Forensic Science Degree and Career Information

Forensic Careers Landscape

What is Forensic Science?

Forensic science utilizes science to aid in law enforcement. Forensic scientists work to provide unbiased, impartial, scientific evidence professionals can use in courts and criminal investigations.

Forensic science, a multidisciplinary field, utilizes information acquired from a wide array of fields and disciplines such as chemistry, physics, biology, psychology, information technology, geology, as well as the social sciences.


Forensic ScientistWhat does a Forensic Scientist do?

A forensic scientist performs tests and evaluates evidence and provides reports and/or expert testimony in a court of law. Many forensic scientists work in crime laboratories, some of them may collect evidence at crime scenes.

For example, a forensic chemist evaluates non-biological trace evidence discovered at crime scenes to identify unknown materials and match samples to known substances. A forensic biologist typically specializes in DNA analysis. A forensic geologist provides soil analysis to crime investigations.


Forensic PhotographerWhat are some of the Forensic Science Careers?

Crime Laboratory Analyst: They utilize their highly specialized scientific knowledge and skills to examine the evidence collected for a crime. Crime Laboratory Analysts often have more specialized training than forensic science technicians.

Digital Forensic Examiner: They’re involved in searching a suspect’s hard drive or cell phone for evidence of a crime. They often perform this work in close collaboration with Law Enforcement.

Forensic Pathologist: They’re medical doctors who perform autopsies on crime victims to determine the cause of death.

Forensic Science Tech: They work in crime labs analyzing the evidence collected from crime scenes.

Forensic Toxicologist: They analyze the bodily fluids of a deceased person to determine the presence of chemicals, drugs, or poisons.

DNA Analyst: They help to connect potential DNA evidence to crime suspects.
What are some of the Specialized Forensic Science Careers outside the Crime Laboratory?

  • Forensic anthropology
  • Forensic engineering
  • Forensic entomology
  • Forensic odontology
  • Forensic pathology
  • Forensic psychiatry

Forensic Science CollegeWhat can you do with a Forensic Science Degree?

Many forensic scientists work in forensic science (crime) laboratories. The United States, has over 4000 crime laboratories administered by federal, state, or local governments or private industry.

Many crime laboratories employ scientists in the areas of forensic chemistry, forensic biology and criminalistics. Graduates of a Bachelor in Forensic Science degree program can seek an entry-level position as a crime lab technician and other positions.
Some of the fields in forensics include:

  • Ballistics
  • Chemical Trace Evidence
  • Computer Forensic Examination
  • Criminalistics
  • Criminal Investigation
  • Digital & Multimedia Sciences
  • DNA Profiling
  • Drug Analysis
  • Facial Identification
  • Fingerprints
  • Firearms/Toolmarks
  • Fire Debris & Explosives Analysis
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Forensic Biology
  • Forensic Engineering
  • Forensic Photography and Electronic Digital Imaging
  • Handwriting
  • Information Security
  • Jurisprudence
  • Microscopy
  • Mobile Phone Forensic Examination
  • Paternity Testing
  • Questioned Documents
  • Toxicology

Forensic Science TypewriterWhat are some Jobs in Forensic Science?

  • Biometrics Examiner
  • Bloodstain Pattern Analyst
  • Crime Laboratory Analyst
  • Crime Scene Analyst
  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • Crime Scene Technician
  • Criminalist
  • Drug Unit Forensic Scientist
  • Evidence Technician
  • Firearms and Toolmarks Examiner
  • Forensic Anthropologist
  • Forensic Ballistics Expert
  • Forensic Biostatistician
  • Forensic DNA Analyst
  • Forensic Drug Analyst
  • Forensic Pathologist
  • Forensic Quality Assurance Specialist
  • Forensic Science Examiner
  • Forensic Science Technician
  • Forensic Scientist
  • Forensic Specialist
  • General Laboratory Technician
  • Laboratory Director
  • Latent Fingerprint Examiner
  • Latent Print Examiner
  • Toxicologist
  • Trace Evidence Analyst

Alcohol Tobacco and FirearmsWhat are some of the Federal Government Agencies which may hire Graduates of an Online Forensic Science Degree Program?

