Forensic Science Graduate Programs: Overview
Forensic Science Graduate Programs delve into how to apply the physical, biomedical, and social sciences to the analysis of physical evidence. While forensic science is often affiliated with images from TV crime scene investigation shows like Law & Order, Dexter, or Bones, this is only one aspect of a broader and dynamic field of study.
Schools for Forensic Science Graduate Programs may offer degrees at the Masters and Doctoral levels as well as certificates. A graduate-level forensic science degree program often has both a didactic and a hands on component.
Most curriculums stack courses in forensic biology, chemistry, toxicology, and trace evidence analysis with crime laboratory methodologies.
Students could therefore build a portfolio of relevant laboratory techniques in tandem with a deeper grasp of medico-legal developments. Additional coursework might help participants refine skills in a specific area such as forensic psychology or digital forensics.
Program Formats: Campus & Online
In addition to on-campus programs, many forensic science schools offer online forensic science programs. These may appeal to at-work professionals who have access to a lab, but cannot head to campus to study at a set schedule.
What Is Forensic Science All About?
Per the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, “any science used for the purposes of the law is a forensic science. While forensic science graduate programs has become identified with law enforcement and prosecution of criminal cases, it is actually objective and unbiased.
Three of the many uses and practices of forensic science could assist in the following elements of a criminal investigation.
- Helps investigators understand how blood spatter patterns occur (physics)
- Discover the composition and source of evidence such as drugs and trace materials (chemistry)
- Determine the identity of an unknown suspect through DNA (biology)
Essentially, forensic science plays a key role in the criminal justice system by providing scientifically based information through the analysis of physical evidence.
For instance, when an investigation is conducted, evidence is collected at a crime scene or from a person, analyzed in a crime laboratory and then the results presented in court. Each crime scene is unique, and each case presents its own dilemmas.
DID YOU KNOW? Per the BLS, many of those who seek to become forensic science technicians have an undergraduate degree in the natural sciences and a masters degree in forensic science.
|State||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
What Courses Might a Forensic Science Major Study?
A forensic science major could study a variety of topics, though curriculums often line up with the theme of the program. See below for a few examples from the NCES of what forensic science graduate programs may offer in the way of coursework. Then, refer to the syllabus of individual forensic science schools.
- Forensic Laboratory Technology
- Autopsy Procedures, DNA, Blood Pattern Analysis, Fingerprint Technology
- Document Analysis
- Witness and Subject Examination Procedures
- Professional Standards, Ethics, Law and Regulations
- Anthropology and Psychology
Masters in Forensic Science
A Masters in Forensic Science program has a multi discipline approach in which students could tailor their degree to specific needs and goals. Most forensic science schools award a Master of Science (MS) in Forensic Science, or a Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Forensic Science.
Requirements to Apply
Applicants often need a Bachelors degree in chemistry or biology or in forensic or natural science with a minor in chemistry or biology. Along with transcripts, it may be necessary to furnish GRE scores, letters of recommendation and a personal essay.
Length of Study
A general MS in Forensic Science degree plan could entail from 30 to 44 graduate semester hours, with coursework that a full-time student might complete in about two years. The aim of this type of program is often to help students acquire necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities essential to forensic science.
Topics of Study
Most curriculums include several components: core courses, advanced coursework and laboratory instruction. Compulsory courses could enable students to learn how to use forensic instruments and master techniques to analyze controlled substances. In addition, participants might study regulations, ethics and quality assurance.
Further topics could draw from the examples listed below.
- Forensic Biology
- Forensic Toxicology
- Trace Evidence and Microscopy
- Crime Scene Investigation and Pattern Evidence
Students may also be required to complete an internship is a forensic science laboratory. A final independent research project often caps the MS and may highlight good oral and written skills which are important in the lab as well as the courtroom.
MS in Criminal Justice – Crime Analysis
By contrast, a MS in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Crime Analysis could explore the inner workings of investigations and modern trends in crimes. Curriculums might start students off with an exploration of today’s criminal justice issues (E.g. cybercrime).
