Forensic Science Degrees and Education

Forensic scientists collect and analyze physical evidence found at crime scenes. They collect fingerprints, saliva, blood, semen, drugs, and firearms. They also collect bones and reconstruct skeletons as well as prepare reports, preserve evidence, discuss collected evidence with law enforcement and attorneys, and testify in court. Since the scientific evaluation of evidence can determine a defendant’s guilt or innocence, forensic scientists serve an important role in the criminal justice system.

Forensic Science Careers

There are variety of areas of practice in forensic science. These include:

  • Medical Examiner

    While medical examiners usually have the highest pay of all forensic scientists they also have to cut up dead bodies, require over 7 years of college education and have very uncertain work hours. As medical examiners must determine the cause of death they are confronted with a variety of problem-solving challenges. A medical examiner requires a medical degree. An undergraduate degree in chemistry or biology is a recommended major for aspiring medical examiners. It is also recommended to take crime detection & investigation courses as your electives at the undergraduate level if available.

  • Forensic Odontologist

    Forensic odontologist are dentists who practice as consultants rather than as full-time forensic scientists. The educational requirements for a forensic odontologist are similar to those for a medical examiner.

  • Crime Laboratory Analyst
  • Crime Scene Examiner/Investigator
  • Forensic Engineer

    Forensic engineers deal with fire investigations, traffic accidents, as well as a variety of wrongful injury and death cases. Their work is very similar to that of a crime scene examiner but has better pay, fewer dead bodies to deal with and much better working hours. Forensic engineers require an engineering degree in electrical engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, materials engineering and traffic engineering.

  • Academic Analysts

    Including psychology (including psychological profilers) / social science / statistics.

  • Technical Analysts

    Including computer analyst, polygraph, composite drawing. Technical analysts are typically part of a crime scene investigative unit and usually work in a lab-like environment but respond in a similar fashion to other crime scene personnel.

Education Requirements

To get a forensic science entry level job, candidates need to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, microbiology, genetics, or medical technology, and it is recommended candidates take law and communication classes. While earning a degree it is also highly recommended that you participate in a low or non-paid internship in a crime laboratory to get experience in the forensic application of science. Laboratory experience may be required by some crime labs to get a job.

Special Skills

Since forensic technicians work with many people in stressful situations, it is important to be able to work well with others. It is also important for forensic scientists to have good speaking and writing skills since they prepare reports and testy in court. Forensic scientists must also possess excellent hand-eye coordination since they handle small pieces of evidence to examine under a microscope.

The majority of forensic technicians work for state or federal crime laboratories. As a result, forensic scientists may be able to receive medical and retirement benefits. Forensic scientists typically earn about $57,850 annually or $27.80 hourly, according to O-net.

Working Conditions

Forensic scientists working for the government usually work 40 hours a week but sometimes work extra to meet deadlines and work on large caseloads. Forensic scientists spend most of their time in labs but often travel to crime scenes to examine and analyze evidence, as well as testify in court.

Job Outlook for Forensic Scientists

Experienced and skilled forensic scientists are typically in demand, but because of threats to cut budgets, there are few entry-level positions and there is high competition for these jobs. The job outlook for a forensic scientist is currently much faster than average (15% or higher) according to O-Net.


Enjoy this post? Don't forget to share.

Criminal Justice Careers

Learn More About Criminal Justice Careers by Specialty

Find Classes. Prepare for a Career.

Looking to go back to school? Let us help you find Criminal Justice programs and schools that match your interests.

Featured Criminal Justice Articles

Explore Articles on Hot Topics in the Field of Criminal Justice

  • Forensic Scientist

    Breakthrough in Forensic Science

    Forensic researchers in Tucson, Arizona have developed a revolutionary method that could allow scientists to predict what a person might look like using only their DNA. Scientists at the University of Arizona conducted a research project measuring the following characteristics of nearly 1,000 individuals: eye color, skin, and hair.

    Read more
  • Death Penalty

    Does The Death Penalty Save Lives?

    For the first time in over a generation, the question of whether the death penalty deters murders has captured the attention of scholars, sparking an intense new debate. About 12 current reports indicate each time a convicted murderer is executed, between 3-18 homicides do not occur.

    Read more
  • Bounty Hunter

    Bounty Hunters -- Legit, or not?

    Are bounty hunters legitimate law enforcement professional? There has been increasing controversy in the United States over bounty hunters, with concern voiced over the lack of control that a state has over their behavior. Court jurisdictions have permitted bounty hunters broad authority to locate and detain individuals fleeing to evade the legal process.

    Read more