Criminal Science Degrees & Programs

Solving crimes is one of the most intriguing and interesting careers, and obtaining a criminal science degree is one of the ways into this field.

Consider online Criminal Justice programs currently accepting applicants:

Shows like “CSI” have always depicted the forensic scientist to be the last resort for detectives, the one who manages to put the final piece of the puzzle together just in time to catch the criminal. In reality, there are a wide number of criminal science careers that one can choose from, and a degree in criminal science – or forensic science, as it’s known – is the first step toward a future working “behind the scenes” in a crime lab or forensics department and uncovering the truth embedded in evidence.

Criminal science combines aspects of criminology and criminal justice with math and sciences such as biology and chemistry in order to produce scientists, DNA analysts and forensic profilers who work alongside law enforcement to make sense of the madness left in a criminal’s wake.

Featured Criminal Science Programs

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What is Criminal Science?

The blood analysis confirms the suspect’s innocence. Did that sentence make you stop what you were doing and think twice? Have you ever wondered how physical evidence such as skid marks from tires or shoe prints can help solve a crime? If your answer is yes, you may want to consider a career in criminal science. Criminal science and criminalistics involves the investigation of crimes with blood analysis and other types of physical evidence in an attempt to reconstruct the crime scene.

With the advanced technology of today, more and more crimes are being solved thanks largely to criminal scientists. When you choose to study criminal science, you will be able to explore how chemistry is involved in solving crimes. You will be enter laboratory settings and practice the tests that can hold to answer to many questions.

Criminal Science Programs & Degrees

A university program in criminal science, most often referred to as forensic science in degree titles, will teach students the fundamental aspects of criminal justice and criminology, as well as the scientific principles and practices involved in criminal and civil investigations.

Criminal science students can expect to take a multitude of courses in anthropology, biology, chemistry, forensics, forensic investigation, forensic anthropology, forensic biology and various social sciences.

Graduate programs expand upon this educational pillar to incorporate more hands-on training and extensive research through the practice of crime scene investigative techniques and work in criminal laboratories.

Many times, criminologists will specialize in a specific sector such as profiling, juvenile law. They may also be specialized in certain types of criminal activity to include rape and homicide, kidnapping, as well as crime prevention. There are a large number of criminologists who work in academic settings such as universities where they are able to teach and conduct research projects.

Your educational background and specific training can have a huge impact on the amount of money you earn throughout your career. Students who earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal science have a median annual entry-level salary of $30,000. Those who earn a master’s degree in criminal science can earn $55,000 and up each year.

Associate’s in Criminal Science

Since criminal science is such a diverse and intricate field, most students require at least a bachelor’s degree to find an entry-level position in the career they’re interested in. However, a two-year associate’s in criminal science program can allow students to apply to jobs in forensics and gain valuable real-world experience while simultaneously earning the bachelor’s degree they need to advance in their careers.

An Associate of Science in Forensic Science program covers various topics such as math, technology, science such as biology and forensics and criminal law. Employment options for graduates of an associate’s in criminal science program can include a forensic science technician, forensics lab assistant and coroner’s assistant.

Bachelor’s of Criminal Science

This is the level of degree that nearly all entry-level criminal science employers will require. From biology and anatomy to forensic science, criminal justice and investigation, a four-year undergraduate curriculum in criminal science can prepare students for work as a crime scene investigator, forensic scientist, a DNA database specialist and many other options.

The major prepares students to work in labs and other law enforcement agencies in careers that fall under the criminality category. Math, such as algebra and trigonometry, is combined with extensive study (at least 20 semester hours) in sciences, particular biological fields such as genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, recombinant DNA technology.

These courses all prepare students to fulfill the job duties of a typical forensic scientist or criminalist such as analyzing physical evidence, performing tests on DNA and tracing the evidence to other sources, and conducting toxicology tests and latent prints.

Master’s of Criminal Science

Graduate students of forensic science have a solid understanding of the role science and math plays in forensics, and are interested in learning research and investigative methods that draws from this knowledge.

Hands-on work under the supervision of a forensic scientist and other law enforcement professionals allow students to put the scientific practices they learned during their undergraduate studies to the test, as well as provides them with the opportunity to explore a concentration within forensic science such as Forensic DNA & Serology, Forensic Drug Chemistry and Forensic Toxicology.