Technical courses could include a class in research methods and statistical applications in criminal justice which could prepare students for a final Crime Analysis Project.
Other compulsory topics could build a deeper grasp of legal and ethical issues along with the following.
- Computer Applications in Crime Analysis and Investigation
- Criminal Intelligence Process
- Geographic Information Systems
MS in Forensic Psychology
A Master of Science in Forensic Psychology (MSFP) program puts a microscope on criminal behavior and what motivates it. Forensic psychology is essentially an intersection of psychology and law. Though commonly associated with the practices used by criminal profilers, it is much more wide ranging.
Forensic psychologists work within the criminal justice system to assess the mental health of individuals who have been charged with a crime. MS in Forensic Psychology programs could therefore immerse students in the psychology of criminality.
Students could be expected to develop an ability to think critically since, one day they may be asked to determine if a suspect is competent to stand trial, offer expert testimony, or make recommendations about an offender’s sentencing or treatment.
Curriculums at the Masters level might also examine the use and application of social psychological principles in correctional settings and root causes of aggression. Students might also develop deeper insight into the characteristics of victimization and offenders along with treatment strategies for perpetrators. See below for other potential course topics.
- Psychology of Law and Justice
- Diversity and Forensic Psychology
- Criminal Profiling
Not all MS in Forensic Psychology programs may prepare students to seek licensure in the fields of counseling and psychology. However, they could set students up with research design skills and coursework in applied statistics. These courses may help students with a capstone project. A non-clinical internship may also be required.
|Metro Area||Annual Mean Salary||Employment|
|Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA||$93,310||70|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||$91,150||970|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||$80,430||220|
PhD in Forensic Psychology
A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Forensic Science is an interdisciplinary research degree. Courses often aim to go wide and deep to help students refine their ability to think critically, solve problems, and refine leadership skills in their area of interest.
Who Can Apply
Applicants to some PhD in Forensic Science schools may need a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry or biology. Alternatively, a bachelors degree in forensic or natural science with the equivalent of a minor in either chemistry or biology.
Forensic schools often look for candidates with a 3.5 GPA and may ask for GRE scores. Things like a resume, personal essay and letters of recommendation usually need to be furnished with official transcripts.
Typical Course Work
To further the program goals, PhD students might perform independent, original research, complete academic coursework along with hands-on experience in the laboratory. Some forensic science schools may also encourage participants to collaborate with accredited forensic laboratories, institutes and partners.
The way a PhD program is divided depends on the university. Sometimes, students complete 86 credit hours beyond the bachelors degree, with the bulk of courses devoted to compulsory courses. These may cover science (forensic toxicology, forensic biology), law, ethical conduct and quality assurance along with some others.
- Forensic Science Laboratory Management
- Controlled Substance Analysis
- Forensic Instrumental Analysis
In addition, students could study how to conduct research and communicate scientific research results. Electives could draw from a list of approved graduate courses in areas such as forensic science, criminal justice, biology or chemistry.
Graduate Certificate in Forensic Science
A Graduate Certificate in Forensic Science is a non degree award that could bolster skills in a targeted area. Most certificates are shorter than a full grad degree and could cover a set series of courses and about 20 credits.
For instance, a Forensic Science/Criminalistics Certificate could cover criminalistics coursework and related labs as well as physical and DNA analysis. Students might also take an elective which could cover analytic chemistry or drug chemistry and identification.
Forensic Science Concentrations
Different Forensic Science Graduate programs and curriculums could help students carve out specific skills to pursue various career paths in this extensive field. It is good to keep this in mind when it comes to choosing a program.
Different forensics schools may offer distinct emphasis. Consider your goals, then read course lists and program descriptions to find forensic science programs that could support your endeavors.
A focus in forensic pathology could prepare students to perform autopsies in order to determine how and why the victim died. This is especially in cases where foul play is suspected or when the death is sudden or just unusual. Aside from these techniques, students might study how to move beyond the lab to inspect crime scenes.
