Career Options for Graduates
Let's discuss some of the career options for individuals who obtain a master's degree in forensic science. We'll review some of the job titles and salaries, as well as some of the common courses and specialized studies of the program.
A master's in forensic science serves as preparation for entry-level and advanced jobs in criminal justice laboratories, medical examiners' offices, hospitals, universities, police departments and government agencies. Forensics is a large field involving the art and science of developing legal evidence and argument, typically in the case of crimes. This often involves scientific tests and techniques. Graduates may work in fields like crime scene analysis, fire investigation, environmental protection and public safety. Forensic scientists may spend time in courtrooms providing testimonies in court cases as well.
This graduate degree prepares individuals for a number of positions in forensics, including crime scene investigator, forensic scientist, forensic accountant and forensic computer analyst.
Crime Scene Investigator
Crime scene investigators are often the first forensic professionals to examine the location and evidence of a crime. Most of us have seen crime shows on TV that glamorize the job of a CSI team. But the actual job can be a lot more meticulous and challenging than these shows would lead us to believe. Crime scene investigators get to use all the cool tools, like fingerprint and trace evidence kits. But they need a keen eye to differentiate relevant from irrelevant material and data. They need to be familiar with protocols and procedures in collecting evidence, and they are among the first to determine whether a crime was intentional or not.
Crime scene investigators don't need a master's degree to qualify for this job, though several schools offer graduate forensic science programs specifically for this type of work. As of March 2017, Payscale.com reported crime scene investigators earned a median salary of $43,335 per year.
Forensic scientists work in the field and in the lab examining and analyzing the materials and data collected by CSIs. These professionals serve kind of a dual role, bridging the scientific and legal fields and are often called as expert witnesses in a legal proceeding. Forensic scientists can work in a particular specialization, like DNA, toxicology, digital evidence or firearms and other weapons.
In order to specialize in some fields, forensic scientists might need to obtain specific certifications. A bachelor's degree could qualify someone for this job, though the job typically requires advanced training, and some employees might require a master's degree. Payscale.com listed the median salary for forensic scientists as $51,231 as of March 2017.
Forensic accountants work to identify and trace financial fraud. In addition to education in forensic science and accounting, they usually need to have some sort of financial certification, like a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) or CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner).
What criminal activity forensic accountants investigate can include insurance fraud, money laundering and embezzlement. So, they need to be experts in all things related to financing, banking and money. They generally work in an office, need to know how to use specific hardware and software and maintain their certifications and professional skills by completing continuing education.
In March 2017, Payscale.com reported forensic accountants earned a median salary of $63,645 a year.
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Forensic Computer Analyst
Forensic computer analysts investigate crimes using technology. They might need to decipher criminal activity within volumes of code or data, track the digital footprint of a hacker or recover information from damaged hardware. Forensic computer analysts usually work under pressure, juggling deadlines, privacy issues and documentation carefully.
A master's degree isn't necessarily required for this occupation, though graduate education in forensics can build on computer science undergraduate degree programs or improve employment and advancement opportunities. Additionally, specialized certification, such as the Certified Forensic Computer Examiner credential, could help job seekers.
The median salary for forensic computer analysts, according to Payscale.com, was $68,967, as of March 2017.
The following table contains salary information for some professions that an individual with a master's in forensic science might have, according to Payscale.com data from March 2017:
|Job Title||Median Salary|
|Crime Scene Investigator||$43,335|
|Forensic Computer Analyst||$68,967|
Forensic Science Master's Overview
A master's degree program in forensic science is research-oriented, application-focused and multidisciplinary. Students learn from industry professionals, both in the classroom and in the lab. Course topics covered include biology, chemistry, mathematics, forensic serology and analysis, physics, law, advanced criminalistics, statistics, ethics and criminology.
Students can pursue specialized studies in material analysis, chemistry, forensic statistics, toxicology and crime scene and arson investigation. Completion of an internship is generally required, and depending upon the specialty area, training beyond the master's degree may be required, including advanced graduate education, industry certifications or professional development and continuing education.
Master's degrees in forensic science prepare students to work in an array jobs in the field of forensics, including crime scene investigator, forensic computer analyst, forensic accountant and more. Graduates of the programs typically have a working knowledge of forensic serology and analysis, criminology and law.