Doctor of Criminal Science

A Ph.D. in Forensic Science is for those who wish to become a forensic doctor, also known as a forensic pathologists or medical examiners. These doctors perform autopsies on crime scene victims and conduct varies examinations and tests in order to determine the cause of death. They may take part in criminal investigations, testify in court, or appear in emergency rooms to collect evidence from a victim’s body.

The majority of medical examiners work full-time in a laboratory setting and are employed by the local or state government. A medical degree, licensure and residency are all part of a Doctor of Forensic Science program, and pathologists must also become board-certified before they can begin working.

A typical Ph.D. in Forensic Science program usually takes 4-5 years to complete.

School Spotlight

Pennsylvania State University

Ranked #5 by the U.S. News and World Report in 2013, Pennsylvania State University offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as professional development opportunities through workshops and other short courses.

The undergraduate forensic science curriculum brings together faculty from various schools and departments, such as the College of Agricultural Science, College of Liberal Arts and the College of Health and Human Development. In addition to the essential science, mathematics and forensics courses, students learn about how forensic scientists fit into the criminal justice system as a whole, and graduate with an appreciation of the social sciences and human services that they can apply to their forensic work.

Pennsylvania State University is also well known for its CSI camp, a program offered to children entering grades 4-8, so young learners with an interest in forensics can get a taste of what a future in it could hold with fun activities and lessons that are tailored for their age group.

Texas A&M University

The Forensic & Investigative Sciences program at Texas A&M prepares for students for jobs as forensic scientists, forensic nurses and more. It is the only bachelor’s degree in the state of Texas to be nationally accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Overseen by the Department of Entomology, the school teaches students to analyze evidence from “molecular, organismal, environmental, and ecological perspectives” and use these investigative skills to solve real-world problems.

The forensic degrees at Texas A&M can be studied from a science or law emphasis. In addition to their degree program, the school also presents students with internships underscoring both independent and supervised field experience.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Since the mid-1950s, John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City has provided its students with a deeply science-based forensics curriculum. Course offerings have evolved over the years to now include 30 baccalaureate majors and 12 graduate programs. The criminal science related degrees available to undergraduates are Forensic Psychology, Forensic Science and Fraud Examination and Financial Forensics.

The Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science is designed to provide academic and professional experience to students who want to work in forensic science or crime laboratories, or pursue a related career in criminal science. Forensic science undergraduate students at John Jay can choose from one of the following three specializations to tailor their degree toward their interest and career goals: Criminalistics, Molecular Biology or Toxicology.

The program draws heavily from science and mathematics, so prospective students are required to have completed at least 3.5 units of math in high school, passed the AP Chemistry Exam, scored at least 50 on the CLEP Chemistry exam or taken the New York State Chemistry Regents Exam. Students who don’t meet the criteria can still enroll but will be required to take introductory math and science courses before they are admitted to the major.

An internship must be completed through FOS401 (Forensic Science Lab Internship) or F402 (Undergraduate Research Internship) a student’s junior year in order to meet the requirements for graduation.

How Does a Criminal Scientist Solve Crimes?

As a criminal scientist, you will utilize all the available information and resources to scientifically determine the facts about a case. Forensic science is used to solve robberies, kidnappings, murder cases, assaults, and rapes, with the end aim of linking evidence from crime scenes to the criminals, and thus bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The type of work that is involved in criminal science includes:

  1. Analysis through autopsies, toxicology reports, and dental examinations, which all help the criminal scientist to gather information about the evidence.
  2. Investigation of clues such as blood and blood spatter, marks from bites, weapons, or scratches, and trace elements left on clothing or at the crime scene all assist in giving a full picture of the crime.
  3. Matching of fingerprints and DNA through computer aided analysis is often a deciding factor in a crime case.
  4. Criminal Science Degree – Typical Coursework

    A criminal science degree draws from the sciences of biology, physics, and chemistry as well as from the fields of law and criminal justice. Typically, a degree in criminal science may mean taking the following courses:

    • Ethics
    • Math
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Criminal Investigation
    • Crime Scene Investigation and Photography
    • Criminology
    • Law Enforcement

    Obviously, your required degree courses will depend on what your college offers, as well as where your interests lie when you’re choosing electives.

    Remember that if you’re planning a career after you’ve obtained your degree with any of the law enforcement agencies or with crime laboratories that you will be expected to undergo an extensive background check.