As colleges and universities generally don't offer forensic analyst degree programs, students interested in the topic should instead enroll in a forensic science program; forensic science is offered at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels.
Students in forensic science programs learn the basics of crime scene investigation, including how to collect, interpret and preserve evidence. There will be some overlap in subject matter between bachelor's degree and master's degree programs, but courses in the latter are more specialized. Online courses and programs are available in some schools.
Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Science
Bachelor's degree programs in forensic science draw on multiple academic disciplines, including anthropology, biology, chemistry, criminal justice and psychology. Students learn how to collect, preserve, analyze and interpret evidence, as well as how to present expert testimony in court. Some programs arrange for students to take part in an internship with local law enforcement agencies. Programs are usually completed in four years and require a high school diploma or GED for enrollment. Many schools give preference to students who have completed courses in the hard sciences. Courses may include:
- Criminal justice
- Human anatomy
- Crime scene procedures and investigation
- Pharmacology and toxicology
- Ballistics, explosives and accelerants
Master's Degree in Forensic Science
A master's degree program in forensic science builds upon the interdisciplinary nature of bachelor's degree programs while augmenting course work with seminars, case studies and research. Students sharpen their critical thinking and analytical skills through deeper engagement with evidence analysis. Some programs require students to choose a specialty, such as toxicology or genetics. Others provide an option to either complete a thesis or a series of supervised projects. Acceptance into a master's degree program in forensic science requires a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related physical science, such as chemistry or molecular biology. Courses include:
- DNA analysis
- Statistical analysis
- Molecular biology
Ph.D. in Forensic Science
Ph.D. programs in forensic science include classes in the first year but place much more emphasis on original research for a dissertation in subsequent years. Degree candidates gain in-depth knowledge of forensic science through intensive study of a topic related to crime investigation. Some programs allow for collaboration with local, state and national science agencies. In the last year of a program (which is typically completed in 2-4 years), students must defend their dissertation at an oral examination. Enrollment requires at least a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related hard science. A master's degree in the subject or a related subject may be preferable. Some common courses are:
- Laws of evidence
- Expert testimony
- Analytic methods
- Research methods
- Advanced instrumentation
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) projects a 27% job growth for forensic science technicians from 2014-2024. In May 2015, the BLS stated the mean annual wage for forensic science technicians was $60,090.
Students who are interested in the forensic analysis degree programs can choose from a bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree. Those with a bachelor's degree can become forensic science technicians or begin graduate school.