Forensic pathologists typically work closely with dentists, who use dental records to identify human remains, or forensic toxicologists, who analyze blood and tissue samples to detect the presence of drugs, alcohol, or other chemicals. Key courses could therefore include Forensic Medicine and Forensic Dentistry.
A focus in forensic anthropology could help students address cases where human remains are severely decomposed. Forensic anthropology primarily delves into the study of the human skeleton to find clues that relate to the victim’s identity (E.g. age, sex, stature, and ancestry).
In addition, forensic anthropology could be used to determine the cause of death, and/or uncover evidence of a crime. Forensic anthropologists may use tools such as facial reconstruction software as part of their investigation. Key courses could cover osteology, biology and research methods.
Crime Scene Investigation
Crime scene investigation is all about the procedures used to carefully comb a crime scene and document all the evidence collected. Investigators take photos, make sketches, look for hairs, blood, fibers, fingerprints, bullet fragments, and other pieces of evidence.
All these pieces form part of the puzzle to point to a suspect or help to formulate a theory of what events took place. Students might therefore study more intensively things such as how to collect evidence, analyze findings in the lab, and reconstruct crime scenes.
A focus in criminalistics is all about the scientific analysis of evidence collected from the crime scene. Criminalists analyze physical evidence in the crime lab, including hairs, fibers, gunshot residue, arson accelerants, and body fluids such as blood or saliva (for DNA testing).
Students who choose this emphasis might therefore study in-depth topics such as chemistry, biology, or related subjects. They may also become familiar with multiple instrumentation and scientific techniques. A course in scientific communication could help students learn to present and explain complicated scientific evidence to a jury.
A focus in digital forensics might appeal to the tech-savvy student. Participants often complete coursework in cyberspace and cybersecurity. They could also learn how to conduct a digital forensic investigation as well as study cybercrime and cyber incident analysis.
What Do You Do As a Forensic Scientist?
A forensic scientist is first a scientist. Scientists who use their knowledge to help lawyers, juries, and judges comprehend the results of scientific tests are forensic scientists.
The scientific analyses and tests conducted by a forensic scientist could either exonerate or convict an accused person, prove or disprove allegations in various legal suits.
Are Forensic Scientists in High Demand?
Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of forensic science technicians is anticipated to grow 16% from 2020 to 2030, which is considered really fast. Nonetheless, competition for jobs is expected to be fierce, and applicants with a graduate forensic science degree could have an edge. (Source: BLS.gov)
Forensic Science Professional Certifications
A national certification may not be necessary in order to work in the field of forensic science. However, a range of licenses and certifications is available to help credential or enhance professional development of many types of forensic science technicians.
These certifications may be available through organization which are accredited by the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB). For instance, the American Board of Criminalistics offers proficiency tests in 5 areas: (1) drug analysis, (2) fire debris, (3) hairs and fibers, (4) molecular biology, paints and polymers.
Accredited Forensic Science Schools
Regionally accredited universities may offer professionally approved Forensic Science Graduate programs. The preeminent accreditor in this area is FEPAC – The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.
FEPAC takes into account factors such as faculty support, student services, the program’s mission statement and the school’s fiscal stability before they approve each forensic science program.
written by Rana Waxman
Popular School with Forensic Graduate Programs
|Master of Science in Forensic Science||Southern Utah University||MSFS|
|Forensic Science||University of Abertay Dundee||MSFS|
|Forensic Science||London Metropolitan University||MSFS|
|Forensic Science||City University of New York (CUNY) John Jay College||MSFS|
|Economic Crime Forensics||La Salle University||MS|
|Forensic Science||Nebraska Wesleyan University||MSFS|
|Anthropology / Forensic Anthropology||Louisiana State University||MS|
|Master of Science in Digital Forensic Science||Champlain College||MS|
|Forensic Science||Marshall University||MSFS|
|M.S. in Forensic Science||Syracuse University||MS|
|Master of Science in Forensic Psychology||Northcentral University||MS|
|M.S. in Forensic Science||Grand Canyon University||MS|
GradSchools.com offers 51 Forensic Science Graduate Programs
- George Mason University. Hofstra University. John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY) Loyola University of Chicago. ...
