. A master’s degree can be completed in two years, and a doctoral degree might take three to five years.
Curriculum at Forensic Science Schools
A forensic science degree typically combines a strong science curriculum with hands-on experience in laboratory settings. The curriculum will introduce you to various topics, including trace evidence analysis, human genetics, molecular pathology, criminalistics, and more.
Forensic Science Courses
Although the required curriculum will vary by program, forensic science courses that you may be required to take include:
- Forensic instruments
- Forensic psychology
- Human genetics
- Criminal procedure
- Organic chemistry
- Crime scene investigation
- Crime scene reconstruction
Internships and Certifications
Many programs will incorporate an internship component so that students may gain valuable experience in the field prior to graduation. Throughout the course of your career, you might also choose to purse professional certifications to boost your resume with additional credentials.
Career Options for Forensic Science
Crime scene investigators analyze, photograph, and draw sketches of the crime scene; collect, photograph, and catalog physical evidence; and record their observations about the scene. Forensic technicians who work in laboratories perform chemical, biological, and physical analysis on the evidence; reconstruct crime scenes; and explore links between their analysis and potential suspects. They may also specialize in a specific area of forensics, such as pathology or finger print examination. Both crime scene analysts and forensic analysts spend a lot of time writing reports.
Forensic scientists typically receive on-the-job training prior to working on cases independently. Skills that are valuable to have as a forensic scientist include strong critical-thinking, communication, problem solving, math, and science skills.
Often working in teams, forensic science technicians may work for private laboratories; federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies; medical examiners offices’; criminal defense and prosecution attorneys; and pharmaceutical companies. Crime scene investigators might have to work during day, evening or night shifts and will typically have to travel to crime scenes throughout their jurisdiction. Forensic analysts typically work in laboratories during normal business hours, but overtime may be required for special cases.
Job Outlook for Forensic Science Technicians
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of forensic scientists is expected to grow 6% from 2012 to 2022, which is a rate that is slower than average. There is strong competition for jobsm because various TV shows have generated interest in crime scene investigation. Those who have a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences and a master’s degree in forensic science will have access to the best job opportunities. In the coming years, the field of digital computer forensics is expected to experience the most growth, so those who have experience in this area will qualify for more jobs.
In 2013, the median annual wage for forensic science technicians was $54,360. The bottom 10% earned $32,570, and the top 10% earned $88,880. The top paying industries were the federal government, scientific research and development organizations, scientific and technical consulting firms, and medical and diagnostics laboratories. The top paying states were Illinois, California, DC, Massachusetts, and Virginia.
Starting Your Forensic Science Education
Forensic scientists play a crucial role in crime scene investigation. If you are a detail-oriented, scientific-minded person who would like to help solve crimes and aid law enforcement agencies in apprehending and convicting criminals, a career in forensic science may be right for you. Start by exploring the forensic science colleges featured on our site.