Completing a degree in the forensic sciences or in the natural sciences often requires more than just studying. It may also involve gaining real-world experience through an internship. Rather than sitting around answering phones in a crime lab, some internships can provide an invaluable opportunity to gain knowledge and expertise in this field.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of 25 internships that may interest those working on a forensic science or criminal justice degree. Many are available over the course of a semester, or, if not, offered through a summer opportunity.
Typically, forensic science internships like these are found through the crime labs of state or regional police departments and law enforcement agencies. However, if no one is listed for a particular state or region, don’t be afraid to call regional police departments and similar agencies to see what might be available. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist because it is not listed here. Sometimes it just takes a phone call to get the ball rolling.
Most importantly, no matter what kind of internship a forensic science student pursues, they should be able to work under a professional forensic scientist in the field and gain new skills and knowledge important in finding that post-college job.
Washington, D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences
The Department of Forensic Sciences has four options for internships. The first is a competitive internship for college juniors or seniors or graduate students. Interns could help with administrative tasks or the streamlining of lab processes and participate with research and writing. They should be studying in a field such as criminal justice, forensic science, law, public health, or similar. The department also offers research and joint-agency internships.
Second, there is a research internship for master’s or doctoral students. They will work under legal counsel, management, or scientists. If the student’s area of research is relevant to the internship, they can even complete some additional research while completing this internship. The third option is a STEM internship for high schoolers. These juniors or seniors must be enrolled in a District of Columbia STEM-specific program. Lastly, there is a highly competitive District Leadership Program (DLP) through the Department of Human Resources.
Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection
Connecticut’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection is looking for students studying in areas that include criminal justice, communications, information systems, and more. Interns receive research and special assignments in these non-paid positions but are given college credit upon program completion.
The primary goal of this internship is to provide students with a solid understanding of how the Department works. To assist with this, interns rotate through various sections of the Department and perform various functions. Based on a student’s knowledge and expertise, they may have more hands-on responsibilities in some roles versus others.
Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers
Three internship sessions of 12 weeks are available each year to students interested in federal law enforcement careers. At least 50 percent of the internship is spent in basic and advanced training, while the other 50 percent is spent advancing the objectives of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers.
Students must be majoring in a field such as criminal justice, criminology, or the forensic sciences and need to be a senior in college or graduate students. In 2021 and 2022, the program was modified to be a virtual volunteer experience because of Covid-19. (The program likely resumed the full in-person format for 2023.)
National Homeland Security STEM
The National Homeland Security STEM Summer Internship Program is available to college juniors and seniors, enabling them to work with Homeland Security professionals and researchers during the summer for up to a 10-week period. Students are given a $1,000 stipend each week, for up to $10,000 total, and will conduct research into the Department of Homeland Security mission-relevant areas.
The focus of this program is to give students hands-on comprehensive training that can ultimately benefit Homeland Security. There are also other internship options in nuclear forensics, nuclear science, or research. Positions vary across the U.S.
Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Department
The forensic science internship offered through the crime lab with the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Department is unpaid. Still, students work under the guidance of forensic scientists. They may gain experience in breath or blood alcohol analysis, the presence of drugs in post-mortem blood and tissue samples, the location and identification of bodily fluids, and other forensic science techniques.
While specific skills required will vary based on the project available, all interns must have a firm grasp of scientific principles. Interns must be pursuing or have completed a degree in a field such as biochemistry, biology, forensic science, or similar, and must be able to put in 20 or more hours a week for two or more months.
Honors Internship Program at the FBI
This program is available to undergraduates in a field such as accounting, cyber, law, and STEM. This is a 10-week paid internship with a direct pipeline to a job in the FBI, so these appointments are competitive and lucrative. Applicants must be currently enrolled in their institution. Most students complete this internship in the summer between their junior and senior years of college. With six locations and 12 different job titles, applicants have a lot of opportunities to choose from.
As part of this internship, students will analyze data, develop streamlined internal communication systems, and support divisions with audits. Duties will vary based on the department, job title, and the student’s skills and education.
Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Minnesota Department of Public Safety
This internship, offered through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, allows college students to observe forensic scientists at work and become involved in a laboratory project. Students must be a college or graduate program senior studying in a field such as biology, criminalistics, forensic science, or something similar. Students can expect to participate in an extensive literature review, research, laboratory experiments, oral presentations, and data compilation.
Internships are ten to 16 weeks long, non-paid, and available in St. Paul and Bemidji. There are spring, summer, and fall deadlines, so students have the chance to complete their internship when it is most convenient for them.
