Careers in Criminology & Forensic Science

Discover different careers in the fields of criminology and forensic science. Find out about different job roles, as well as their education and training requirements. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Working in the field of criminology and forensic science can involve attending crime scenes. It can also involve working in a laboratory, or undertaking research to gain a broader understanding of criminal behavior. Find out about three different job roles in the table below.

Forensic Science Technicians Detectives and Criminal Investigators Sociologists
Education Required Bachelor's degree High school diploma (minimum); college degree (possible); graduation from  training academy Master's degree
Educational Field of Study Natural science or forensic science Law enforcement, criminal justice Sociology
Key Skills Communication, math, science, detail- oriented Good judgment, physical strength, stamina, leadership Analytical, communication, critical-thinking
Job Growth (2016-2026) 17%* 5%* 1%*
Median Salary (2017) $57,850*   $79,970* $79,650*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are Some Career Options?

Forensic science technicians typically specialize in either crime scene or laboratory analysis. Technicians working on crime scenes will record images of the scenes through photography and sketches, and collect evidence. Technicians working in the laboratory will be analyzing the evidence that gets collected from crime scenes, such as DNA.

Detectives and criminal investigators gather evidence and facts from crimes. They will respond to callouts and attend crime scenes, keeping detailed records in case they need to testify in court.  

Sociologists can specialize in criminal sociology, which involves looking into why criminals commit crimes, and analyzing trends in criminal behavior. Sociologists are involved in research and analysis to draw conclusions from their data.

What Educational Requirements Are There?

In order to become a forensic science technician, at least a bachelor's degree in a natural or forensic science is required. If you wish to study for a natural science degree, you will need to take classes in forensic science as part of your degree, or specialize later on and do a master's degree in forensic science.

Detectives need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, through it is not uncommon to have a college degree. This could be in law enforcement or criminal justice.

Sociologists are likely to have a master's degree or PhD. It is necessary for students to take classes in research methods and statistics to prepare them for employment.

What Training Do I Need?

Forensic science technicians working both on crime scenes and laboratories will receive on-the-job training. Before undertaking independent work in a laboratory technicians may need to pass an exam.

Before becoming a detective, extensive training at a training academy is necessary. This includes both classroom and hands on experience.

Sociology job seekers who have just a bachelor's degree might gain valuable hands-on experience through internships, to be considered for entry level positions.

What Might I Earn?

The latest wages were reported by The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2017. At that time, the median annual salary for forensic science technicians was $57,850. Detectives and criminal investigators earned a median wage of $79,970, while sociologists earned $79,650.

What Is The Job Growth?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)  has predicted faster than average job growth for forensic science technicians, of 17% from 2016 to 2026. However, as there are only a small number of people employed as forensic science technicians, overall, this doesn't translate into a lot of extra jobs. Job growth for detectives and criminal investigators is expected to be average, at 5%, during that same time, whereas it is predicted there will be little change for sociologists, at a 1% increase.

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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