FL

Forensics Colleges in Florida

For people living in Florida or considering a move to the Sunshine State, there are abundant educational and professional opportunities available in forensic science. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014), Florida boasts the second highest number of forensic science technicians among all states in the country with 1,560 currently employed. Also, CareerOneStop (2015)—an organization sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor—estimates that between 2012 and 2022, openings for forensic science technicians in Florida will swell 16 percent, much higher than the 6 percent growth anticipated in this field nationally during the same period. Additionally, this state has no lack of fodder for the forensic imagination. Florida is notorious for having some of the country’s most gruesome, bizarre, or perversely creative criminal cases in the world. By illustration, the Huffington Post has a section dedicated to “Weird Florida.”

But before heading out to see just how exciting the criminal landscape can be in Florida, check out how to become a forensic scientist in the state, as well as relevant job outlook statistics, program details, and professional certification information.

Programs for Florida Students

University of Cincinnati

Online MS in Criminal Justice (MSCJ)

Boston University

Online MS in Computer Information Systems

  • Cybersecurity Concentration
Utica College

Online Financial Crimes Investigator Certificate

Online BS in Economic Crime Investigation

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

Jump Down to Florida Forensics Programs >>

How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Florida

For those intrigued by the prospect of the strange and amusing world of forensics in Florida, there are a number of ways to become a forensic scientist. Some of these professionals may start at a police academy or in law enforcement. Others jump straight into a college program to get a training in evidence collection, analysis, and event reconstruction. According to CareerOneStop (2015), 30.9 percent of forensic science technicians have bachelor’s degrees. Given the discipline’s emphasis on the scientific method and fields such as biology (e.g., DNA analysis) and chemistry (e.g., toxicology), it’s no surprise that many of these crime-solvers hold at least bachelor’s degrees.

Here is one possible path to becoming a forensic scientist in Florida:

 

  • Graduate from high school. To prepare for the competitive college application process, students should ensure that they have strong backgrounds in the natural sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics) and mathematics. For those who discover their passion for forensics early, volunteering through a local police department or forensics lab may be an option.
  • Enroll in a bachelor’s program, preferably a bachelor’s a science (4 years). Many forensic scientists get their laboratory training not only through courses such as trace evidence, DNA analyses, and document examination, but also through internships in real-life forensics labs under the guidance of licensed professionals. There are a variety of majors which pay thought to forensics, such as criminal justice, psychology, and biology, and coursework will depend on a student’s interest and career goals.
  • Get certified through a professional organization (optional, timeline varies). While not necessary for employment in the state of Florida, some prospective forensic scientists choose to get certified in a subfield such as criminalistics, medicolegal death examination, and arson investigation. There are currently 17 organizations accredited by the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) and the prerequisites to join each vary, but typically involve an application and a test of competence. Please note that some of these certifications require graduate coursework.
  • Get an advanced degree in forensics (optional, timeline varies). Depending on one’s professional objectives, pursuing a graduate degree in forensics may be a necessary step to advance one’s career. According to CareerOneStop (2015), 15.1 percent of forensic scientists hold at least a master’s degree, especially those in positions of leadership or teaching in academia. Additionally, these more advanced degrees in areas such as forensic psychology, chemistry, or anthropology can qualify people for increased responsibilities or pay.

 

Following these steps, aspiring forensic scientists in Florida may seek jobs in a variety of contexts such as police crime labs, psychiatric hospitals, and government at all levels, to name a few.

Strong Demand for Forensic Scientists in Florida

There’s excellent news for aspiring forensic scientists and technicians in Florida. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014) reports that there are 1,560 currently working, the second most of any state in the nation. So what are the top-employing regions for forensic science technicians in Florida? It’s no surprise that job opportunities are concentrated in urban areas.

 

Here is a breakdown of the top-employing regions in FL (BLS 2014):

  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL: 420 employed
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL: 320
  • Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL: 220
  • Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL Metropolitan Division: 170
  • Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL Metropolitan Division: 160

 

The BLS (2014) also provides a breakdown of the salary data within Florida and its municipalities. These forensic professionals make an average of $47,180 annually in FL. Here are the statewide annual salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $31,060
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,060
  • 90th percentile: $68,630

 

Not all forensic science opportunities are created equal, however. The BLS (2014) gives a list of the top-paying regions in the state—which again, not surprisingly, are among the most heavily urbanized—and are listed here with the average annual salaries:

  • Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL Metropolitan Division: $63,780
  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL: $56,960
  • West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach, FL Metropolitan: $56,110
  • Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL Metropolitan Division: $50,190
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL: $48,440

 

It’s now clear why the Showtime hit Dexter—the life and times of a blood-spatter analyst who moonlights as a serial killer—takes place in Miami, the top-employing and top-paying region for forensic scientists in the state.

The American Academy of Forensic Scientists (AAFS) provides a wealth of resources for these professionals, including a list of networking organizations, journal articles, continuing education opportunities, and support for the Young Forensic Scientists’ Forum (YFSF), a group committed to the betterment of the next generation of crime-solvers.

Featured Forensic Science Programs in Florida

There are a number of quality forensics colleges in Florida, including two universities with programs accredited by the prestigious Forensic Science Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Using standards such as facility quality, curriculum comprehensiveness, and student outcomes, FEPAC is the premier organization which evaluates forensic programs.