The Center for Forensic Science Research & Education
This ten-week internship is located just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the CFSRE. Designed for undergraduate and graduate students, candidates can apply for one of two separate sections, including forensic biology or forensic toxicology. In addition to hands-on laboratory training, students also undertake independent mock casework, practice chain of custody, work under a chain of custody, perform validation studies and analyses, write reports, and undergo courtroom testimony training leading to a mock trial as part of the internship.
The end goal of this program is to prepare students with the lab, management, and communication skills they need to work in forensic science. A $3,000 bench fee is required from all interns accepted to this program. Scholarships are available.
New York Department of Investigation
This crime lab internship is available through the Department of Investigation in New York and provides students pursuing a forensic science degree with real-world knowledge. Internship experiences could include job shadowing forensic scientists, searching through databases, watching courtroom testimony, and similar experiences.
At the end of their program, interns will write a report about their experiences. This internship program is unpaid, and interns can expect to put in 30 or more work hours per week. There are several internships available at sites across New York. Applicants must hold junior-level status at their institution.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service
The NCIS, a federal law enforcement agency examining felony-level offenses related to the Navy and Marine Corps, provides two internships to qualified candidates. The NCIS Honors Intern Program is open to undergraduate (juniors and seniors) and graduate students interested in criminal intelligence and acquisitions, forensic science, and more. The internship is paid and provides valuable hands-on experience.
Placements are typically at the NCIS headquarters in Quantico, last 10 weeks, and require 40 hours a week of work. NCIS also offers the Wounded Warrior Internship for those in the Department of Defense’s Operation Warfighter Program. These interns are either awaiting medical retirement or will return to active duty. This internship aims to provide participants with employment-ready skills.
Miami-Dade Public Safety Training Institute
Students interested in this internship through the Miami-Dade Police Department will find an internship program that introduces them to various aspects of police work, including forensic services, homicide, robbery, special victims unit, uniform patrol, and much more. The internship is observation-only and open to juniors or seniors in college or graduate students majoring in criminal justice or a similar field.
Fall and spring internships are 16 weeks long, while summer internships are only 12 weeks. Interns are expected to work Monday through Friday for at least eight hours a day, and 40 hours a week for their internship.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD)
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department offers summer internships to undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in a college or university program. Students are expected to work 40 hours a week during this eight-week program and are paid $15 per hour.
During the internship program, students become sworn law enforcement officers with CMPD. They can work with investigative, support services, and/or field services groups to experience the duties and responsibilities of law enforcement professionals. This gives students a unique perspective into a law enforcement and forensics career before completing an academy or additional education.
Department of Maryland State Police
Students working on a degree in life or physical sciences with a minor in forensic science can look for internship opportunities available through the Forensic Science Division of the Department of Maryland State Police. This internship is a great way to gain experience in this field and network with professional forensics scientists. Students must apply directly to the unit they want to intern with. Units include biology, chemistry, pattern evidence, trace evidence, crime scene, administrative support, and more.
Applicants must have completed at least their sophomore year of college to be eligible to apply, and students above this level, including graduate students, can also submit applications. Summer and semester internships, all unpaid, are available to interested students. Applicants who already have lab experience or extensive forensics coursework will receive preference.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation
Students interested in interning for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation should pursue a degree in criminal justice or a similar field. This internship gives students real-world experience in criminal justice and forensics. Students must be juniors or seniors in college or first-year graduate students to be eligible to apply.
All applicants must pass a GBI polygraph examination to be accepted into the program and be available to work at least 30 hours a week for at least eight weeks. There are extensive disqualifying factors for this internship, so candidates should review the requirements carefully to ensure they have the qualifications and haven’t engaged in activities that will inhibit them from being accepted.
The Miami Valley Regional Crime Laboratory in Ohio has internship opportunities available to juniors or seniors in college majoring in forensic sciences or natural science. The internship is unpaid, but students will gain knowledge about the various laboratory disciplines.
Rather than being structured like an apprenticeship, this internship rotates students through different laboratory parts to gain a wide breadth of experience. At the end of the internship, students will complete a research project. The topic is decided collaboratively, as it must benefit the laboratory and the student.
City of Philadelphia Toxicology Lab
Juniors and seniors in college who have taken courses such as analytical and organic chemistry can look for internships available through the medical examiner’s office with the City of Philadelphia. Students can apply to a specific unit, including bereavement services, toxicology, fatality review, and pathology. Interns should be available to invest at least 18 hours a week at the lab.
The toxicology internship is the most robust of the programs offered. Students receive an orientation and may learn about how case assignments are made and about the final steps in preparing a toxicology report. If time permits, students can work on a special project providing them with hands-on experience. Spring, summer, and fall options exist, so students can complete their internship year-round.
