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What Can I Do with a Master's Degree in Forensic Science?

There are many forensic science master's degree programs in the United States. Some offer specialties in forensic biology, DNA analysis or toxicology. Read on to learn more about the career opportunities in this field, and get details about master's degree programs.

Forensic Science Overview

Using chemistry, biology and physics, forensic science professionals analyze evidence to solve crimes and resolve legal matters. Those employed in the field must be well-versed in mathematics, analytics and the sciences. Forensic science is an area that requires at least a bachelor's-level education. Those who are looking for salary advancement and higher levels of responsibility should hold a master's degree in forensic science.

Important Facts About This Field

Job Outlook (2016-2026) 17% growth
Similar Occupations Biochemist, Fire Inspector, Private Detective, Chemical Technician
Key Skills Composure, detail oriented, problem-solving, and communication skills
On-the-Job Training Offered typically under a supervisor

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Graduates from forensic science master's degree programs typically find employment in laboratories, though they may also work in medical examiner offices, government agencies or specialty agencies, like arson investigation. Master's degree-holders can qualify for supervisory positions such as crime lab director or senior forensic scientist.

Salaries for forensic scientists working in different specialties are similar; in May 2019, PayScale.com reported that the median annual salary for forensic DNA analysts was $53,910; for forensic chemists, $55,001; and for forensic biologists, $49,898. However, these figures cover forensic scientists who hold bachelor's and master's degrees, so advanced degree-holders with high-level jobs may make above the median.

Master's Degree in Forensic Science

In order to pursue a forensic science master's degree, candidates must first have a bachelor's degree in forensic science, chemistry, biology or another natural science. A master's degree program builds upon this foundation with both practical and theoretical skills in areas like forensic science research, human molecular biology, genetics, forensic chemistry, trace analysis, instrumental analysis, forensic microscopy and criminal justice ethics. Several laboratory courses that allow students to practice using refractometers and spectrometers are required. Programs may also require thesis research, practicums and/or an internship.

Master's degree program options in forensic science are very diverse. General forensic science degree programs are available, as well as specialized degree programs in fields like forensic toxicology, forensic serology and forensic drug chemistry. In general forensic science programs, students may be able to choose a specialty, such as anthropology, biology or chemistry.