Some incredibly difficult crimes have been cracked in recent years using forensic science.

The cold case of Utah resident Krystal Beslanowitch – who was murdered in 1995 – eventually was solved due to the determination of the original investigator and new forensic technologies not available during the time of the original murder. DNA evidence that had been collected in 1995 but unable to be properly processed was able to be used 18 years later to find her killer and bring him to justice.

The 1981 murder of Denver resident Patricia Beard finally was solved in July 2013 thanks to DNA evidence. Processed in 2011, the DNA evidence finally was matched to a Pennsylvania man who now faces charges in the crime.

Scientific evidence is a major factor in the successful arrest and conviction of many criminals. Forensic evidence is collected at crime scenes by crime scene investigators, who later turn it over to forensic scientists and technicians to determine if it can be used for prosecutorial purposes.

Forensic scientists are responsible for identifying and classifying evidence that has been collected and then using it to determine if there is a connection between the evidence and the person suspected of committing the crime.

Required Education

Extensive skills are required in order to become a forensic scientist. Advanced math and science, analytical and deduction skills, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities and excellent oral and written communication are among the skills required to perform the job.

The minimum of a bachelor’s degree in forensics or the natural sciences is required in order to work in the field. The degree program will take four years to complete. According to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), coursework should include advanced math, chemistry and biology and analytical thinking.

It is important to select a program – whether online or traditional – that has received accreditation. The AAFS has listed the following traditional and online degree programs as among those with the appropriate accreditation: the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Boston University School of Medicine; the University of California at Davis; Duquesne University; Florida University; and George Washington University. A complete listing of accredited programs within the U.S. is available on the AAFS website.

The AAFS also lists accredited programs outside of the United States. They include, but are not limited to: Anglia Ruskin University; the British Columbia Institute of Technology; Canberra Institute of Technology; the Central Police University; the University of Crakow; and the Doctor Harisingh Gour University.

Future Outlook

Demand for qualified forensic scientists and technicians is expected to increase by 19 percent between now and 2020, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The average annual salary for a forensic scientist is $51,570. Top wage earners in the industry make more than $82,000.

Browse Degrees by Subject

Popular Schools