Find the Forensic Science Degree to Fit Your Needs
Find out which degree program will help you land the forensics job you've been dreaming of.
Building a career in forensic science requires the courage to dive into a constantly expanding pool of research and practice. You will need a solid educational foundation to be competitive in this exciting interdisciplinary field. Forensic science degree programs integrate science, law and technology with a focus on practical skills for laboratory analysis and criminal investigation.
If you’re eager to get started, you can find a job as a forensic technician with just an associate’s degree. You’ll get an even stronger start with a bachelor’s degree. However, the best jobs demand specialized skills that you learn by pursuing a forensic science master’s degree, medical degree or other post-graduate degrees.
A forensic science degree at the associate’s level typically takes two years to complete. You will learn the following in this type of degree program:
- The basics of analyzing and evaluating physical evidence
- An overview of forensic laboratory technology
- Crime scene analysis
- Fingerprint technology
- Document analysis
- Examination procedures
- Introduction to forensic medicine, forensic dentistry, anthropology, psychology and pathology
A forensic science degree at this level will qualify you for entry-level jobs in forensic laboratories. After you finish your associate’s degree program, you will also be able to transfer to a bachelor’s degree at another college or university.
In a 4-year forensic science degree program, you will gain a more complete understanding of the evidentiary process in criminal investigation and prosecution. Although some bachelor’s level programs allow you to specialize in a particular area of forensic science, most offer a more in-depth version of the content addressed in associate’s degrees in forensic science. Areas of study include:
- Physical sciences, including biology, chemistry and physics
- Criminal justice processes
- Criminal investigation methods
- Criminal psychology
- Laboratory skills and techniques
- Applicable law and regulations
- Ethics and professional standards
A forensic science degree at this level will qualify you to work as a criminal investigator or forensic science specialist. With a bachelor’s degree, you can find jobs in forensic laboratories, police departments, government agencies, hospitals, and medical examiner’s or coroner’s offices.
Master’s Degrees and Doctoral Degrees
At the master’s level and beyond, forensic science degree programs become more specialized. Here are some of the specialties you can pursue with a forensic science master’s degree:
- Crime scene investigation
- Forensic chemistry
- Forensic toxicology
- Computer forensics
- The science of forensic DNA
- Forensic microscopy and trace analysis
- Forensic molecular biology
- Forensic psychology
If you have particular goals for your forensic science career, a specific type of graduate degree may be required:
- Forensic anthropologist: requires a doctorate (PhD)
- Forensic dentist: requires a doctor of dental surgery degree (DDS)
- Forensic pathologist or medical examiner: requires a medical degree (MD)
- Forensic psychologist: many positions require a PhD or PsyD in clinical psychology, as well as post-graduate training in forensic psychology
Did You Know?
The enormous popularity of forensic science-inspired television shows like "CSI" and "Bones" has not only increased enrollment in forensic science degree programs across the country—it has actually changed the perceptions of jurors in criminal trials. This change has been dubbed the "CSI effect."
According to many attorneys, judges and journalists, jurors are now much more likely to expect scientific evidence, such as DNA and fingerprint analysis. Jurors may also be more likely to take forensic evidence as indisputable fact, disregarding the possibility of human or technical error.
Source: The CSI Effect: Does it Really Exist? by Donald E. Shelton