A computer forensics internship is available through the U.S. Department of Justice’s High Technology Investigative Unit (among other opportunities). Responsibilities will vary but could include restoring a Linux server one day and analyzing files from a digital wiretap on another. A long-term assignment will be assigned based on areas of expertise and determined by a supervisor. The internships are open to undergraduate and graduate-level students. Candidates for this internship must be enrolled in a computer science program.
Various internships are available through the Mesa Police Department, in Arizona, including in the department’s forensic science section. Interns in this program will be able to explore both sworn-in and civilian career paths within the Mesa Police Department. They will gain skills through hands-on training and specialized classroom sessions to teach critical skills. It is also an excellent way to network with forensics professionals.
Accepted interns will be responsible for assisting forensic science analysts, organizing reference materials, fingerprinting, and completing similar tasks. All applicants should complete their last year of a four-year biology, chemistry, forensic science, or natural science degree program.
North Carolina Department of Justice
The State Bureau of Investigation in North Carolina allows interns to learn how a state investigative bureau functions. Several opportunities are available, including in the crime lab, and additional fields. In addition to hands-on learning, the Bureau supplements students’ experience with classroom education.
For the crime lab internship, students must be majoring in or have a minor in biology, chemistry, forensic science, or the natural sciences. Students must have completed at least their sophomore year to be eligible to apply. Accepted interns can select or will be assigned to a field district. This internship is unpaid and can be full-time or part-time.
Washington DC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
For those interested in working close to the heart of the federal government, the DC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner offers several internships for qualified applicants. The OCME provides opportunities for students of forensic anthropology, forensic photography, death investigations, toxicology, digital imaging, epidemiology, and other areas.
This is a highly competitive internship. To apply, candidates must submit an application, a compelling statement of interest, two letters of recommendation, a current resume, and official transcripts. Once a candidate has been accepted, a student’s college must establish an interagency agreement with the OCME before the intern’s start date.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
The CIA offers a wealth of internships for aspiring forensics professionals. Among its paid undergraduate offerings (also referred to as “co-op programs”) are positions in intelligence analysis, cyber exploitation investigations, cybersecurity, digital forensics, and other fields related to forensics. Not surprisingly, admission is very competitive.
For example, the undergraduate cybersecurity officer internship requires applicants to have an undergraduate degree in cybersecurity (or a related field), at least a 3.0 GPA, proof of foundational coursework in computer science or cyber-defense, and a thorough background check (including a polygraph interview and medical exams). Working with the CIA can prove an invaluable professional experience and boost one’s resume. All positions require relocation to the DC metropolitan area.
In addition to internships, the CIA offers scholarships to outstanding students and paid fellowships for students attending four-year Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs)
The Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State (FACTS) offers month-long unpaid non-credit internships each summer. Interns in this program will assist with the day-to-day operations of FACTS, including processing human remains, data management, and the donation program.
As part of this program, students can also anticipate learning how to catalog skeletal remains. If students have more advanced skills and training, they may help identify bodies of undocumented border crosses found by authorities in Texas.
Admission to this internship is competitive, and students may be required to pass a competency exam to be admitted to the program. While students in this program are unpaid, they are invited to complete the FACTS workshops in June for free, which cost an estimated $2,200. This includes the human osteology intensive, outdoor human remains recovery, entomology and taphonomy, and the forensic anthropology methods workshop.
Forensicon is a computer forensics consulting company based out of Chicago, Illinois. They offer internships to students with a computer programming background who want to apply their skills to a real company. Interns they bring on will help write programs, develop in-house software tools, and assist with automation.
Typically, interns work on a specific internal need and develop a tool to help solve the problem. Often, interns are offered post-internship job opportunities at Forensicon, so this can be a great way to get a foot in the door in computer forensics.
City of Portland Police Department
The Portland Police Department offers an array of educational experiences in partnership with local agencies and schools. Their ideal candidates are self-motivated students who desire to pursue a career in law enforcement. Several departments offer internships, depending on a student’s interests and career goals.
Internships for forensic science students include working in the property and evidence unit, which houses, secures, and organizes evidence related to crimes and investigations, the crime analysis unit, where students will learn to extract and analyze data, or the criminal investigation division collating information regarding a specific case, organizing databases, and assisting with data entry.
Students can complete an unpaid internship through the Massachusetts State Police (MSP). Internships are offered three times a year for fall, spring, or summer semesters and students must earn college credit while completing their program. Applicants must be juniors, seniors, or graduate students and be able to pass a rigorous background check.
There are several internship tracks to choose from, but forensics students will be most interested in the scientific track. This track is open to applicants who major in forensic science and wish to explore how those principles and practices are applied within the department’s crime laboratory.
The following criteria were used to compile 25 cool forensic science internships. Not all criteria applied to all internships, but many met the following guidelines:
Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. Rachel writes about meditation, yoga, coaching, and more on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).