Future forensic professionals should be attentive to detail and have strong skills in math, science, communications and computer technology. They also should like to work in laboratory settings. Although there may be some associate degree programs available in the field, the majority of forensic professionals hold at least a bachelor's degree. Master's degree programs are also offered and may prepare students for more advanced laboratory careers. Additionally, some chemistry doctoral programs feature a forensic science concentration. Students can also seek out online programs in this field, most likely at the graduate level since bachelor's degrees require many lab-based courses.
Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science
Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science programs introduce a variety of chemistry, biology and criminal justice topics. These programs draw from different areas, which include chemistry, biological sciences and physics. The goal of these 4-year programs is to get students ready for entry-level positions in criminal justice and other science areas. Students might take courses in subjects like:
- Forensic molecular biology
- Latent prints
- Instrumental analysis
- English composition
Master of Science in Forensic Science
A 2-year Master of Science in Forensic Science program builds upon the forensic knowledge gained in an undergraduate program. Most M.S. programs require that students conduct research and complete an original thesis. Students also might study advanced forensic analysis techniques and forensic chemistry. Some common courses might include:
- Biological evidence and serology
- Forensic toxicology
- Principles of forensic science
- Laboratory QA/QC
- Literature survey
Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry (Ph.D.) with a Forensic Science Concentration
Many chemistry departments now offer a Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry program with a forensic science concentration. Most Ph.D. programs are research-based, 4-year programs that involve completing and defending an original doctoral dissertation. Classes may be offered in toxicology, trace analysis and DNA typing. Much of a student's coursework is determined by his or her interests.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The BLS reports that as of May 2015, forensic science technicians make a median annual wage of $56,320. The job outlook for this career from 2014 to 2024 is expected to grow 27%, which is faster than average compared to all other occupations.
Because forensic science deals with the application of science to law, technological and scientific advances in the field are common. Workshops and seminars on current forensic techniques and tools are offered through the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS).
Forensic scientists might choose to pursue further education in one particular area of the field. College-level courses are available in specialized subjects like forensic anthropology, forensic pathology and forensic entomology. Specializing could open up additional career opportunities in forensic science.
Students interested in forensic sciences can pursue degrees at the bachelor's master's and doctoral levels. These programs can lead to careers as forensic science technicians, a field that is expected to grow considerably in the next ten years.