What You Should Know About This Degree
The American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the largest forensic science organization in the world, has named 11 distinct areas of expertise for forensic scientists and technicians. These include pathology/biology, engineering and applied sciences, and psychiatry and behavior science.
Your ability to work within one of these areas of specialty will be determined largely by the program you choose, since your coursework will focus on one or more areas of interest. Be sure, when you are searching for the right program, that you choose one that includes courses that interest you.
Although there is no licensing required to become a forensic scientist, you may earn certifications in specific areas within which you are working. Toxicologists, for example, may earn specialty credentials through the American Board of Toxicology. The International Association for Identification, meanwhile, provides certifications for forensic artists and photographers.
Most forensic scientists are employed by local and regional police departments and federal government agencies such as the FBI. Work may be primarily in a laboratory setting, but forensic scientists also are called frequently to crime scenes and are a presence in courtrooms during criminal trials, where they serve as expert witnesses.
Here are some questions to ask when researching Forensic Science programs:
- Am I eligible for this program? Although many master’s forensic science programs accept students from a variety of undergraduate backgrounds, preference is given to those with degrees or concentrations in chemistry, biology or any of the natural sciences. Many master’s applicants are already working in the field as forensic technicians, and are looking to expand and deepen their skill set.
- How long does it take to complete this online degree? Many of our top programs have between 30 and 48 credit hours of coursework required. If you were to take classes full time, you could earn your degree in a year. Most students, however, take courses part time while continuing to work. Depending on the number you take each semester, you may earn your degree in two to four years.
Since there are many different career tracks you can take on the road to becoming a forensic scientist, make sure you carefully research programs to ensure that the one you choose has a good range of courses in your particular area of interest. A call to the institution’s admissions office can get your questions answered and help you find the information you need to make an informed decision.
Pay attention to deadlines when applying. There may be one deadline for applications and another for financial aid or scholarship requests. If you are already working as a forensic technician, check with your company’s human resources office to see if they will help pick up some or all of the cost of your degree.