What Degree do I need to be a Forensic DNA Analyst?

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Forensic biologist is another term for a forensic DNA analyst. Law enforcement, in the United States, began using DNA testing as a forensic tool in 1985. The procedure is crucial to identifying a person based on the extraction and analysis of biological material and substances. These substances can be hair, sweat, skin, bone marrow, saliva, and all other bodily fluids. DNA analysis has its roots in biology. The structural units of DNA are the four nucleotides: adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine. A matching DNA sequence exists only in identical twins.

Scientists or technicians trained and educated in the process perform DNA testing in a laboratory. The type of testing methods employed varies according to the quality of the sample. A technique called Short Tandem Repeat (STR) Analysis is used when the DNA sample is of low quality or contaminated.

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Bachelor’s Degree

Your choices at this level are a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Biology, Biological Sciences, Forensic Science, Molecular Biology, or Forensic Chemistry.

A forensic biology major consists of biology, chemistry, mathematics, and forensic science. A four-year curriculum will have a load of courses in chemistry and biology, as well as sub-specialties of these two sciences. For example, classes may include molecular biology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, genetics, DNA analysis, and forensic microscopy. Many of these subjects have lab requirements.

The above program at Ohio Northern University also has a ten-week, 400-hour internship. These sessions offer additional forensic lab experience, which places you in better stead for future employment. The school encourages students to join the Midwestern Association of Forensic Scientists and the Association of Future Forensic Professionals.

A Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences may not provide the requisite courses in forensic biology that are essential for a career as a DNA analyst. One example is an online degree that consists of classes in general chemistry, biology, organic chemistry, and genetics. However, it lacks the intensity of topics beneficial to DNA testing, such as molecular biology and biochemistry. This particular curriculum has classes in English composition, humanities, and the social sciences.

A second example is the biological sciences degree that includes seventeen credits of biology, eleven credits of organic chemistry, and eight credits of general physics. This curriculum seems advantageous because of the focus on biology, chemistry, and chemistry laboratory.

A Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science prepares graduates to work in a variety of fields. A shortlist of professions includes crime scene investigation, forensic toxicology, forensic biology, and firearms examination. Although an advanced degree is preferable in toxicology, the undergraduate program affords a foundation in a range of areas related to forensics.

The standard forensic science curriculum does not lack in classes devoted to biology and chemistry. This major at the University of Tampa has 49 hours of chemistry and biology of the 94 credit hours program. The school also has internship opportunities with a local forensic lab and the County Medical Examiner.

Molecular biology includes the study of genetics and biochemistry. Closely related to biology, this science examines the composition and structure of cellular molecules. Missouri State, for example, offers a bachelor’s degree in Cell and Molecular Biology. The study plan has 54-57 hours of Major Requirements that include molecular cell biology, human genetics, general and organic chemistry, and biomolecular interactions. Selections within the electives are human physiology, virology, electron microscopy, embryology, microbiology, DNA techniques, and biotechnology.  All of these courses favor a career in DNA analysis.

A Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science with a concentration in chemistry is an option. This degree at the University of Central Oklahoma weighs towards chemistry, microscopy, forensic analysis, and labs. There are 56 hours of chemistry of the total 124 hours needed for graduation.

A Bachelor of Science in Forensic Chemistry might broaden career opportunities. With coursework in general, organic, and analytical chemistry, you have a solid foundation in this science. Add drug chemistry, biochemistry, biophysical chemistry, forensic microscopy lab, mass spectrometry, and DNA profiling – you have the ingredients to work in DNA analysis, forensic toxicology, forensic biology, and trace evidence analysis.


As you research colleges and universities, you may want to narrow the possibilities to schools endorsed by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). The organization ensures the quality of forensic science programs at the undergraduate and master’s levels. FEPAC accredits baccalaureate curricula on scientific and laboratory training. The courses must also focus on law enforcement, ethics, courtroom testimony, and evidence collection, identification, and analysis.


There are several degree options, as outlined. Does one degree stand out as being preferable in crime laboratories? The FBI crime lab in Quantico, Virginia, is one of the world’s largest. Since 1932, the FBI has used science to prevent and determine criminal activity. The facility maintains a Combined DNA Index System or CODIS. CODIS is a database of arrested criminals, suspected perpetrators, and other offenders. When positions are available for biologists to analyze DNA, the FBI qualifications stipulate a bachelor’s degree in biological science, chemistry, or forensic science with a concentration in biology.

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