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Forensics Science Colleges in Illinois

Working in forensic science can be a fascinating and rewarding experience. Forensic science technicians get the opportunity to work closely with law enforcement officials and other criminal justice professionals to solve a wide range of crimes. In order to become a forensic scientist, students should expect to build a strong educational foundation in the sciences, and in the specifics of forensic analysis.

Those who are looking for an opportunity to learn more about forensic science and wanting to work in the Illinois area will find that they have a few options for both online and on-campus programs. Forensic science professionals working in the state, many of whom work in the Chicago metropolitan area, may be employed with crime labs, police departments, or in private investigations. Students who are considering a career in the field can learn more about resources, potential jobs and fellowships through the website of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS).

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Programs for Illinois Students

Stevenson University

Coursework online. Capstone on-campus.

Online Master's in Forensic Studies

  • Criminalistics Track
Utica College

Online MS in Financial Crime & Compliance Mgmt

Online MS in Cybersecurity

  • Cyber Intelligence Specialization
  • Computer Forensics Specialization
Southern New Hampshire University

BA in Psychology - Forensic Psychology

MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology

Maryville University

Online MS in Cyber Security

Online BS in Cyber Security

Regis University

Online BS in Criminology

How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Illinois

People come to the forensic science profession from many different walks of life and at many different points in their careers. However, for the students that know they want to pursue a forensic science career, it is important to start preparing as early as possible to stay competitive in the job market in Illinois and beyond. The following steps are the most common for new forensic science technicians who do not attend the police academy first.

  • Step 1: Graduate from High School (Duration: 4 years)
    According to CareerOneStop, a site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, only 2% of employed forensic science technicians have not completed high school, which means it is virtually required for any job in a lab. While in high school, students should attempt to excel in math and sciences such as chemistry and biology.
  • Step 2: Earn an Undergraduate Degree (Duration: 2 to 4 years)
    CareerOneStop indicates that more than 22% of forensic science technicians have at least some college, with 11% holding an Associate’s Degree and 32% holding a bachelor’s degree. This data does not, unfortunately, indicate what specific degrees these professionals hold. It is likely that many of these technicians have forensic science degrees while others have degrees in related fields like biochemistry.
  • Step 3: Become Professionally Certified (Duration: varies)
    Forensic science technicians are not regulated or certified by either the state or the federal government. However, to earn the most professional recognition and best positions, technicians can earn certification in their field of specialty. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has issued its approval to 17 different organizations in areas such as forensic toxicology and forensic art certification. Depending on the specialization, the actual process will vary, but applicants should be prepared to take an exam and submit proof of their professional experience.
  • Step 4: Earn a Graduate Degree (Duration: varies)
    A graduate degree in forensic science is another way to differentiate oneself in a competitive job market. Around 15% of forensic science technicians have either a Master’s or Doctoral degree.

Occupational Demand in Illinois for Forensic Science Specialists

In the U.S. as a whole, the demand for forensic science technicians is expected to grow by 27% from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. Unfortunately, no growth predictions are available that are specific to Illinois, but the current prospects are good. The most dense employment opportunities are available in the following regions:

  • Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL: 330 employed
  • Springfield, IL: 50
  • Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI: 30

Additionally, Illinois is actually one of the highest paying states for the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2015). The salary ranges for forensic science technicians in Illinois, as reported by BLS in 2015 are:

  • 10th percentile: $43,490
  • 50th percentile: $65,950
  • 90th percentile: $110,250

The median salary for the entire U.S. is $60,090, making forensic scientists in IL better paid, relatively speaking. The city where a technician decides to work can have an impact on how much they can make. The breakdown of the median salary data for cities in IL, as collected by the BLS, is as follows:

  • Springfield, IL: $93,490
  • Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI: $74,310
  • Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL: $63,130
  • Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI: $61,070

Although there are only 50 forensic technicians employed in Springfield, they are clearly very well compensated so competition for jobs in that region is likely to be tough.

Featured Forensics Programs in Illinois

Students looking for forensic science schools in Illinois will find a number of options and degree programs. Some of these programs are specifically focused on forensic science, while other schools offer training in related fields such as criminal justice or in niche areas, such as forensic nursing.

Lewis University, in Romeoville, offers a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Forensic Criminal Investigation that provides students with the training to work on-site as a field investigator. The school also offers a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Forensic Chemistry for those particularly interested in a career in a lab. In this program, students take courses such as Advanced Forensic Chemistry, Advanced Toxicology, and Trace Analysis.

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is another of the Illinois school providing options to students interested in forensic science. Specifically, this university offers a program geared toward the forensic nursing field, and culminates in an advanced practice forensic certificate in forensic nursing for those interested in helping victims and their families deal with the many impacts of violent crime at various levels.

As part of its Biopharmaceutical Sciences program at the College of Pharmacy, the University of Illinois at Chicago also offers a Master of Science in Forensic Science with an “emphasis on the integration of analytical and interpretative skills.”

Hybrid & Online Options

Students interested in online learning in the state can look to Illinois Central College for many online programs, including an online Associate of Arts degree in Criminal Justice. The online program includes courses such as Criminal Law and Introduction to Investigation.

Lewis University offers a Master’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice entirely online. The program includes a wide rage of training in crime analysis and could be an interesting pathway to a forensic science technician career.

Other national online schools also provide online forensics and CSI programs that may be of interest to students seeking similar programs in Illinois.

Accreditation and Professional Certification

The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) is the main accrediting body for forensic science programs. Currently, there is only one program in Illinois that has been accredited by FEPAC and that is the MS program at UIC.

Beyond programmatic accreditation, schools can earn accreditation for their school as a whole from organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission. Lewis University, for example, has earned accreditation from the HLC.

Both HLC and FEPAC accreditation indicate that the school has been evaluated for its resources and commitment to the education of its students.

As mentioned above, there are no national or state level requirements for forensic science certification. Instead, certification requirements depend on which specialty a technician wants to pursue. Perhaps because there are so few programs that have been approved by the FEPAC, most certifications as approved by the FSAB do not have requirements that applicants must have earned degrees from an accredited program. Instead, those who specialize should be prepared to demonstrate their professional aptitude through testing, transcripts, and experience. Full details on each of the specialty certifications are available from the individual organizations’ websites.

School NameCityWebsiteDegrees AwardedCertificates AwardedTotal Forensics Grads
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at ChicagoChicago12720147
Lewis UniversityRomeoville17017
Harper CollegePalatine51015
Loyola University ChicagoChicago12012
Shawnee Community CollegeUllin707
University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago404
Illinois Valley Community CollegeOglesby112

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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Editor

Barry Franklin

Barry is Managing Editor of ForensicsColleges.com, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, which he co-founded. Barry was previously VP for a financial software company, and currently sits on the board of a K-8 school and lives with his wife and daughters in the San Francisco Bay Area.