Forensic entomologists may work for a law enforcement agency or as college professors who provide consulting to police and/or justice departments. With no specific college degree available, aspiring forensic entomologists typically focus on building a background in biology and entomology, with additional training in forensic science and courtroom evidence presentation.
A B.S. in Biology with a forensic track can give students a jump start in forensic training, but a doctorate is typically the required credential for professionals in this field. Almost all forensic entomologists have doctorates in entomology. The doctoral programs are based on research and analysis. Forensic entomologists have no specific training path to follow, but options to enhance their educational foundation are available.
Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology
In preparation for the long-range goal of becoming a forensic entomologist, a student should begin with a solid base of biology. Other options include biology major programs that offer a minor or focus in entomology. While choosing electives, a student should consider that testifying as expert witnesses requires forensic entomologists to write extensive reports and communicate well orally. Composition and public speaking classes bolster these skills. Some of the science-based courses include:
- Introduction to organic chemistry
- Medical entomological studies
- Forensic science
- Human physiology
- Comparative physiology
Ph.D. in Entomology
Entry requirements for entomology Ph.D. programs vary by school: while one may demand a bachelor's in biology, another may require a bachelor's or master's in entomology. Each school has unique study facilities, such as bee research or insect rearing labs. Along with field research, courses focus on advanced behavioral and biological processes of insects. Advanced entomology topics include:
- Molecular studies of insect viruses
- Insect physiology and behavior
- Arthropods as pathogen vectors and parasites
- Insect genomics and biotechnology
- Immature insect taxonomy
Training in Forensic Entomology
Forensic science or laboratory internships are options. At some colleges, practicing forensic entomologists are on the faculty, which may facilitate internships. The FBI offers an array of internships that can be accommodated to a student's career goals. While not prevalent, a few certificate programs are available either specifically for forensic entomology or forensic medicine with courses in forensic entomology. Certificate programs for forensic entomology are very rare, so students might consider a laboratory discipline to complement their entomology education. A medically based forensics program is the most likely of the certificate programs to incorporate entomology classes. Courses include studies in:
- Natural history and insect identification
- Insect physiology and behavior
- Forensic and medical entomology
- General forensic science
- Forensic biology and serology
Popular Career Options
An aspiring forensic entomologist may need to look outside the box when job hunting since few full-time positions are available. Some of the options available include:
- College professor
- Law enforcement consultant
- Private consultant
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Those with bachelor's degrees in biology may find entry-level employment as forensic science technicians. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 27% increase in jobs for forensic science technicians between the years 2014 and 2024. Median salaries were reported as $56,320 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Many forensic entomologists with a Ph.D. work as college professors and offer their expertise on a consulting basis to police and justice departments, or in some cases, attorneys. According to the BLS, college professors were predicted to see a 13% employment increase between the years 2014 and 2024. The median salary for biological science professors was reported at $75,320 annually in May 2015.
Some students may pursue a master's degree prior to entering a Ph.D. program. At least one school offers a master's program for entomology with a forensic entomology focus. Both thesis and non-thesis options are available.
Studies in forensic entomology are available to students at the bachelor's and doctoral levels. However, the competition for employment is high and most professionals in the field do hold Ph.D.'s.