Forensic Science Degrees: Bachelor, Associate & Online Training Info

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What kind of job can you get with a degree in forensic science? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and forensic science training programs.
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Studying Forensic Science: Associate and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

Forensic science applies the principles of science to the criminal justice system. Associate degree programs in forensic science prepare students for further study in a bachelor's degree program and for some entry-level positions within the criminal justice and forensic science fields. For other entry-level positions, a bachelor's degree may be needed. As a student in this field, you learn about investigative techniques, physical science, law, data analysis and criminal investigation.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of forensic science technicians was expected to increase by 19% from 2010-2020, which was about the average rate for all occupations. Since many jobs within forensic science require a bachelor's degree, job opportunities for people with an associate degree may be limited.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this Degree for? Students who wish to gain exposure to the curriculum of forensic science and transfer to a bachelor's degree program Students interested in starting the training path for a career in forensic science
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary) - Crime scene investigator ($24,000-$76,000)*
- Police officer ($30,000-$80,000)*
- Forensic science technician ($56,000)**
- Crime scene investigator ($22,000-$75,000)*
- Forensic scientist ($31,000-$86,000)*
- Research scientist ($40,000-$109,000)*
Time to Completion Two years full-time Four years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements None Internship
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes No

Sources: *PayScale.com (July 2012 figures, 10th-90th percentile), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 mean figures).

Associate in Forensic Science

Associate degree programs in forensic science can allow you to learn about how physical evidence is collected, processed and analyzed. This degree provides an introduction to the field of forensic science for students with plans to further their education in a bachelor's or master's program.

The curriculum for this degree program also teaches you investigative techniques, including the ability to conduct interrogations and interviews, formulate investigative plans and document findings. As a student in this degree program, you develop critical thinking skills and enhance your ability to communicate verbally and through writing.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Most schools allow you to transfer credits to a bachelor's degree program
  • Provides the building blocks for furthering your education
  • You learn skills through a variety of methods, including labs, lectures and hands-on experiences

Cons

  • Limited employment opportunities after graduation
  • In a more competitive job market, companies may prefer bachelor's degrees
  • Learning a variety of skills may not make you an expert in one area

Common Courses and Requirements

In addition to meeting general education requirements in English, mathematics, social science and humanities, you take courses that cover physical science, law and criminal investigation. Courses are typically a mix of lecture, laboratory and hands-on work. Topics in common courses include:

  • Forensic science
  • Criminal investigation
  • Fundamentals of criminal law
  • Introduction to criminal justice
  • Criminology

Online Degree Options

It is difficult to find online degree options for an associate in forensic science. It may be possible to satisfy general education requirements online, but the majority of courses within this degree program are taken on campus. If you are interested in online classes, you can contact individual schools to see which classes have online availability.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

According the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, exceptional speaking and writing skills are needed to be successful in this field. To enhance your communication skills, you can consider taking extra public speaking courses, or joining clubs on campus that develop speaking skills, such as the debate team or drama club. To enhance your writing skills, you may want to consider taking additional English courses or become a note taker on campus. These opportunities allow you to develop and enhance skills that are highly valued in this field.

The BLS stated that this field is becoming increasingly competitive and people with bachelor's degrees will be heavily favored in the job market. For this reason, you may want to consider a bachelor's degree program in forensic science, since this will increase the number of employment opportunities available to you.

Bachelor's in Forensic Science

The curricula for most bachelor's programs in forensic science cover the physical and natural sciences in relation to civil and criminal law. These programs are designed for students who have an interest in working in a forensic science laboratory, or as a teacher, medical professional or research scientist. Many schools also require that students in this degree program complete an internship. This provides you with the opportunity to gain real-world experience and apply what you have learned to an actual criminal investigation.

Many schools within this field offer students the opportunity to specialize in specific tracks of forensic science, so they can receive training and education in the specific field that they are interested in. Molecular biology, toxicology, criminalistics, forensic chemistry, forensic biology, evidence technology and evidence analysis are several specialties that students can choose to focus on.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Provides students with the training and education necessary to find employment within the field
  • Internships give students real-world skills and work experience
  • Students can choose from a variety of specialties based on their own interests

Cons

  • Competitive job market
  • Many careers require extensive on-the-job training
  • Work hours are often irregular

Courses and Requirements

Your required coursework will span chemistry, biology, crime scene investigation, technical writing and lab analysis. You will also be required to take general education courses in the arts and sciences. Completion of an internship is a component of the curriculum for many schools. The internship typically occurs in a crime laboratory and is completed during your junior year. Topics in common courses include:

  • General chemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Introduction to forensic science
  • Crime scene investigation methods
  • Biochemistry
  • Criminal law and procedure

Online Degree Options

The majority of bachelor's programs in forensic science are not offered online. If you are considering a career in forensic science, you will benefit from the hands-on learning environment that on-campus bachelor's programs offer.

Stand Out with This Degree

If you know what you want to do with your forensic science degree, you can target specific skills that make you more marketable to employers. For example, if you are interested in law enforcement, you can choose an educational track focused primarily on processing evidence at crime scenes. If you would like to pursue a career in a forensic science laboratory, you can choose an educational track in evidence analysis or forensic chemistry.

You can also seek research opportunities that suit your specific interests in forensic science, particularly if you are pursuing a career as a research scientist. Many schools offer the opportunity to assist faculty members with both laboratory and non-laboratory research. You can also search for summer research programs and opportunities through which students receive a stipend for conducting research with faculty. The skills and experience gained in a research program provide you with the tools to be competitive in the job market.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • AAS in Public Safety and Security
      • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology
      • Associate: Fire Science
  • Online Programs Available
    2. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Criminal Justice, A.S.
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Central Christian College of Kansas

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AA in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Post University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. in Criminal Justice
  • Goldsboro, NC

    Wayne Community College

  • Pine Bluff, AR

    University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

  • Monticello, AR

    University of Arkansas at Monticello

  • Bellingham, WA

    Whatcom Community College

  • Dryden, NY

    Tompkins Cortland Community College

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Associate: Criminal Justice
  • AAS in Public Safety and Security
  • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Which subject are you interested in?

American InterContinental University

  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

Colorado Christian University

  • Criminal Justice, A.S.

What is your highest level of education completed?

Central Christian College of Kansas

  • AA in Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Post University

  • A.S. in Criminal Justice

Education Level:

Wayne Community College

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

University of Arkansas at Monticello