- Saint Louis University. San Jose State University. Syracuse University. ...
- University of Central Florida. University of Nebraska. University of Texas at Austin.
DNA Analysis is the standard
Examining and interpretation of DNA fingerprinting has been recognized as the most reliable tool of forensic science today. However, it had to undergo extensive experimentation and validation before it was recognized as a reliable tool.
Q. Which country is the best to pursue a Masters in Forensic Science? A. Some of the best countries to study MS in Forensic Science are the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK.What degree is best for forensic science? ›
Students interested in forensic science careers can pursue degrees in forensic science, criminal justice, and legal studies. To find success, they must supplement their legal knowledge with an understanding of biology, chemistry, and computer programming.Is a masters in forensic science worth it? ›
Is a forensic science degree worth it? Students may consider a forensic science degree worth the time, effort and financial investment because it can prepare them for their prospective role and may be a prerequisite for a professional position as a forensic scientist.What state pays forensic scientist the most? ›
|Total Forensic Scientist Jobs:||61|
|Average Annual Salary:||$107,427|
|Lowest 10 Percent Earn:||$75,000|
|Highest 10 Percent Earn:||$153,000|
|Location Quotient:||1.42 You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here|
- Chromatography, spectroscopy, hair and fiber analysis, and serology (such as DNA examination)
- Pathology, anthropology, odontology, toxicology, structural engineering, and examination of questionable documents.
Over the years Dror and other researchers have found bias just about everywhere they've looked—in toxicologists, forensic anthropologists, arson investigators, and others who must make judgments about often ambiguous crime scene evidence.Is DNA is the best forensic science? ›
Forensic scientists can use DNA profiles to identify criminals or determine parentage. A DNA profile is like a genetic fingerprint. Every person has a unique DNA profile, making it very useful for identifying people involved in a crime. The only exception to this is identical twins.Is Masters in forensic science hard? ›
Is Forensic Science Hard? Because of the focus on math and science in this field, a forensic science career is not the easiest one to pursue. If you plan to earn a degree in forensic science, you should plan on taking courses in chemistry, toxicology, biology, anatomy and physiology, and advanced mathematics.
Forensic science is a very competitive field, so finding a job can be difficult. Arming yourself with higher education and certifications can help tremendously.Which field has more scope in forensic science? ›
Ans: The top recruiters in India for forensic science are Quality Control Bureau, Private Detective Agencies, Police Department, Intelligence Bureau (IB), Hospitals, Defense/Army, Central Govt. Forensic Sciences Labs, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Law Firms, Universities, Quality Control Bureau, Banks, etc.Are forensic scientist in high demand? ›
Employment of forensic science technicians is projected to grow 11 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.Is forensic science a good major for FBI? ›
Forensic science is a useful degree for an FBI agent because it allows you to work as a field agent and gather evidence when a crime occurs. It also allows you to work in a lab to analyze data or to work directly with a prosecutor to present data in a court.Is forensic science a STEM major? ›
Because forensic science is the application of science to address matters of law, forensic science is composed of a broad array of academic disciplines that include degrees in the basic sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.Is forensic science stressful? ›
Working as a forensic scientist can often be stressful. Often, the first 48 hours after a crime are critical, making for working conditions under tight deadlines. Additionally, you may be exposed to violent crime scenes or images.Does forensic science have a future? ›
You can get jobs in various governments & private sectors .
The study will improve your skills and knowledge. After completing your degree, you can open your own forensic practice & forensic service offices. You also may employ in Forensic Laboratories, Detective Offices, Banks and other Govt.
- Analytical chemist.
- Biomedical scientist.
- Crime scene investigator.
- Forensic scientist.
- Scientific laboratory technician.
- Forensic Engineer. Salary range: $79,000-$121,500 per year. ...
- Forensic Analyst. Salary range: $55,000-$114,000 per year. ...
- Latent Print Examiner. Salary range: $47,500-$84,000 per year. ...
- Forensic Specialist. ...
- Forensic Science Technician. ...