  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory
  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • U.S. Secret Service
  • U.S. Postal Inspection Service Headquarters

Crime Scene TapeWhat are some of the State Government Agencies which may hire Graduates of an Online Forensic Degree Program?

  • State Crime Labs/State Police Departments
  • Coroner Offices
  • Medical Examiner Offices
  • Law Enforcement Offices

Insurance agencies, private lab facilities, investigation and security services, and crime scene units may hire graduates of an online Forensic Science degree program.


Students in ClassroomHow do you become a Forensic Scientist?

Forensic Scientists typically need a bachelor’s degree, such as forensic science or a science degree including chemistry, biology, and physics. They may also want to take courses in math, statistics, biostatistics, genetics, and general and organic chemistry, as well as courses which provide writing skills. Courses in criminal justice may provide some useful knowledge.

Forensic technicians need extensive laboratory experience.

Some forensic scientist jobs require an advanced degree such as psychiatrist, pathologist or anthropologist.

A Master’s degree in forensic science can help to obtain a leadership position as a forensic scientist or criminologist within crime labs.


What Services do Crime Laboratories Provide?

A crime laboratory typically includes units such as a Physical Science unit, a Biology unit, a Firearms unit, a Document unit, and a Photographic unit.

A crime laboratory may provide additional services such as fingerprint analysis, voiceprint analysis, toxicology, and evidence collection.


What career opportunities are available to graduates of a forensic science undergraduate degree program?

Graduates can seek employment in a federal, state, county, city or private crime laboratory in public or private toxicology or other sciences.

They can also seek jobs in laboratories with insurance companies, scientific supply companies, intelligence or homeland security agencies, or the judicial community.


Do Law Enforcement Officers or Federal Agents need to have a Forensic Science Degree?

Typically no. Most law enforcement agencies at the local, state, or federal levels require a four-year degree of some type, but not specifically a forensic science degree.


Forensic Science Certifications:

American Board of Forensic Document Examiners offers the Forensic Document Examiner certification.

The American Board of Forensic Toxicology provides a certification program in forensic toxicology.

The American Board of Criminalistics provides certification.

The International Association for Identification offers several certifications.

Forensic Science Technicians


American Academy of Forensic SciencesProfessional organizations

The Society of Forensic Toxicologists, Inc. a not-for-profit professional organization, is composed of practicing forensic toxicologists and individuals interested in the field with a purpose of promoting and developing forensic toxicology.

Society of Forensic Toxicologists, Inc. sponsors workshops, newsletters, and technical publications serve to improve the forensic toxicologists’ skills and knowledge.
Students interested in degrees and careers in subjects related to forensic toxicology may apply for membership as Student Affiliate members. Students seeking advanced degrees and actively engaged in forensic toxicology need to apply as Full or Associate Members.

The International Association of Identification is the oldest and largest forensic association in the world. The Association represents a diverse, experienced and knowledgeable membership which educates, shares, critiques and publishes methods, research, and techniques in the physical forensic science disciplines.

The Association provides student membership to full-time college students at an accredited college with a major in a forensic science related field or law enforcement.


Organizations:

American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS): how to become an AAFS member, application procedures and deadlines. Job opportunities.

Young Forensic Scientists Forum (YFSY) is a group within the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) that is dedicated to the education, enrichment ad development of emerging forensic scientists and future leaders in the field.

American Board of Criminalistics (ABC): certification program; eligibility, application process.

US Department of Justice

American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors

International Association of Identification

American Chemical Society (ACS): information about chemistry and chemistry professionals.

The Biochemical Society: information about biochemistry and biochemistry professionals, membership, and meetings.

American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS): workshops and conferences about mass spectrometry, job opportunities.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): job opportunities.

American College of Forensic Examiners Institute of Forensic Science (ACFEI): The Forensic Examiner journal, certification programs, job opportunities.

McCrone Research Institute: microscopy, teaching, meeting and conference information.