Here are the two FEPAC-accredited schools in FL:

Florida International University in Miami boasts two distinct FEPAC-accredited programs. The first is a certificate in forensic science, coupled with either a bachelor of science (B.S.) in chemistry or biology. This interdisciplinary degree pays thought to both the didactic and empirical (i.e., hands-on) underpinnings of an understanding of forensic science. With classes such as principles of forensic biology and a supervised internship in facilities nearby, graduates are prepared for an entry-level career in a forensic laboratory. Florida International also hosts a FEPAC-accredited master of science (M.S.) in forensic science graduate program. This coursework is designed to meet the requirements of the DNA Advisory Board and includes both short and web-based course options.

The University of Tampa offers a FEPAC-accredited bachelor of science (B.S.) in forensic science. Students take classes such as biological unity, forensic chemistry, and criminal investigation. In addition to rigorous coursework, students of this program get opportunities to receive hands-on forensic training in internships, with sites ranging from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Crime Laboratory in Tampa, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner, and Field Forensics, Inc.

 

These FEPAC-approved options are only a few of programs available at forensics colleges in Florida. Here are some other quality options across the state:

The University of Central Florida’s National Center for Forensic Science in Orlando hosts an abundance of programs in the field, including a bachelor of science (B.S.), a master of science (M.S.), and a Ph.D program, all interdisciplinary work with strong foundations in chemistry or biomedical science. One particularly notable option is the B.S. in forensic science with two distinct tracks: analysis or biochemistry. The former has a heavy focus in crime scene reconstruction and criminal justice, with the latter specializing in more in-depth laboratory work.

The Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne—a scenic city on the east-central coast of the state—has a unique bachelor of arts (B.A.) in forensic psychology program. Students have the opportunity to use the Cognitive Applied Research lab (CARL), the first lab in the world to eye-track dogs in 2009. Also, students have a number of extracurricular support groups such as the Forensic Psychology Association and Psi Chi (the honor society for psychology students).

The CSI Academy of Florida in Alachua—just outside of Gainesville—may be an especially attractive option to law enforcement personnel, aspiring private investigators, and newcomers to the field. Rather than a traditional degree program, these a la carte classes let students pick and choose their specific training regimen. Focusing 70% of each course on hands-on instruction with experienced forensics professions, the CSI Academy offers classes such as advanced bloodstain pattern analysis, courtroom testimony, and human remains recovery.

Hybrid and Online Programs

In addition to online forensic programs all over the country, there are a few predominantly web-based options within the state of Florida:

The Florida State University in Tallahassee has degree programs in criminology at all levels, including online bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminology. The bachelor’s program requires no on-campus visits, while the master’s offers a mix of coursework formats in areas such as computer applications in criminal justice, applied statistics of criminology, and research methods. The student testimonials show that graduates of FSU’s program have gone on to become police chiefs, college program directors, and legal advocates for non-profits, to name a few of the opportunities available.

The University of Florida’s (UF) Gainesville-based online forensic science program was given the Award for Excellence from the American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC). As the largest forensics college in the world, UF’s faculty has extensive experience training its students in toxicology, DNA and serology, and drug chemistry, to name a few of the class modules. Boasting five master’s degrees and six certificate programs, this school awards credentials in a wide range of specialties such as environmental forensics, forensic death investigation, and broad-based forensic science.

The Florida Atlantic College out of Boca Raton has an online master’s program in accounting with a concentration in forensics. Exploring white collar crimes such as money laundering and fraud, this two-year program boasts a diverse student body from 35 states and several international students as well.

Accreditation and Professional Certification

As mentioned above, the primary accrediting body for forensics colleges in Florida is the Forensic Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). While graduating from one of these programs can be an indicator of merit to future employers or graduate program admissions committees, it is not necessary to complete a FEPAC-accredited program to practice forensic science in Florida.

That said, before enrolling in a program, it’s wise to ensure that a school has some recognition from a regional accreditation organization such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS COC), the main regional accrediting body for college in Florida.

Finally, some forensic science professionals choose to get certified in their field. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAC) offers a range of individual certifications, a process that not only brings aspiring forensic scientists recognition for their competence, but can also serve as a valuable networking resource. Some of these certifying agencies include:

 

School NameCityWebsiteDegrees AwardedCertificates AwardedTotal Forensics Grads
Saint Leo UniversitySaint Leo64064
St Petersburg CollegeClearwater322860
Palm Beach State CollegeLake Worth252449
University of Central FloridaOrlando24024
Florida State UniversityTallahassee21021
Miami Dade CollegeMiami10919
Hillsborough Community CollegeTampa01717
Eastern Florida State CollegeCocoa16016
Keiser University-Ft LauderdaleFort Lauderdale13013
Florida SouthWestern State CollegeFort Myers9413
Gulf Coast State CollegePanama City6511
Florida Institute of TechnologyMelbourne10010
The University of TampaTampa909
Pensacola State CollegePensacola066
Florida International UniversityMiami606
Tallahassee Community CollegeTallahassee055
Southern Technical CollegeFort Myers202

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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