An associate degree program in forensic science provides the skills needed for further education at the bachelor's and graduate levels or entry into the forensics field. Program options include an Associate of Arts (A.A.) or an Associate of Science (A.S.), both of which typically require a high school diploma and SAT/ACT scores for admittance. These programs cover theories of forensic science and the basics of collecting and analyzing evidence for criminal investigations.
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Associate Degrees in Forensic Science
Forensic science programs are offered at the associate level by many community colleges. The A.A. degree option requires general education courses in language and writing, while the A.S. places greater emphasis on science and math. Forensic science associate programs require between 60 and 90 credit hours.
The study of forensic science draws from many disciplines, including math, physics, criminal justice, technology and psychology. For example, math and physics might be used to determine the path of a bullet. Technology, such as computer science, might be used to recover deleted data pertinent to an investigation. Programs include general education courses along with required major courses. Some typical major courses in a forensic science program include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Criminal justice & investigation
- Forensic science fundamentals
Employment Prospects and Salary Info
The principles of forensic science are used by a variety of government agencies, forensic laboratories, medical examiner offices, police departments and hospitals. An associate degree in forensic science might prepare students for assistant or technician positions in crime scene and death investigation, laboratory technology or computer forensics. Some job titles might include:
- Forensics laboratory technician
- Forensics laboratory assistant
- Coroner assistant
- Latent print examiner
- Evidence custodian
As of 2015, forensic science technicians earned a median annual wage of $56,320, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The number of employed technicians in this field is projected to grow 27% between 2014 and 2024, and job applicants who have completed a forensic science bachelor's program are expected to have a competitive advantage.
Continuing Education Information
Forensic assistants and technicians can continue their studies to become forensic scientists. Forensic scientists have greater knowledge of the application of science to legal investigations and proceedings. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences reports that forensic scientists should have a bachelor's degree at the minimum.
Many associate degree programs have transfer agreements with colleges and universities, allowing students to continue their forensic science studies. Students can pursue bachelor's degrees in the areas of forensic science, computer forensics or criminal justice. Graduate programs are offered at the master's and doctoral levels.
After earning an associate degree in forensic science, you could work as a technician or an assistant in a forensic setting, or you could continue your education and pursue a career as a forensic scientist.