Forensic science draws on various types of science in order to come up with the answers that detectives ponder and lawyers will ask. A person who works in forensics works to discover a whole picture among single pieces of evidence. This can be as small as a couple drops of blood splattered on a wall or an entire cadaver.
There are many paths Forensic Science degrees can branch off to, and researching these careers and the primary concentrations within forensic science can help make your search for the right university and forensics program easier.
Forensic Science Degrees
Associate of Forensic Science
An associate’s degree is a two-year program, usually comprised of 60 credits, that introduces students to the essential components of forensic science needed to secure an entry-level position and continue their education.
Associate’s degrees in forensic science include introductory courses in math, natural sciences such as biology and chemistry and courses in forensics, criminal justice and law.
Due to its dependence on extensive research and investigative methods, an associate’s degree doesn’t offer enough training for a student to work as a forensic scientist, but it can help them score a job as a forensic lab assistant or forensic science technician’s assistant. These jobs can provide experience and income while a student continues a bachelor’s program.
Bachelor of Forensic Science
A bachelor’s degree in forensic science requires four-years of rigorous and intensive study across a wide variety of subjects, from natural sciences to psychology to criminal law. Freshmen will begin with the core components of a forensic science expert’s knowledge, with courses such as Morality in Criminal Justice or Constitutional Law, Principles of Biology, Introduction to Criminal Justice Administration, and Introduction to Forensic Science.
Maths, such as college algebra and trigonometry, are also stressed in most programs as their formulas are frequently utilized in advanced science courses. Most universities offer tracks for their forensic students to choose from. There are also many courses available to upperclassmen that focus on a specific aspect of forensic science, such as Bloodstain Evidence, Forensic Microscopy, Fingerprint Evidence, and Forensic Anthropology.
Lab work and research-based internships are a large part of many forensic science bachelor’s degree curricula, as the application of knowledge and confidence in executing various scientific tests and observations are imperative to future career success.
Master’s of Forensic Science
Those who have earned a bachelor’s degree in forensic science may want to expand upon their education, and a graduate program will introduce students to new scientific and investigative techniques that could advance their career in criminal justice.
Forensic science master’s degrees focus heavily on experience, research and implementation, so students will be involved in analyzing rare crime scenes, learning new ways to identify, collect and evaluate evidence and how to apply these advanced scientific principles to the world of criminal justice.
Doctor of Forensic Science
A Ph.D. in Forensic Science is an advance medical degree pursued by those who strive for upper-level forensic careers, such as forensic doctors or medical examiners, senior scientists or even a college university professor.
Many of those with a Ph.D. in Forensic Science will go on to work for the private sector in administrative, consultant or teaching positions. Given that the degree is so extensive and requires such a strong background in forensic science to begin with, there aren’t many individual doctorate programs in forensic science in the U.S.
However, the degrees that are available provide students with the latest theoretical and scientific advances in forensic science, and teach them how to apply these practices to crime scene investigation, forensic analysis and identify its role in the criminal justice system as a whole.
Featured Forensic Science Programs
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Forensic Science Careers
Forensic Science Technician
These are the heavy hitters of forensic science. These technicians work in forensic divisions of law enforcement agencies, crime labs and the like. They work alongside law enforcement and detectives to collect evidence and analyze a crime scene, and are often called crime scene investigators or crime scene technicians.
They have a strong eye for detail, and work both on-scene and in the lab. A strong background in forensic investigations as well as math and natural sciences such as biology and chemistry are required to help them conduct the types of tests and observations needed to uncover DNA and other information embedded in evidence.
They may also assist forensic scientists, or serve as a liaison to other forensic specialists. Depending on their level of education and experience, a forensic science technician can earn between $32,000 and $83,000 per year.
Blood Pattern Analyst
To bystanders, the aftermath of a violent crime looks like something out of a horror movie. While the scene may be just as gruesome to the eyes of a blood pattern analyst, there’s an added component: evidence within the markings. Just like you can read the words on this page, a blood pattern analyst has learned to read the patterns of blood left in a criminal’s wake and identify clues that could lead to the culprit, reveal the cause of a victim’s death and other important information.
Through the analysis of various stains, spills and splatters, a blood pattern analyst can determine what type of weapon was used, whether or not a struggle took place, the angle and proximity that the victim was attacked and whether or not wounds were self-inflicted. Like forensic science technicians, the median annual salary can vary between $32,000 and $83,000.
Forensics Ballistic Expert
A ballistic expert can trace a bullet left at a crime scene back to the weapon it was fired. These forensic experts are called to the scene in order to help detectives identify the details of a gun-related crime, such as the trajectory of the bullet when it was fired and a point of origin.
A forensic ballistic expert can even help detect what type of bullet was used in an assault, the caliber and even the manufacturer. Knowing this type of information can make or break a case, and often this type of incriminating evidence is exactly the type of specifics that detectives need to identify a suspect. Forensic firearms experts can earn between $30,000 and $80,000 annually.
Career Outlook and Salary
The type of career as well as the level of degree and years of previous experience will all play a role in how much you earn with a job in forensic science. Most entry-level positions start off at $32,000 annually, and a typical mid-salary position is around $68,000.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual salary for a forensic science technician (which required a bachelor’s degree for entry-level employment) to be $52,840 per year as of May 2012.