How Long Does It Take to Become a Forensic Science Tech?

As a forensic science tech, you’ll help solve crimes by collecting and analyzing evidence. With the rise in popularity of television shows such as CSI and NCIS, many students are considering careers in forensics. There are currently over 30 colleges that offer forensic science programs, which prepare you for the job with classes in math, sciences, and more. But how long does it take to get your degree, and is this time worth the payout in terms of salary and employment lookout?

Most forensic science jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree. This type of degree typically takes four years to complete, but it depends on your program and the amount of time you spend on your classes. If you load your schedule with work and take classes during the summers, you could finish in just three years, saving an entire year of time and tuition costs. At the same time, other students find it easier to spread the work of a bachelor’s degree out over more years, going to school only part time. This allows you to keep a job as you study to be a forensic science tech, or to concentrate on raising a family, or any other obligations you may have that take up time in your schedule. It also means that it may take you five or six years to complete your training, rather than just four.

Your education shouldn’t stop when you graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Many forensic science tech educational programs offer master’s degrees in the field, which will take an extra 12 to 24 months of your time if you go to school full time. However, that advanced degree can help you find a job in a tightening job market. Some forensic science tech programs also offer specialized classes for students to receive certain certifications. These classes can add extra months to your education, but you increase your marketability if you’re an expert in blood splatter or DNA analysis. You can also go on to get your PhD in this field, further specializing in one aspect of forensics or going into teaching.

Once you get a job, chances are that your employer will require continuing education. The world of forensics is constantly changing, with new technology to help scientists understand a crime scene. Currently, there are no national licensing, certification, or registration requirements for forensic science techs, but many employers will more readily hire those who are certified by:

  • The American Board of Criminalists
  • The American College of Forensic Examiners
  • The International Association for Identification

You’ll also receive training from your employer and superiors. When you’re new in forensics, you’ll most likely get hired to work in a lab or under close supervision in the field. To work in the field alone, you need to gain experience from those around you. Many employers sponsor company-wide classes on specific topics relating to certain aspects of forensics, and almost all will require training before you appear in a courtroom situation as an expert witness.

Potential Earnings for a Forensic Science Technician

Becoming a forensic science tech means continual education for as long as you work in this field. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for forensic science technicians was $55,660 in 2011. There are a lot of factors that could affect your potential salary:

  • Type of industry
  • Level of education
  • Experience
  • Location
  • Specialty

Lab directors make even more, often breaking six figures. This field is also growing, meaning that there are more and more jobs available for graduating students, especially those who specialize in growing fields, like DNA analysis, so the time spent to get your bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree is worth the payoff. The more education and experience you have, the more marketable you will be to future employers. Though it may add some time to your education, specializing and earning other certifications can greatly influence your chances of qualifying for a better position.

Online Forensic Science and Criminal Justice Degrees

Forensic science, or forensics, is a rapidly growing field of criminal investigation whereby forensic technicians employ their technical skills in the field. To become a forensic scientist, students must obtain at least an associate's degree in fields such as criminal investigation, forensic psychology, criminal justice, and more.

Purdue University — At Purdue University, students can get a forensic science bachelor's degree in two different concentrations: forensic psychology and crime scene investigation. No matter which program you choose, Purdue will quickly prepare you for a career in forensic science.

Liberty University — Liberty University offers two accredited degrees in the field of Forensic Science online in addition to their campus counterparts. Both the Associates and Bachelors programs in Criminal Justice offer an in-depth guide through the investigative process of the justice system. Students will come away with skills, knowledge, and resources they can apply to real-world problems and situations upon graduation.

St. Joseph’s University — The MSCJ in Intelligence and Crime Analysis from St. Joseph’s University is offered online for busy adults who may already have other commitments that keep them out of class during normal hours. The flexible program will give students the skills they need to begin a criminal investigative career after graduation.

University of New Haven — University of New Haven's investigator masters program is designed to be a fast-track masters program that will help anyone segue into a job as a crime scene investigator after only one year of schooling.

Walden University — Walden University offers their master's in forensic psychology degree program fully online. Students of this program will gain insights into how forensic psychologists work with the legal system on reducing criminal behavior within a community. A graduate of this program is well-equipped to become a psychologist in a correctional institution, mental health center, psychiatric facility, child welfare agency, and more.

Keiser University — Keiser University’s Associate of Science degree in Crime Scene Technology prepares students with competencies in the areas of locating, preserving, developing, collecting, analyzing and presenting physical evidence utilizing modern methods used in the field and laboratory for forensic identification.

Saint Leo University — Saint Leo University offers a master's degree in Criminal Justice with a specialization in Forensic Science that allows students to study at their own pace as they work their way toward becoming a criminologist or forensic scientist.

Northcentral University — Northcentral University offers a Master of Science in Forensic Psychology, providing an affordable option to students seeking education in the field of forensic psychology. This program features a curriculum that explores research and academic knowledge, ethical issues, and practical communication skills of forensic psychology and criminal investigation.

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