Forensic Science Major Requirements and Degree Program Options

Nov 08, 2019

Forensic scientists use analytical and scientific methods to solve crimes with evidence left behind at crime scenes. Read on to discover the degree requirements and various options of study for forensic science majors.

What Is Forensic Science?

Forensic science is the use of scientific methods to study crime scenes and analyze evidence to solve crimes. People in this career are usually called crime scene or forensic science technicians. A bachelor's degree in forensic science is the minimum requirement, however, there are master's programs available for those who wish to gain knowledge in a special area of forensic science.

Undergraduate Forensic Science Degree Requirements

Individuals seeking a forensic science degree at the associate's and bachelor's level will typically need a high school diploma or equivalent, SAT or ACT scores, official transcripts, and letters of recommendation.

Undergraduate Forensic Science Major Options

Associate's Degrees in Forensic Science

Associate's degrees in forensic science are typically offered as Associate of Science or Associate of Arts, and usually last at least 2 years, usually with a total of 60 credit hours. An A.S. degree focuses more on the scientific and technological aspects, with courses in biotechnology, chemistry, and fingerprinting.

An A.A. degree is focused more on subjects such as psychology, criminal law, and criminal justice. General education courses are also taken in both options. Depending on the program, an individual may be ready for an entry-level position in the forensic science field or continue their study towards a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's Degrees in Forensic Science

Bachelor's degrees in forensic science typically require 120 to 130 credit hours and at least four years to complete. Most begin with a focus on core foundational math and science classes such as calculus, probability and statistics, biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology. Students will also take psychology, English, and humanities courses as part of their general education requirements.

Forensic scientist classes usually are not taken until later in the program. Some schools offer students the choice between a concentration in forensic chemistry or forensic biology, which can affect some of the courses they will take. Students will take courses such as toxicology, DNA profiling, professional practice, and forensic analysis. Some programs also include a required criminal justice internship.

Forensic science bachelor's degrees can prepare students for entry-level positions in medical and scientific laboratories as crime scene technicians.

Graduate Forensic Science Degree Requirements

Those seeking a forensic science degree at the master's level will need a bachelor's degree. Some schools will accept individuals without a forensic science degree as long as they have completed accredited courses in chemistry, biology, physics, and math, among others. Other schools might require a bachelor's degree in computer programming, biology, chemistry, or a related field. Master's applicants might also need official transcripts, GRE test scores (depending on the school), letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Graduate Forensic Science Major Options

Forensic science master's degrees are more focused and can offer more concentrations. Depending on what the school offers, students can choose from concentrations such as crime scene investigation, digital forensics, molecular biology, forensic chemistry, forensic toxicology, criminalistics, and DNA analysis. Students will have classroom and lab time, conduct research, and, depending on the school, complete a thesis. Internships are also available.

Forensic scientist classes at the graduate level usually depend on the concentration one chooses, but they can include topics like DNA technology, digital forensics, ethics, the examination of firearms and tool marks, and legal issues.

A master's degree in forensic science can prepare individuals for advanced and entry-level careers in science, administration, public safety, arson investigation, and environmental protection, among others.

Degree Type Requirements Program Options
*Associate of Science in Crime Scene Technology
*Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice
*High school diploma/equivalent
*SAT/ACT test scores
*Entry-level forensic science position
*Further study
Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science *High school diploma/equivalent
*SAT/ACT test scores
*Forensic Biology Concentration
*Forensic Chemistry Concentration
Master of Science in Forensic Science *Bachelor's degree
*Prerequisite math and science courses
*GRE test scores
*3.0 GPA
*Crime Scene Investigation Concentration
*Digital Forensics Concentration
*Forensic Chemistry Concentration
*Forensic Toxicology Concentration
*Criminalistics Concentration
*DNA Analysis Concentration
*Molecular Biology Concentration
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