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Master of Science in Forensic Medicine: Program Information

A master of science in forensic medicine is generally a degree that prepares students to analyze medical evidence for court cases. Continue reading for an overview of the program, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Essential Information

Forensic medicine is a medical specialty that examines and analyzes medical facts in civil or criminal cases. Those interested in obtaining a master's degree in forensic medicine may already be working as medical or law enforcement professionals, including physicians, physician assistants, nurses, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, criminal investigators, coroners or police officers. The curriculum of these programs include the theory, concepts and practices of forensic medicine. Internships and fieldwork are common requirements for this degree program.

CareerForensic Science TechniciansForensic Nurses
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Must be an RN and obtain either certification as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner or a graduate degree in forensic science
Job Growth (2012-2022)* 6% 19% for RNs, in general
Median Annual Salary (2013)* $54,360 $66,200 for RNs, in general

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Forensic medical professionals obtain physical evidence from patients or crime victims to determine the causes of their injuries, illnesses or deaths and often testify about their examination of physical evidence in court. Local, state or federal law enforcement agencies or private investigation firms or laboratories may employ forensic medicine graduates. In addition, nurses, physicians and physician assistants who attain this degree may work with accident or crime victims in healthcare settings. Below are two career options for graduates of a master of science in forensic medicine.

Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science technicians help law enforcement officers investigate crimes. Technicians may perform a variety of duties either at a crime scene or in a forensics laboratory. Duties related to forensic medicine may include collecting bodily fluids at the scene and analyzing DNA in a laboratory. Forensic science technicians are responsible for writing reports to explain their findings and the methods they used to arrive at their conclusions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that forensic science technicians would see a 6% growth in employment opportunities from 2012 to 2022. Additionally, the BLS reported that forensic science technicians had a median annual wage of $54,360 in May 2013.

Forensic Nurses

Forensic nursing is a subspecialty for registered nurses. These nurses provide care for and collect evidence from trauma victims injured as a result of sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, accidents, mass disasters and other causes. They often work in hospitals, medical examiner or coroner's offices and correctional institutions. In addition to collecting evidence and preparing medical reports, forensic nurses may be required to consult with law enforcement and attorneys or testify in court.

The BLS provides job growth and salary statistics for registered nurses, in general, but does not offer information for the subspecialty of forensic nursing. According to the BLS, job growth for registered nurses is projected to be 19% from 2012-2022. The BLS reported in May 2013 that registered nurses had a median annual salary of $66,200.

Educational Requirements for a Master of Science in Forensic Medicine

Most master's degree programs in forensic medicine require applicants to have a bachelor's degree and completed coursework in college biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology. These programs may also require standardized graduate admission tests and personal interviews before admittance. For applicants with non-science undergraduate degrees, some programs provide a specialized track of intensive science coursework in biology, chemistry and anatomy before starting the forensic medicine curriculum.

Coursework for a Master of Science in Forensic Medicine

M.S. programs generally offer a combination of science courses in clinical pathology with coursework in forensic toxicology, anthropology, odontology, entomology and neuropathology. Students learn about the science behind physical evidence, including:

  • Hair and fibers
  • Fingerprints and physical matching
  • Blood spatter
  • Serology and DNA
  • Ballistics and firearms
  • Paint and road traffic accident evidence
  • Narcotics
  • Clandestine graves

Most programs also offer coursework in statistical analysis and research methods, ethics and legal issues, which teaches students techniques for documenting evidence and testifying as an expert witness.

Generally, these programs require students to complete an internship or perform fieldwork with a participating law enforcement agency, coroner's office or private forensics laboratory before graduation. Some schools may also require a thesis or oral examination. Some universities may offer coursework similar to a Master of Science in Forensic Science program.

Certification

Program graduates are eligible to take certification examinations offered by the American College of Forensic Examiners International (www.afcei.com) in a variety of areas, including Registered Investigator, Certified Forensic Nurse, Certified Medical Investigator or Certified Forensic Physician.

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