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Forensic Scientist Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a forensic scientist. Get a quick view of the requirements, including degree programs, job duties and certification, to see if a career in forensic science is right for you. View article »

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  • 0:22 Education Requirements
  • 0:54 Certification Information
  • 1:24 Career Information
  • 2:13 Career Outlook & Salary

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Video Transcript

Essential Information

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's for more advanced positions
Degree Field(s) Natural science or forensic science
License/Certification Varies by specialization
Experience Internship
Key Skills Organizational, problem-solving, critical thinking, communications, and research skills; understanding of court proceedings
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 6% growth
Median Annual Salary (2015) $34,000 - $94,410 (for forensics scientists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A forensic scientist is in a diverse field of specialized professionals who work in criminal investigation. A minimum of a bachelor's degree is required to become a forensic scientist, although some specialties require graduate work. Forensic scientists often work closely with lawyers and law enforcement.

Forensic Scientist Education Requirements

A minimum of a bachelor's degree in natural science or forensic science is required for working in this field. Some labs might require a master's degree in forensic science for more advanced positions, such as lab technician leader or supervisor. A master's degree might also be useful for specialized areas, such as DNA analysis or ballistics. Undergraduate programs include biochemistry, toxicology and criminal justice courses. Students are required to participate in extensive lab work and fulfill an internship.

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Certification Information

Certification is generally not required for a forensic scientist, but this might vary by specialization. For instance, forensic odontologists are dentists, therefore they need to be licensed and certified by the state. Forensic computer examiners can pursue certification through training programs to remain competitive, but it's not a requirement. Certification might lend a hand in job placement for all forensic scientists. Those interested in pursuing specialized work in this field should research certification requirements.

Career Info

Forensic science is a broad field of study associated with law enforcement and criminal justice. Facial reconstruction artists, forensic archaeologists, criminalists and forensic multimedia analysts are just a few of the job roles in the field of forensic science. These professionals can find work in government agencies, hospitals, universities or private organizations.

Job Description

Forensic scientists uncover and analyze physical evidence for criminal cases. Commonly, these professionals are found working in a lab setting, although this can vary according to a person's specialization. A forensic scientist must be able to keep accurate records for organizing data and submitting reports. Forensic scientists also might be asked to appear as expert witnesses in courtroom proceedings. Therefore, they're expected to understand court procedures and have strong communications skills.

Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that most forensics scientists made between $34,000 and $94,410 as of May 2015. The BLS indicated projected job growth of 6% in the field between 2012 and 2022. This growth might be due to improvements in analytic methods and enhanced technology, as well as an increased use of forensic techniques for criminal investigation.

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