Forensic science programs typically cover crime scene investigation, court procedures and criminology. At the associate's and bachelor's degree levels, students also take foundational courses in subjects such as biology, chemistry and mathematics.
Certificate programs are often designed for law enforcement professionals or students who are working on degrees in relevant areas of study. In some cases, a working professional looking for continuing education credits may be allowed to use work experience to meet the program's prerequisites.
Prerequisites for an associate's degree other than a high school diploma include taking college assessment tests. Bachelor's degree prerequisites include standardized test scores, a personal interview, and courses in chemistry and mathematics.
Certificate in Forensic Science
Students enrolled in a certificate in forensic science learn how to apply science to answer legal questions through the analysis of evidence. The program focuses on what information is revealed by physical evidence that investigators find at the scene of the crime. Students learn through hands-on lab work and may elect to participate in internship programs. Classes consist of:
- Forensic science introduction
- Investigative techniques
- Criminal psychology
Associate Degree in Forensic Science
At the associate's degree level, students build a foundation in biological and chemical sciences and math. They also gain general knowledge of forensic science and legal proceedings and develop skills in public speaking and report writing. Areas of concentrations may be available in forensic computer science, forensics accounting or crime scene investigation. Students take general education classes in addition to specialty courses. Class work consists of lectures and practica in topics including:
- Verbal communication
- Technical writing for forensic science
- Anatomy and physiology
- Criminal justice
Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Science
At the bachelor's degree level, students gain broad training in forensic science, which prepares them for workforce entry or graduate-level studies in specialty forensics. However, undergraduate students may be able to concentrate in general areas of forensic chemistry or forensic biology. Additionally, forensic science undergraduates develop oral and written communication skills and build critical-thinking abilities. Students participate in lectures and lab work as well as internships. Forensic science undergraduates take courses in:
- Crime scene investigation and photography
- Court procedures
- Genetic basics
Popular Career Options
A certificate in forensic science may allow individuals to take entry-level employment opportunities in the field. However, most certificate programs are geared toward individuals who are pursuing related undergraduate degrees or are already working in the field of criminal justice or law as:
- Police officers
- Lab assistants
- Private investigators
- Field technicians
Graduates of a 2-year undergraduate program are able to work in various forensic science positions; however, many decide to pursue a bachelor's degree in the field. Specific job titles for an associate degree holder may include:
- Crime lab assistant
- Evidence technologist
- Latent print analyst
- Lab technician
- Medical examiner assistant
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Employment of forensic science technicians was predicted to climb 27% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also noted that in 2015, forensic science technicians earned a median of $56,320 annually.
Professional Certification and Continuing Education Information
Since employers often prefer to hire forensic scientists with advanced degrees, many undergraduates decide to pursue a master's degree or Ph.D. in forensic science or a related field. Additionally, continuing education, in the form of conferences and seminars, is often sponsored by employers. Forensic scientists can earn voluntary certifications through industry organizations, including the American Board of Criminalistics and the American College of Forensic Examiners.
In conclusion, certificate, associate's, and bachelor's degree programs in forensic science are available to interested students. Depending on the program, students have many career options including police officers, nurses, crime lab assistant, and evidence technologist.