Forensic scientists are educated and trained to uncover and analyze physical evidence for criminal and civil cases. Many times, forensic scientists play a vital role in the criminal justice system, and provide crucial information about the evidence being presented. Forensic scientists are usually found in the courtroom, in the laboratory, or at the crime scene. Therefore, their educational background in science and Criminalistics needs to be strong, up-to-date and accurate at all times. Blame it on TV, but in the last 10 years, the interest in the field of forensic science has drastically increased, forcing universities and colleges to begin providing undergraduate and graduate-level degrees in forensic science.
President Bush directed the Department of Justice to undertake a $1 billion, 5-year program to improve the United States’ ability to use DNA evidence as a routine law enforcement tool. In order for this plan to work, there must be highly trained, educated and qualified professionals in the forensic science field. So where do you begin? You’re already at a great place. Read more about each education level, and it’s requirements below.
High School Science Education
During high school, students are offered a variety of science classes. Chemistry, biology, and physical science classes can be taken at this level, providing a strong educational background for the future. However, science isn’t the only thing a high school student needs to focus on during the four years. The following classes should also be taken into consideration if a high school student is interested in becoming a forensic scientist. They include:
- Foreign Language
Undergraduate Forensic Science Education
During undergraduate-level education, a student who wishes to become a forensic scientist should begin to consider which type of forensic science they prefer. There are numerous types of forensic science degrees that can be earned over the course of 2-4 years. Most entry-level forensic positions require a bachelor’s degree in forensic or natural science. Depending on which type of forensic scientist you’d like to become, courses that should be taken during these initial four years may include:
- Criminal Justice
- Physical Science
- Natural Science
- Molecular Biology
- Computer Science
- Digital Forensics
- Computer Forensics
Graduate Forensic Science Education
Once a person earns a bachelor’s degree, they may go out and try to find a job in forensic science. However, in most cases these jobs are only at entry-level. The pay tends to be low and the hours can be long. So what do you do? Earning a master’s degree can help you land the job of your dreams. Plus, it allows room for advancement into better positions, such as supervisors or leaders. Earning a master’s degree can also allow a student more time to gain experience through internships. Master’s degrees can come in a variety of fields. For example, if a prospective forensic scientist wants to become a forensic odontologist (dentist), they must possess a degree in Dentistry and become licensed and certified by their State to practice. Master’s degrees can help a prospective student obtain a career in forensic science quickly, while earning top salary. However, forensic scientists do not need to earn a specific related-science degree to gain the position they want after graduation. Master’s degrees in natural and forensic sciences can be used to land a number of different positions within the forensic science community.
Courses that one may focus on during graduate level education include:
- Crime scenes
- Physical evidence
- Law/science interface
- Trace evidence
- Toolmark analysis
- DNA analysis
- Veterinary medicine
- Fibers, hairs, glass, debris, etc.
- Quality assurance
- Laboratory work and experience with equipment
Earning a master’s degree gives a prospective forensic scientist the experience, tools, skills, education and training one needs to be successful in the exciting and developing field of forensic science.