Forensic Science Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in the forensic sciences field. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and education requirements. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Career Does a Forensic Major Lead Into?

A forensic science major is someone who focuses their undergraduate degree studies in the field of forensic science. They often become forensic science technicians, and they work in the criminal justice field. Their specific role as a forensic science technician is to collect and analyze evidence from crime scenes. This may involve taking photographs, sketching out the scene and location of items found, identifying relevant evidence and retrieving evidence. In laboratories, forensic science technicians will conduct tests on the evidence to identify DNA or fingerprint matches, or to determine the source of evidence that's retrieved. They work with police officers and detectives and report their findings and their work is used to help identify suspects. They may also be required to testify in court about their findings.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree for entry-level
Training Required On-the-job training
Educational Field of Study Forensic science, natural sciences, chemistry, biology, mathematics
Licensure and Certification Licensure is not typically necessary for career entry; however, numerous credentials are available in this field, and requirements may vary by jurisdiction
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 27% for all forensic science technicians
Median Salary (2015)* $56,320 for all forensic science technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a Forensic Science Major?

A forensic science major is an undergraduate degree program, usually a Bachelor of Science (B.S.). In many cases, students can choose between concentrations in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, criminalistics or toxicology. This degree requires completion of anywhere from 120-133 credit hours, including general education courses, like English.

As a forensic science student, you may be required to complete an internship during your studies. You can expect to complete courses in crime scene investigation, forensic pharmacology and introductions to law and evidence. This degree program is often found in a university's department of criminal justice.

What Can I Do?

Some careers in forensic science require further study and completion of a graduate degree in the field. However, there are jobs out there for bachelors level graduates of forensic science programs. For example, you can start in an entry-level position as a forensic science technician, collecting and analyzing specimens, testing evidence and even testifying in court about your findings, according to O*Net Online (www.online.onetcenter.org). A proficiency exam may be administered or approval from an accredited regulatory entity may be needed prior to court testimony however.

How Much Can I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2015, there were 14,070 individuals working as forensic science technicians (www.bls.gov). Depending on location, those professionals earned anywhere from $16.34 per hour for the lowest paid 10% of those employed in the field to more than $45.39 for the top 90%, or $34,000-$94,410 annually, according to the BLS. For example, BLS data indicates that the average forensic science technician in Florida earned $22.83 per hour in 2015, while the average hourly wage in California was $38.22 per hour in 2015.

What Professional Organizations Exist?

The American Academy of Forensic Science offers members opportunities for professional development and collaboration with colleagues, according to the Academy's website (www.aafs.org). There are several avenues for membership, including student and associate memberships, or categories for individuals who specialize in topics like examining questioned documents, criminalistics or toxicology.

What Further Education Options Exist?

Master's degrees in forensic science can be completed in 2-3 years. They prepare students for careers as forensic scientists. The BLS further states that a doctoral degree in forensic science is often required for employment in administrative positions in laboratory settings.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Police and detectives do not necessarily need a bachelor's degree, but their work is similar to the work of forensic science technicians because they must review the analysis of the evidence recovered and use it to draw conclusions and identify suspects. Private detectives and investigators may also do this for their clients; they usually have prior experience in law enforcement. Medical laboratory technologists and medical laboratory technicians and biological technicians also have similarities to forensic science technicians because they conduct tests on materials in a laboratory setting. These professionals need a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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