Forensic science is the marriage of technology and science and the law. The field applies general science concepts in chemistry, physics, and biology to analyze physical evidence from crime scenes and criminal cases in order to determine fault or guilt. As a result, forensic science also incorporates issues of criminal justice, criminal law, and crime scene investigation. It is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on science, but incorporates anthropology, entomology, medicine and pharmaceuticals, genetics, and psychology. At the master’s degree level, forensic science curricula go beyond general scientific and laboratory concepts and focus on the role of science in the forensic environment.
Why a Master’s Degree?
An online master’s degree in forensic science is the best choice for maximum mobility and growth potential in this field. While bachelor’s degree holders will be considered for most entry-level positions, the industry is leaning toward a preference for master’s degree holders. A master’s program is a great next step after you have acquired some on-the-job experience and are looking to advance your career. Because master’s degrees focus more on theory and application, online programs with flexible scheduling are available to help you keep your career moving forward.
Getting Into a Master’s Degree Program
Some online master’s degrees in forensic science will require letters of recommendation, GPA minimums, and work experience in criminal justice or forensic science in addition to the following items. However, some programs require only these basic qualifications to be considered, depending on the quality of the program.
- A bachelor’s degree in related, science-based field
- Passing GRE score and/or GRE subject test
Inside a Forensic Science Master’s Degree Program
A forensic science masters degree program builds on the foundational science courses completed in the undergraduate level. Graduate courses take these concepts further to establish your ability to analyze and interpret physical evidence. Courses in criminalistics, environmental forensics, forensic anthropology, forensic medicine, toxicology, pharmaceutical analysis, and many more address the specific scenarios you will encounter in a forensic laboratory environment. The bread and depth of courses at the graduate level develop your expertise in a variety of different fields, from anthropology to entomology, to make you a capable and versatile professional in this field.
Some master’s programs offer areas of specialization, which can influence which courses are included in the curriculum. Specializations might include toxicology, drug chemistry, death investigation, or DNA and serology. Most programs require 30 to 60 hours of course credit, but these requirements may vary. If enrolled full time, you can expect one to three years to complete your degree, depending on the course requirements and whether you need to complete any prerequisites. Online degrees at this level are available through some brick-and-mortar colleges and universities, as well as online school. In this format, course lectures will be viewed through online video, where you will also interact with students and professors through online messages boards, chat, and email.
What’s Next for Forensic Science Master’s Degree Holders?
A master’s degree in forensic science can lead to an establish, forward-moving career in investigative law enforcement and laboratory practice. Many law enforcement agencies and their crime labs are moving toward graduate degree holders for their mid-level to high-ranking laboratory scientist positions. With a master’s degree, you can advance to a career as a crime laboratory analyst or forensic scientist technician with the potential for upward mobility. A master’s degree can also make you eligible for academic teaching positions at vocational school and community colleges.
Degrees in forensic science beyond the master’s degree level are not widely available. However, some master’s degree holders go on to doctoral degree programs in related fields, like genetics, chemistry, or other biomedical sciences. Other professional degrees in medicine, law, dentistry, or psychology can keep your career moving forward, as expert forensics occupations often require a Ph.D.