Forensic science graduate programs are designed to prepare students for careers in the field of criminal investigations. Graduate options include master's degree programs and graduate certificate programs. Some programs may specialize in a specific field of forensic science, such as computer forensics. Prerequisites for graduate studies include a bachelor's degree with at least a 3.0 GPA, as well as an extensive background check.
Graduate Certificate in Computer Forensics
Graduate certificate programs in computer forensics, a sub-discipline of forensic science, are designed to train students to protect individuals and corporations from cybercrimes, such as identity theft, hacks and virus attacks. In these programs, students learn to use computer technology to aid in the detection and prosecution of cybercriminals. Computer forensics programs also focus on techniques involved in gathering digital evidence. Program coursework may include the following:
- Computer incident response
- Computer data forensics
- Computer network forensics
- Computer security management
- Computer forensics and the law
Master's Degree in Forensic Science
Master's degree programs in forensic science are designed to train students to work in forensic or criminal laboratories, where they will examine and analyze evidence, present research and testify at trials. Forensic science graduate degree programs are science intensive. Students take advanced biology, chemistry and anthropology courses. Approved electives include classes in fingerprint examination, firearms examination, forensic statistics and arson investigation. Many graduate-level forensic science degree programs offer candidates a choice between a research track and an administrative track. Typical coursework includes the following:
- Fundamental forensic science concepts
- Trace evidence examination
- Scientific evidence and courtroom testimony
- Homicide crime scene investigation
- Forensic laboratory management
- Analysis of toxicants
Popular Career Options
Many opportunities exist for computer forensic professionals in both law enforcement and private enterprise. Graduates are qualified for many positions, including the following:
- Computer forensics specialist
- Computer security consultant
- Information technology manager
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic science technicians are expected to see a 27% increase in employment between 2014 and 2024. In May 2015, the BLS reported that forensic science technicians earned a median annual wage of $56,320.
For those who would like to pursue a career in forensic science, a graduate certificate or a master's degree can prepare you to work with computers, fingerprints, ballistics or other materials depending on your specialization.