Why should I consider a Master’s Degree in Forensic Science?

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Overall, a Master’s degree has a slightly lower unemployment rate than graduates with a Bachelor’s degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the unemployment rate in 2018 for Master’s degree graduates was 2.1% and 2.2% for individuals with a Bachelor’s degree. The median weekly income for the former was $1,434 and $1,198 for the latter. These national averages vary from one profession to the next. If you applied the salary difference over fifty-two weeks, the master’s graduate would earn $12,272 more each year. Of course, your income would not be static. Therefore, the variance would likely become greater as your salary increased over the years.

A master’s degree allows areas of specialization that you can tailor to your interest and career goals. Some of the typical specialties are forensic psychology, toxicology, digital, accounting, crime scene investigation, anthropology, pathology, and more. Generally, your graduate degree will take two years with the option to choose either an on-campus or online program.

Here are examples of possible choices at the graduate level.

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Master of Science in Forensic Science

Perhaps the most logical one in this field, it expands on what you learned in an undergraduate forensics program. Namely, you take advanced courses in forensic biology, toxicology, pattern evidence, crime scene investigation, DNA analysis, drug analysis, and many more. You can expect to spend laboratory hours, which may be a reason to consider a residence degree. At the master’s level, some of the required classes include the microscopy and the laboratory analysis of biological evidence – blood, semen, and other bodily fluids.

A 32-credit program, for example, offers a selection of twenty-eight courses of three-hours each. The array of topics provides the opportunity to choose those that suit your future or current employment. If the lab setting appeals to you, there are courses in forensic analysis of DNA, pharmacology, forensic genetics, immunology, medicinal chemistry, and molecular biology.

M.S. in Forensic Toxicology

The degree above covers many aspects of forensic science. Individuals who want a more specialized program may contemplate forensic toxicology. As you begin your college research, take note of the admission requirements. You may need a baccalaureate in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, or pharmaceutical sciences. Also, this concentration demands an in-depth study of the natural sciences. You will have courses in physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, toxicology, and biopharmaceutical sciences. Pathophysiology combines pathology and physiology. This science explores the functional or physiological changes in the body from disease or syndrome.

The American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT), established in 1975, is a source of information on its practice and toxicology certification. Another organization is the Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT) that has a Young Forensic Toxicologists (YFT) Committee. SOFT has a one-day educational YFT symposium and a Student Enrichment Program for undergraduate and graduate students. SOFT also has student memberships.

Crime Scene Investigation

Some people may prefer to have a job that doesn’t confine them to a lab consistently. A Master of Science in Crime Scene Investigation emphasizes the collection, preservation, and documentation of crime scene evidence. Courses may include fingerprint collection and analysis, bloodstain patterns, photography, and crime scene reconstruction. You may also learn how to examine and recognize questionable and forged documents.

Prior courses at the undergraduate level or additional ones in a master’s program in biology and chemistry are advantageous. Knowledge in these two subjects enables you to converse and understand the work of the laboratory technicians and scientists.

Forensic Psychology

Individuals who prefer to study the mind than the physical body may opt for this concentration. Television shows, namely Criminal Minds, have featured this field of forensics. The actors pursue the perpetrator or unsub through behavioral analysis. Anyone who wants to work for the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) will need at least a master’s degree. The BAU uses psychology to analyze persons involved in terrorism, crimes against children, and adults.

A Master of Science in Forensic Psychology does not have the intensity of laboratory classes. For this reason, this discipline is more suitable to earn online. An online program offers eleven specializations. However, not all of these involve forensics. Two examples are Police Psychology and Military. The former focuses on law enforcement situations such as hostage negotiation, stress, and PTSD in the police force. Military psychology teaches substance abuse, PTSD, military culture, and the effects of war experiences.

A General program involves topics related to criminal behavioral analysis. Examples of classes are abnormal and criminal behavior. A course in profiling provides students with the expertise to analyze case files, investigation techniques, concepts in associating the offender with the offense and victim. The program may also entail a practicum or field experience related to forensics.

A graduate program in this field typically requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Individuals with a degree in a different discipline may have to complete a set number of hours in specified courses.

The study of forensic psychology benefits those pursuing a career in or currently engaged in criminal behavior as well as those involved in civil litigation. The latter expertise applies to juror selection, child custody, child abuse, domestic violence, and juvenile delinquency.

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Related Resources: 

American Academy of Forensic Sciences

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