A master's degree in forensic medicine can provide a career jump for many professionals, including those in the medical and criminal justice fields. These programs provide classroom and field experience in regard to physical evidence, analytical processes and the many scientific fields that are involved in forensic medicine.
Forensic medicine is a medical specialty that examines and analyzes medical facts in civil or criminal cases. Those interested in obtaining a Master of Science 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 for this program includes the theory, concepts and practices of forensic medicine. Internships and fieldwork are common requirements for this degree program.
|Career||Forensic Science Technicians||Forensic 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 (2014-2024)*||27%||16% for all RNs|
|Median Annual Salary (2014)*||$56,320||$67,490 for all RNs|
Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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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 27% growth in employment opportunities from 2014 to 2024. Additionally, the BLS reported that forensic science technicians had a median annual wage of $56,320 as of May 2015.
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 16% from 2014-2024. The BLS reported in May 2015 that registered nurses had a median annual salary of $67,490.
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
- 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.
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.
A forensic medicine master's program may require applicant to have an undergraduate degree in a related field, such as biology or chemistry. These programs combine clinical pathology with scientific courses and teach students how to collect, analyze and document evidence in a forensic case. Additional certifications are available for program graduates.