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Forensics Colleges in Arkansas

With terrain ranging from the majestic Ozark mountains to the lowlands of the Mississippi Delta, Arkansas is a state that sits in the midst of the beautiful American South. Though it may not be the tourist mecca of nearby regions like New Orleans or have the white sandy beaches of the Gulf coast, Arkansas still plays an important part in U.S. geography and its economy.

Those ambitious citizens in Arkansas considering a career in forensic science have several options in what is known as “The Natural State.” Both on-campus and online opportunities are available for those who are willing to study and work hard towards this challenging career. With just 140 forensic science technicians currently employed in Arkansas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, competition for jobs can be significant (BLS, 2015). That said, the demand for forensic technicians is growing much faster than average at a national level, and those willing to work either in or out of state will maximize their opportunities.

Keep reading to learn about the forensic science colleges available to students in Arkansas and beyond.

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How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Arkansas

Becoming a forensic scientist in Arkansas depends on developing a strong educational foundation. With nearly a third of forensic science professionals holding a bachelor’s degree, showing academic dedication is critical to getting started in this career. The following is just one potential path for an aspiring forensic technician, but it is among the most common paths followed.

  • Step 1: Graduate High School (4 years)
    According to CareerOneStop, 98% of forensic science technicians have at least a high school diploma or GED. Completing high school is virtually a requirement for forensic science professionals. High school students interested in pursuing this career should aim to do well in all their coursework, but pay special attention to science courses like biology and chemistry.
  • Step 2: Earn an Undergraduate Degree (2 to 4 years)
    A career in forensic science requires a strong background in the scientific method, data collection, and careful analysis, which is best learned in an undergraduate science program. While a specific forensic science degree is not a requirement, a Bachelor’s Degree with a science focus (chemistry, biology, etc.) is generally the minimum education required for work in a crime lab.
  • Step 3: Become Professionally Certified (timeline varies) Upon graduation from an undergraduate program, most forensic scientists will find an entry level position at a lab or with a police department. After some entry level work, technicians that wish to specialize further often seek professional certification from a certifying body. Professional certification is available in a range of fields. As of 2016 the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has approved 17 different organizations to issue professional certification, with certification available in forensic toxicology, forensic document examination, forensic anthropology, and bloodstain pattern analysis.
  • Step 4: Earn a Graduate Degree (timeline varies)
    Around 10% of forensic science technicians have a Master’s degree and an additional 5% of forensic technicians have a PhD. Earning a graduate degree is not required in order to find success in this career, but those that do may be more likely to obtain professional advancement opportunities, particularly if they want to work in academia.

Occupational Demand in Arkansas

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 140 forensic science technicians are employed in Arkansas as of 2015, with 130 of those being employed in the greater Little Rock area (BLS, 2015).

In terms of salary, forensic technicians in Arkansas can expect to earn quite a bit less than the national average. As reported by the BLS, salary ranges are as follows:

  • 10th percentile: $29,590
  • 50th percentile: $38,910
  • 90th percentile: $56,490

The median annual wage (50th percentile) for forensic science technicians throughout the country is $56,320. Although the cost of living in Arkansas is lower than the national average, this is clearly not the state to work for those wanting to become high earners in the forensic science field.

Programs for Arkansas Students

Stevenson University

Coursework online. Capstone on-campus.

Online Master's in Forensic Studies

  • Criminalistics Track
Maryville University

Online MS in Cyber Security

Online BS in Cyber Security

St. Joseph's University

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ)

  • Federal Law Enforcement Concentration
  • Intelligence & Crime Analysis Concentration

Featured Forensics Programs in Arkansas

The University of Arkansas Community College at Hope offers a few different options for those interested in forensic science in Arkansas, but willing to pursue a career more along the lines of crime scene investigation. Programs include a certificate of proficiency for crime scene investigation, a technical certificate in crime scene investigation, and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Crime Scene Investigation.

Arkansas State University at Beebe provides students with options to pursue an education that could lead to a forensic science career. For example, its 12-month certificate entitled Criminal Investigation Science could enable students to pursue an occupation as a forensic science technician or in a related field.

The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith provides educational programs in criminal justice that may be of interest to those seeking forensic science schools in Arkansas. Although not strictly in forensic science, the university’s offerings include a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice. This degree can help to prepare students for a variety of roles in areas such as corrections, criminology and forensics science.

Hybrid & Online Options

Arkansas students interested in attending school online have several options. Strayer University, for example, provides hybrid learning programs through its Little Rock campus. The school’s Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems with a Computer Forensics Management option provides an attractive alternative for students interested in digital forensic science. State school Arkansas State University at Beebe offers a hybrid associate degree in criminal justice and forensic science, giving students the opportunity to take some courses online while still maintaining some on-campus requirements.

Champlain College provides a 100% online degree to those interested in computer forensics and digital investigation, and the program was rated the “Best Cyber Security Higher Education Program in 2013″ by SC Magazine.

Accreditation

Students attending forensic science colleges in Arkansas or elsewhere should ensure that the school has received accreditation from a notable agency. Most often a school will be accredited through a regional accrediting agency as the State University of Arkansas is by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of College and Schools. Further, Strayer University is accredited through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Forensic science programs and schools can also be accredited through the American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS). The AAFS offers accreditation via its Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) arm. As of 2016, no program in Arkansas holds FEPAC accreditation.

Requirements for professional certification differ for each specialty. Some specialties require a certain number of hours of professional experience while others require very specific educational background.

Ultimately, students should investigate their chosen specialty thoroughly to ensure that they are earning an education that will be applicable to their future career goals.

School NameCityWebsiteDegrees AwardedCertificates AwardedTotal Forensics Grads
NorthWest Arkansas Community CollegeBentonville055
Arkansas State University-BeebeBeebe055
Arkansas State University-Main CampusJonesboro303
University of Arkansas-Fort SmithFort Smith022

School data provided by IPEDS (2013), and includes all certificates and degrees awarded for the following programs: Arson Investigation, Computer Forensics, Forensic Accounting, Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Psychology, Forensic Science and Technology, and Law Enforcement Investigation

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