- Fingerprint Technician.
As of Nov 22, 2022, the average annual pay for a Forensic FBI in the United States is $86,376 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $41.53 an hour.
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- to be accurate, methodical and thorough in your investigations.
- patience, attention to detail and problem-solving skills.
- the ability to explain your findings clearly in court, to people like Lawyers and jurors.
- report-writing skills.
Common forensic science laboratory disciplines include forensic molecular biology (DNA), forensic chemistry, trace evidence examination (hairs and fibers, paints and polymers, glass, soil, etc.), latent fingerprint examination, firearms and toolmarks examination, handwriting analysis, fire and explosives examinations, ...What are the negatives of being a forensic scientist? ›
Cons of being a forensic scientist
In the laboratory, scientists may spend long hours over microscopes or sorting samples, working to catalog evidence. The nature of the job can also be stressful, with pressure to produce results, connect clues or find every available piece of evidence.
Forensic Scientist Statistics By Gender
56.9% of forensic scientists are women and 43.1% of forensic scientists are men.
A solid majority of forensic science technicians enjoy their work environment, probably contributing to overall higher satisfaction with working as a forensic science technician.Which is better DNA or fingerprint? ›
In crime scenes where biological evidence was collected and tested, DNA evidence was five times more likely than fingerprints to yield a suspect and nine times more likely to lead to an arrest.Is forensic science or criminology better? ›
Criminology and forensic science represent differing sciences and different functions. They differ further in scope and application. Forensic science provides methods for solving crime, while criminology develops theories for explaining crime as a social phenomenon.Do DNA analysts go to crime scenes? ›
Most of the time, those working in the lab will have a regular workday schedule, but the role may also require late hours or travel to a crime scene or complete an analysis to make a deadline. In some cases, the DNA analyst job position may require a presentation of findings in a courtroom setting.Is forensics a lot of math? ›
Like many scientific tests and experiments, forensic investigation often requires mathematic calculations. Take a wide range of college-level math courses, including calculus, statistics, and laboratory measurements and techniques.
Generally, you must have a minimum grade point average of B (3.0) in undergraduate coursework from an accredited college or university to be considered for admission.Do forensics make good money? ›
The states and districts that pay Forensic Science Technicians the highest mean salary are California ($88,090), Illinois ($85,690), Massachusetts ($79,200), Oregon ($76,970), and Alaska ($74,100). How Much Do Forensic Science Technicians Make in Your City?How many days a week does a forensic scientist work? ›
Forensic scientists working for the government usually work 40 hours a week but sometimes work extra to meet deadlines and work on large caseloads. Forensic scientists spend most of their time in labs but often travel to crime scenes to examine and analyze evidence, as well as testify in court.How many hours a week do forensic scientists work? ›
Forensic scientists employed by government agencies and laboratories typically work 40 hours each week, but they're often required to work overtime to meet deadlines.
Forensic science is a good career for individuals who would like to collect and analyze evidence using scientific methods in order to solve crimes. Forensic scientists earn 26% more per year than most other professionals. Within the next 10 years, job growth for forensic scientists is projected at 16%.What is the salary of MSC forensic science? ›
Forensic Science employees make? Employees as M.sc. Forensic Science earn an average of ₹15lakhs, mostly ranging from ₹15lakhs per year to ₹15lakhs per year based on 1 profiles. The top 10% of employees earn more than ₹15lakhs per year.Is there a demand for forensic scientists in the future? ›
This salary can vary depending on where you work. The job outlook for forensic scientists is high, with 16% growth for the career expected through 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics .How competitive is forensic science? ›
Recent graduates will likely face intense competition, as there are generally few entry-level positions in the field.What are the top three industries that employ Forensic Scientists? ›
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||50|
|Local Government, excluding schools and hospitals (OEWS Designation)||10,730|
|State Government, excluding schools and hospitals (OEWS Designation)||4,530|
|Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services||(8)|
Unlike crime scene investigators, forensic scientists do not visit the crime scene. Instead, they work in a lab environment, examining and analyzing evidence provided by investigators to help law enforcement agencies pursue justice.
