Careers in Forensic Biology: Job Options and Degree Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to have a career in forensic biology. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and programs to find out if this is the career for you.

Are you a huge fan of one of the many popular forensic TV shows? Do you want to help solve crimes scientifically? Then perhaps a career in forensic biology is right for you!

Essential Information

Forensic biologists provide critical analysis of crime scenes and assist with criminal investigations. Individuals interested in research and the analysis of evidence may consider a degree program in forensic biology.

Required Education Bachelor's and/or master's in forensic science
Other Requirements Schools accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission
Projected Job Growth 27% from 2014-2024 for forensic science technicians*
Median Salary (2015) $56,320 annually for forensic science technicians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Forensic Biology Job Options

Scientific technology has allowed for an increase in forensic science careers that provide accurate information used to promote fair trials and equality within the criminal justice system. Scientific careers are available for individuals possessing knowledge of forensic science techniques and technology.

DNA Analyst

DNA analysts extract DNA from biological samples such as skin cells, blood, saliva or other liquids excreted from the body. These analysts use laboratory tools and their knowledge of biology and genetics to confirm the validity of the DNA and compare the DNA sample to other samples. DNA analysts often provide information used to help solve criminal investigations.

The most comprehensive and accurate source of career information, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), does not offer employment and salary information for DNA analysts; however, the website PayScale.com does offer salary information. Payscale.com lists the median salary of forensic DNA analysts as $49,140 per year, as of 2016.

Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians participate in the collection and analysis of evidence relevant to criminal investigations and are responsible for the proper collection and storage of these materials. Forensic science technicians often work in crime labs at the federal, state and local levels and assist law enforcement divisions. These experts may be called upon to provide testimony as witnesses in legal proceedings regarding laboratory results.

According to the BLS, the employment of forensic science technicians is expected to see an increase of 27% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than the national average for all employment opportunities. The BLS also lists the median salary of forensic science technicians as $56,320 per year, as of May 2015.

Forensic Biology Degree Requirements

Prior to choosing a college or university, those seeking careers in forensic biology should ensure that their chosen school's forensic science program has been accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). According to FEPAC, as of February 6, 2013, there were 19 colleges in the U.S. and Canada offering accredited bachelor's degree programs in forensic science, 20 that offered accredited forensic science master's degrees programs and two colleges from which students could earn accredited forensic science certificates while pursuing a major in another science field.

Undergraduate Programs

Forensic science programs place an emphasis on chemistry as well as biology. Students take laboratory courses in the physical sciences, which may include biochemistry, organic chemistry, genetics, instrumental analysis and human osteology (the study of bones). They also complete courses in forensic science and related disciplines. These might include forensic science professional practice and ethics, anthropology, criminal justice, criminalistics and crime scene investigation.

Graduate Programs

Students seeking advanced training in forensic biology may pursue a master's degree in forensic science. Typical forensic science programs take approximately two years to complete. Students are typically expected to complete laboratory experiences and advanced biology coursework. Courses might include forensic drug evidence, pharmacology, serology, bioinformatics and forensic science research methods. Although FEPAC does not accredit any doctoral-level programs in forensic science, those seeking advanced training beyond the master's degree level might pursue doctoral programs in biological science.

The field of forensic biology includes careers such as DNA analyst and forensic science technician. These careers typically require at least a bachelor's degree. Graduates may enter a career with strong projected growth or continue on to earn a master's degree.


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