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There are many different paths that you can choose from in forensic science. Depending on your interests, you may find that having a generalized knowledge of forensic science may be the best option for you. Having a degree in forensic science can potentially give you the skill and expertise you need to set yourself apart from others in this field.
Our dedicated experts have tracked down some of the more preferred degree programs in forensic science, which are listed below. Take a look below to see if you could see yourself in any of these programs.
Bachelor's in Forensic Science
The Bachelor's in Forensic Science is one of the most popular fields for students entering into this track. This 4-year on average program prepares students for graduate level learning or direct entry into the field. If you are starting fresh, this is a great place to get introductory knowledge of forensics, as well as the primary skills needed to be an effective professional in this field. Students are likely to take part in courses that focus on criminalistics and criminal psychology, in an effort to introduce students to the people that they will be working against in the field.
Later in the program, students should expect to see courses such as Death Investigations, Cybercrimes, and General Investigative Methods, which can allow students the opportunity to view forensic science from multiple legal viewpoints. The purpose of this program is to properly groom students for a career that involves proper scene investigations, analysis techniques, and in-tune investigative methods. If you are considering a great entry-level degree program that effectively teaches the different collection methods and analysis requirements, than this is a great place to start.
Master's in Forensic Science
Most applicants to the graduate level forensic science programs have completed an undergraduate degree in forensic science. However, some students choose this degree program to complement undergraduate degree programs in Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, or even Anthropology. This degree program is popular since it works well with a large variety of major programs. If you choose forensic science for your master's program, you will find that the curriculum was created to develop more educated methods for criminal investigations and evidence gathering and processing.
Most Master's programs in Forensic Science take around 2 years to complete and consist of 32-35 credit hours. The curriculum in this degree program includes an investigative look into forensic anthropology, drug analysis, toxicology, criminalistics, the environment, and biological evidence. Students that take part in this program should expect to receive a well-rounded education in forensic science so that they can apply their expertise in a wider variety of fields upon graduation.
Doctorate in Forensic Science
The Ph.D. program in Forensic Science is relatively new in the educational realm. This program gives students are more in-depth look into the applications and philosophies of forensic science as a whole, all while requiring that students develop and defend their own research problem. If you decide to go forward to this excellent program, you should expect to take a more proactive approach to the development of a research project that is relevant to your field.
You may be expected to use advanced methods and techniques in the development of a dissertation, which is due prior to graduation. Using the skills developed through previous and current courses, students should be strengthening their investigative abilities at this level. This degree program is designed for the most dedicated forensic science professionals that are willing to take leadership roles during highly tense situations and investigations.
The curriculum in this program is mainly researched based, so that students are given the best opportunity for advancement in fields of academics, laboratory research, or in leadership positions. Most programs offering this degree require students to take part in colloquium courses, which requires physical attendance.
If you have the opportunity to move to this level with your degree program, it is highly recommended due to the lower number of graduates at the Ph.D. level.
Common Coursework in Forensic Science
If you consider the different types of crime that exist in society, you will get an idea of how much knowledge is needed to solve them. Coursework in forensic science includes a wide variety of disciplines that all contribute to a more knowledgeable professional in this sector of investigative sciences. Our team has listed some of the common courses and theories that are taught throughout forensic science degree programs below.
- Forensic Toxicology – uses chemistry and the knowledge of pharmacology in solving crimes
- Forensic Genetics – genetic testing and comparisons in forensics
- Crime Scene Investigation – proper crime scene investigative methods, tools, and protocols
- Forensic Anthropology – study of the human body, or remains, in connection to a crime
- Criminal Procedure & Evidence – teaches students about how evidence is used and protected before, during, and after criminal trials, as well as the laws surrounding proper evidence collection
- Cyber Crime and Security – introduces cyber crimes as well as methods to investigate or prevent them
- Examination of Firearms – ballistics for use in forensic science
- Fingerprinting and Microscopic Analysis – fingerprint collection and analysis for use in identifying suspects or connecting suspects to a crime scene
Forensic Science Versus Criminology Coursework
Forensic science and criminology have a lot of the same goals in mind regarding crime. However, the applied nature of forensic science differs from the theoretical approach of criminology on several different levels. The coursework found in forensic science teaches students to physically collect, analyze, and report of actual crime scene evidence in an effort to solve crimes.
Courses in this major include the various methods of evidence collection, proper protocol for testing evidence, and how evidence plays a role in criminal court proceedings. In criminology coursework, students review statistical data, psychological traits, and economical data in an effort to understand why crimes occur, how law enforcement reacts to crime, and what can be done to reduce crime overall. Courses in criminology also focus on the mental characteristics of criminals, the sociological traits of people that commit crimes, and effective measures to providing a justice system that works to prevent crime.
Salary Information and Expected Job Growth
Obtaining a career in forensic science can be an exciting and proud experience. There are many possibilities for employment in this field, ranging from local law enforcement agencies to research facilities across the country. The BLS reports that professionals in forensic science can earn $60,690 on average per year while working in this field (BLS; 2016).
Annual salaries can differ depending on several different factors, including where you choose to work and the amount of time you have worked in forensic science as a whole. Regions of the United States that have a higher concentration of forensic science professionals typically have a few things in common.
First, densely or other highly populated areas with higher crime rates usually require a higher number of forensic science professionals to assist with a higher case load. Second, areas that experience a high percentage of unsolved crimes attempt to find qualified forensic science professionals in order to solve these crimes and possibly thwart future occurrences of criminal activity.
Having this information in mind, consider your location of choice when doing your research to ensure that the job availability is inviting in your chosen area. In a field that is ever-changing due to an increase in technological capabilities and biological identification systems, the growth may only continue to increase in the next decade.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates this field to see a 27% growth over the next 10 years, which is a great factor in helping students decide on choosing this field (BLS; 2015).
Popularity of forensic science degree programs has skyrocketed over the last few years, making this a highly sought after career field for upcoming professionals. The profound interest in crime scene investigation and evidence analysis has increased the number of applicants to open positions and made it even more profitable to obtain higher, graduate-level education.
Most entry-level positions have a minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree, but can be overwhelmed with applicants at that degree level. Pairing graduate level degrees with experience can assist you with obtaining heavily desired positions in forensics, without having to assert yourself above others that are attempting to gain the same positions at a lower degree level. Gaining experience in forensic science can provide for a more profitable career in the future as well as possibly allow for career advancement opportunities within the organization that you currently work.
If this is a career that you are interested in, it is definitely worth the time and effort to obtain a degree and get started in a career you will love.