Forensic science is the field in which science and the law come together. Forensic scientists work in the field and in laboratories where they analyze physical evidence to solve crimes, using a combination of legal expertise and scientific knowledge. At the bachelor’s degree level, students develop the basic skills and knowledge they need to perform daily tasks as a forensic scientist, like analyzing genetic and other biological material, chemicals, and pollutants to provide concrete evidence while also upholding the rules of criminal justice and the law. The undergraduate forensic science program focuses on criminal justice, biomedical science, chemistry, lab skills, and practicum.
Why a Bachelor’s Degree?
An online bachelor’s degree in forensic science is required to launch a career as a forensic scientist. Some positions in the field may require graduate or even medical/doctoral degrees. However, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree to get started and most forensic labs will only consider candidates meeting this requirement. It gives you the foundational knowledge you need to practice forensic science and sets you up for further academic endeavors if you choose to pursue them.
Getting Into a Bachelor’s Degree Program
In order to be successful in a forensic science bachelor’s degree program, you will need a strong math and science background. However, you will be eligible to apply for most bachelor’s program in this field as long as you have the following qualifications:
- High school diploma or its equivalent
- Passing SAT, ACT, or other aptitude test score
Inside a Forensic Science Bachelor’s Degree Program
A forensic science curriculum is heavily based on science coursework. You can expect back-to-back courses in biomedical science disciplines, including biochemistry, biological diversity, organic chemistry, physics, analytical chemistry, genetics, molecular biology, forensic chemistry, and more. These classes ensure you have the scientific knowledge base you need for active problem-solving as well as the technical laboratory skills you will need to work with physical evidence. You will also take introductory classes in criminal justice, to develop a thorough understanding of how laboratory science and the law intersect. Some programs will also include classes in criminal and crime scene investigation and law enforcement.
Due to the intense focus on lab work, most online bachelor’s degrees in forensic science are not available entirely online. Most online programs will make some course lectures available through video conferencing, live streaming, or recordings, but the lab requirements will be completed on campus. You can expect to take four years to complete a bachelor’s degree in forensic science if you pursue the degree on a full-time basis. .
What’s Next for Forensic Science Bachelor’s Degree Holders?
With a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, you can expect to work for law enforcement agencies and crime labs, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or local state and city governments. Most positions will be available at the entry level, including forensic science technician or crime scene examiner. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the forensic science field is growing about as fast as average for other occupations. Forensic science technicians need a bachelor’s degree and can earn an average salary of $57,945.
Depending on your career goals, you may want to pursue a master’s degree in forensic science. A master’s degree may be required for some management and supervisory positions with law enforcement agencies. You may also pursue graduate degrees in other fields closely related to forensic science. For example, some forensic science careers require doctoral or medical degrees, such as a medical examiner (ME). If this route appeals to you, a forensic science bachelor’s degree will allow you to acquire the industry-specific knowledge you need. You should also consider medical programs that offer a forensic medicine specialization.