A two-year associate's degree program in forensic science, chemistry or biology requires students to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent for admission. Students who choose to pursue an Associate in Forensic Science can select a specialization in chemistry or biology. Online courses and programs are available.
An admissions placement test may be required for some programs. Schools may also suggest high school students take math and science courses such as algebra, geometry, biology, chemistry and physiology.
Associate's Degree in Forensic Science
Associate's degree programs in forensic science, such as the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Investigative Forensics or AAS in Forensic Science, are designed for students who are interested in the field of forensics, but don't want to go on to a bachelor's program. Students in these programs learn to identify, preserve and analyze physical and biological evidence, including DNA and fingerprints, through lecture and laboratory courses. Coursework in an associate's degree program in forensic science includes training that requires students to participate in real life anthropological and criminal cases involving DNA collection and analysis. The following are common courses:
- Biology and biochemistry
- Chemistry and Organic chemistry
- Procedures of criminal law
- Ethics and criminal justice
- Anatomy and physiology
- Crime scene photography
Associate's Degree in Chemistry or Biology
Students may choose to complete an Associate in Science (A.S.) with a chemistry or biology specialization before transferring to a four-year institution. Both specializations provide students with the necessary knowledge for an advanced degree in forensic toxicology. A chemistry specialization prepares students for laboratory work involved in forensic toxicology, while a biology concentration instructs students on how to use their knowledge of anatomy and physiology. There are similarities between the curriculum in a biology and chemistry degree program. The courses offered lay the groundwork for forensic toxicology coursework in a bachelor's degree program. Common courses include:
- Organic chemistry and physics
- Calculus and statistics
- Psychology and criminology
- Living systems
- Biochemistry and microbiology
- Techniques of bioanalysis
Popular Career Options
Graduates of the associate's degree programs can apply for entry-level forensic science jobs in the private and public sectors. Job duties include investigating, photographing, sketching, collecting and cataloging evidence. In the lab, technicians perform analytical, chemical, biological, and physical tests on crime scene evidence. Here are some job titles:
- Forensic science technician
- Crime scene investigator
- Forensic pathologists
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic science technician jobs are expected to increase by 27% from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the average compared to all other professions. The BLS notes that increased demand is due to the increasing use of forensic evidence in trials. The median annual salary for a forensic science technician was $56,320 as of May 2015, reported the BLS.
Graduates of a forensic science degree program are qualified to investigate a crime scene, manage and preserve evidence, and analyze the evidence using standard laboratory procedures. Students can go on to enter a bachelor's degree program in forensic science. Typically, a bachelor's degree program in forensic science builds upon concepts learned in an associates program. Upon completion of a biology or chemistry degree program, graduates may pursue a bachelor's degree in forensic toxicology. According to the American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT), a bachelor's degree is the minimum degree level required to become a forensic toxicologist.
The Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) reported many individuals enter into a forensic toxicology degree program with a background in chemistry. Students with extensive work experience in the field of forensic toxicology may go on to earn professional certification, as well as a master's or doctoral degree in forensic science or forensic toxicology.
Students interested in forensic toxicology can pursue an associate's degree in forensic science, chemistry, or biology to prepare them for further education or an entry-level job as a forensic science technician.