Criminalists need to earn a Bachelor’s Degree from a 4-year college, with a major in Criminalistics, Chemistry, Biology, or Physics. Generally, a student only needs to complete 8 semester units of general chemistry and 3 semester units of quantitative analysis to achieve this goal. Depending on where you want to work, this could be enough to begin your career as a criminalist. Some employers would like an applicant to have earned a Master’s degree in Forensic Science or Criminalistics.
To see our complete list of accredited Forensic Science Schools, click here.
Criminalists have the option of taking the tough exam, given by the American Board of Criminalistics. If the exam is passed, the criminalist is then certified, which can benefit his or her career and employment position.
So what does it take to get to that Criminalistics degree?
One thing you can do in high school is talk to your school counselor about the various colleges that offer Forensic Science, Criminalistics, or other physical or biological science degree programs. During high school, you should consider taking courses such as the following to help you get into a 4-year program:
- Mathematics (as many as possible)
- Physical Science
While earning a Bachelor’s degree, you should consider taking courses such as:
Some employers want you to earn a Master’s degree. If you choose to continue your education after your initial 4-years, you should try to find colleges or universities that offer both the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Forensic Science, Criminalistics, or a related biological or physical science. Generally, each school has a mandatory set of courses that you must take and complete before a masters degree is awarded.
Student internships can help a prospective criminalist gain more experience through hands-on training. In most areas, students can try to get an internship at their local crime laboratory, toxicology laboratory (if close by), or the medical examiner’s/coroner’s facility. During school projects, students should look into internships, as they usually need to contact these outside labs and facilities for educational purposes. Internships can also help a student land a job directly after graduation. Most local, state and federal agencies, as well as private laboratories have an extensive background check and hiring process that can last up to 6 months. Internships can be a bridge to help you land that job over your peers.