Forensic Degrees by Degree Program Level

Students who wish to pursue careers in forensics often obtain degrees in forensic science or forensic science technology at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. Continue on for details about the programs, as well as career and salary info.

Essential Information

Many vocational schools, community colleges and universities offer various degree levels in forensic science. These programs train individuals on the necessary skills and knowledge needed to investigate crime scenes for forensic evidence. Some degree programs allow students to choose areas of specialization such as crime scene investigation or forensic computer science.

Prior to admission into these degree programs, students should have a strong background in science and math as advanced courses in chemistry, physics, biology and calculus are part of these programs' curriculums. Students must have a high school diploma and ACT or SAT scores for undergraduate degrees. Students wishing to pursue their education beyond the undergraduate level are typically required to have a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related discipline. A thesis and internships must be completed for a master's degree.

Associate of Applied Science Degree in Forensic Science

An associate's degree program in forensics introduces students to the fundamentals of forensic science theory. The curriculum for these two year programs typically consist of a wide range of physical science, including general and organic chemistry and cellular biology, in addition to criminal justice courses. Students must also complete some general education requirements and may also choose areas of concentration within the field. Topics addressed in program coursework will include:

  • Microbiology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Criminal procedures
  • Criminal law
  • Criminal evidence
  • Introduction to criminal justice

Bachelor of Science Degree in Forensic Science

A bachelor's degree program in forensic science educates students about the role of forensic scientists in the collection and analysis of scientific evidence. In addition to advanced courses in biology and chemistry, general education requirements in English and math, among others, are part of the program curriculum. Some major-specific coursework might include:

  • Criminology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Criminal investigation
  • Forensic instrumentation
  • Toxicology

Master of Science Degree in Forensic Science

Master's degree programs in forensic science provide an environment in which students can study specific aspects of the field in greater depth and develop a deeper understanding of the role of forensics professionals in the criminal justice system. Earning a master's degree in forensic science usually takes two years to complete and requires a number of research hours leading to the completion of a final thesis project. Research methods, seminars and internships are part of the curriculum of a master's degree program. Students explore DNA analysis and legal and ethical issues in the forensic science field. Other topics included in program coursework are:

  • Forensic statistics
  • Forensic science analytical methods
  • Forensic pathology
  • Population genetics
  • Analytical chemistry

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

A growing number of criminal investigators are utilizing the study of DNA evidence and other forensic science methods to help solve crimes, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ( Due to this increase, employment for forensic science technicians is expected to grow by 27% between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. Forensic science technicians earned a median annual salary of $54,360 in 2015, the BLS reports.

Popular Career Options

Graduates with undergraduate degrees in forensic science are prepared for entry-level positions in several areas of the criminal justice field. These areas include:

  • Forensic technology
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Evidence technology
  • Homicide investigation

Graduates with master's degrees may pursue careers as:

  • Forensics investigators
  • Expert witnesses and judicial consultants
  • Forensics technicians

Students interested in forensics degree have the option completing coursework towards an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree. These programs all focus on high-level math and science courses including microbiology and genetics, along with courses in law and forensics.

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