All FBI agents must hold a bachelor's degree at minimum, and many possess a master's degree or higher. FBI agents often earn degrees in fields such as criminal justice or political science, though the Bureau does not maintain any specific academic major requirements for applicants.What should I double major in forensics? ›
Complete an internship in a crime laboratory to gain experience in the forensic application of science. Obtain a double major in criminal justice and a hard science (biology, chemistry, or biochemistry) if interested in a career in forensics or wildlife.What is the most common degree in the FBI? ›
When it comes to those working at the FBI, the most common degree is a bachelor's in criminal justice. This degree gives you an overview of the tasks you will complete and how to do them.
Forensic Science is a broad, interdisciplinary field in which the natural sciences are used to analyze, examine, evaluate and assess physical evidence in matters of the law. Learn to interpret and reconstruct crime scenes as you prepare for a key role in our criminal justice system.What branch of science is forensic science? ›
forensic science, the application of the methods of the natural and physical sciences to matters of criminal and civil law.What is FBI STEM? ›
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is an exciting and expansive field. STEM professionals at the FBI have opportunities to work with advanced technologies to address unique investigative and intelligence challenges not found in the private sector.Is it worth it to major in forensic science? ›
Forensic science is a good career for individuals who would like to collect and analyze evidence using scientific methods in order to solve crimes. Forensic scientists earn 26% more per year than most other professionals. Within the next 10 years, job growth for forensic scientists is projected at 16%.What GPA do you need to get into forensic science? ›
Generally, you must have a minimum grade point average of B (3.0) in undergraduate coursework from an accredited college or university to be considered for admission.Is forensics science a good degree? ›
There is a significant demand for forensic science graduates within law enforcement, customs or investigatory agencies, and graduates will find employment as Analytical Chemists, Laboratory Technicians, and Forensic Scientists, within Criminal Justice or Toxicology, as well as the previous careers mentioned above, ...Why is forensic science so hard? ›
The course is one of the most difficult in the forensic degree program because it requires a thorough knowledge of how DNA works, how to screen for biological evidence for attribution at a crime scene, the various methods used to analyze DNA, and the method in which forensic DNA testimony is delivered for depositions ...
Students earning a degree in forensic science must be willing to devote time to studying subjects such as biology, chemistry, human anatomy, pathophysiology and toxicology. These subjects are often accompanied with detailed class lectures, labs and comprehensive exams. This field of study leaves no room for laziness.What are the disadvantages of being a forensic scientist? ›
Cons of being a forensic scientist
In the laboratory, scientists may spend long hours over microscopes or sorting samples, working to catalog evidence. The nature of the job can also be stressful, with pressure to produce results, connect clues or find every available piece of evidence.
Forensic science is a very competitive field, so finding a job can be difficult. Arming yourself with higher education and certifications can help tremendously.What math is required for forensics? ›
Take a wide range of college-level math courses, including calculus, statistics, and laboratory measurements and techniques. Everything from probability to basic arithmetic plays a crucial role in key forensic techniques, such as DNA analysis and fingerprint comparison.How long is a PHD in forensic science? ›
A doctorate degree in forensic science can typically be completed through four to five years of study. The first half of the program focuses on core coursework requirements, while the last half focuses on dissertation research.Do forensic scientists go to crime scenes? ›
Forensic science technicians work in laboratories and on crime scenes. At crime scenes, forensic science technicians typically do the following: Analyze crime scenes to determine what evidence should be collected and how. Take photographs of the crime scene and evidence.Do Forensic scientists make a lot of money? ›
The salaries of Forensic Scientists in the US range from $13,429 to $357,074 , with a median salary of $65,075 . The middle 57% of Forensic Scientists makes between $65,077 and $162,309, with the top 86% making $357,074.Is forensic science in demand? ›
The need for professionals in Forensic Science is high in demand as the crime rate is only growing and there are numerous cases which require thorough research work and analysis. The government, private organisations need professionals who can help assist them in conducting Forensic analysis and help them solve crimes.