Forensic science plays an important role in the criminal justice system, as shown in popular television shows and movies. This media focus on forensics has increased interest in the field in the last decade, growing the field considerably. It is often a great fit for anyone who wants to combine a love of science and criminal justice. One of the relatively few degrees that can be offered entirely online, a Master’s in Forensic Science Degree is a flexible option for working professionals.
A bachelors degree can help you obtain many entry-level positions in forensics and investigation analysis, but obtaining a master’s degree provides more opportunities for professional advancement. It also provides opportunities for advanced certification in fields such as criminalistics, trace evidence, or forensic pathology. A master’s degree program helps prepare students for a career in forensics through coursework, lab training, and practical experiences. These programs are research-focused and include multiple disciplines. Courses for a master’s degree in forensics will likely include chemistry, biology, mathematics, law, physics, criminalistics, ethics, and statistics, among others.
Earning a Master’s in Forensics
If you’re considering obtaining a Masters degree in Forensic Science, you might have questions about what you can do with the degree. Prospective students want to ensure that the time and expense involved will be worth it. Graduates with a Forensic Science Master’s Degree often work in laboratories, but they can also work in government agencies or medical examiner offices. They also may qualify for a supervisory position like directing a crime lab. These jobs typically pay an average of between $40 and $60,000 per year.
Obviously, you can use your master’s degree to continue your education with a doctorate in Forensic Science. A doctorate is a path many people take if they want to lead large organizations or teach Forensic Science at the university level. Having an advanced graduate degree will open additional career paths and opportunities. If the applied aspects of the degree are more interesting a master’s degree is often as much education required. There are a number of forensic science specialties for students to consider, including:
- Forensic technicians
- Medical examiners
- Forensic anthropologists
- Forensic botanists
- DNA analysts
- Forensic pathologists
- Trace evidence analysts
- Forensic geologists
- Fingerprint examiners
- Forensic autopsy technicians
- Questioned documents analysts
- Forensic toxicologists
Some of these positions require advanced certificates or special degree focuses during the master’s degree study. Many of the detailed skills of each particular job are acquired while on the job. Keep reading for a few of the most common jobs people get with a Master’s in Forensics.
Professionals who have a Master’s in Forensic Science are often able to obtain instructor positions at both four-year colleges and community colleges. College teachers educate students in classroom and lab settings and often help their students with research projects. Educators pursue their own research and often publish their results and present them at professional conferences.
Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)
A Crime Scene Investigator is usually the first forensic professional who examines a crime scene. The position involves a keen eye to identify which materials and data are relevant to the crime, and then applying evidence kits for trace evidence and fingerprints. The crime scene investigator is crucial for ensuring protocols are followed when collecting evidence, determining if a crime was committed, and protecting evidence so it can be used in court.
A Forensic Scientist works both in the lab and in the field to examine and analyze data and materials gathered by the CSI. The forensic scientist bridges the legal and scientific fields, and they often serve as expert witnesses in legal proceedings. These professionals may specialize in particular areas such as toxicology, DNA, firearms and ballistics, fingerprints, bloodstain patterns, arson and explosives, accident reconstruction, or body fluid analysis.
Forensic Computer Analyst
A forensic computer analyst investigates crimes by using technology. This position investigates crimes through large volumes of data and code, tracking a hacker’s digital footprint or recovering information. Forensic computer analysts must follow privacy issues and be comfortable with high-pressure deadlines. These jobs are fast-growing, highly sought after, and typically pay super well. Forensic Computer Analysts make an average of over $100k per year.
A Forensic Accountant’s role is to identify and investigate financial fraud. These professionals combine forensic science and accounting skills and may require a financial certification such as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). Forensic Accountants are experts in finance and banking, investigating money laundering, embezzlement, and insurance fraud.
A private investigator can be hired to obtain personal, legal, or financial information. Common responsibilities might include locating missing persons, investigating online crimes, or conducting background checks. Private investigators often specialize, such as investigating theft, divorce, or violent crime.
An Environmental Specialist uses research skills and toxicology knowledge to protect human health and the environment. These professionals investigate and analyze polluted areas to help facilitate the clean-up. They may serve as policy consultants for corporations and governments and maybe expert witnesses in criminal or civil proceedings.
There are also Behavioral Science opportunities in Forensics, such as:
- Preparing witnesses for trial
- Determining the sanity or competency of a defendant
- Analyzing eyewitness testimony
- Administering polygraph tests for witnesses
- Fact-checking for accurate witness testimony
Depending on your skills and interests, there are a large number of career paths available in Forensics with a Masters Degree.