It seems impossible to turn on the television today without finding at least one program on that has something to do with forensic science. Television shows and popular media, from “Dexter” to “Bones” and “CSI” to “Criminal Minds” all feature forensic specialists, and those portrayals are a part of what is bringing so much popularity to the field. While the reality of the field is much different, it is still very interesting and can offer a number of great career possibilities for those who are interested in it.
People who have an affinity for science and for the criminal justice system will find that they can do quite well when they take one of the forensic science programs. Those who are already in the field may want to pursue a master of science (MS) degree in forensic science as it may offer more possibilities when it comes to employment. The programs are also able to improve the knowledge that they have in the field.
Those who are considering working toward an MS in forensic science should already have a bachelor’s degree from a good school, and ideally, have been working in the field for some time. Those who have a bachelor of science (BS) degree in forensic science or in other science areas will find that they will be able to meet the prerequisites for most of the schools offering the master in forensic science degree. Of course, it is always important to look at the requirements for each particular school before applying.
Students who are pursuing a career in forensic science will want to make sure to have some basic courses in chemistry and biology. Math and English can be quite helpful as well, and they are going to be part of the required core courses while earning a bachelor’s degree at most schools. Those who are undergraduates will generally have about 36 hours of general education requirements and an additional 34 credit hours of courses in statistics, organic chemistry and advanced biology.
Specializations may be offered with an MS in forensic science program, such as biochemistry or DNA serology. Conversely, a forensic science specialty may be part of a broader MS program, such as at the University of Florida where the MS in forensic science is offers as part of the pharmaceutical sciences program. Ultimately, students should look for a program that has learning outcomes that align with their ultimate career goals, whether that is working in a lab, continuing a career in law enforcement, or pursuing further education in the form of a PhD.
Those who go further in their career, and who are looking for a doctorate in the field, will find that their studies will provide them with a deeper understanding of the criminology aspects of the job, as well as how science and the law intersect.
It is possible to find a number of specialties in the field of forensic science, which will then require specialized training. Some of the options include toxicology, blood spatter, trace evidence analysis, and firearm analysis.
Students will find a number of different MS in forensic sciences options when it comes to distance learning and hybrid options combining both campus and online learning.
Florida International University (FIU), which has a campus in Miami, also offers online programs. Specifically, FIU has an undergraduate certificate in forensic science, an MS in forensic science program and a PhD program in chemistry and biochemistry with a forensic science research track. In addition, the school offers a somewhat unique program that results in a professional master’s of forensic sciences (PSM) degree, which combines both forensic science and business management courses.
Alliant International University, which has campuses across California, including locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles, provides a hybrid program that offers an MS in applied criminology as part of its California School of Forensic Studies. The MS program allows students to choose from three concentrations: criminal behavior, conflict resolution and crisis management, or victimology. This type of master’s program can be ideal for someone who wants to pursue a forensic-related career but does not have the background or interest in lab work.
Students who choose to pursue an MS in forensic science online will find that the courses will still provide them with the knowledge they seek when wanting to advance in their career, and should not differ significantly in focus from campus-based learning.
Of course, for some students earning a degree in a physical classroom is the best choice. A traditional MS program can offer a sense of camaraderie with other students as well as give those students hands-on experience in the lab or other experiential locations.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City offers a master of science degree in forensic science (MS-FOS) that has been accredited by the Forensic Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). John Jay is a highly respected and storied institution in the field of criminal justice with this particular MS program first launching in 1968. Students may choose from three specializations: criminalistics, forensic toxicology, or molecular biology and must complete a thesis prior to graduation.
Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York offers an MS in forensic science. Students in this MS program have access to world-class training facilities such as LGS Bell Labs Innovations, Brookhaven National Laboratory, the New York State Police Crime Laboratory System, and The Wallie Howard Jr. Center for Forensic Sciences.
Accreditation is something that all students should consider when choosing to pursue a master in forensic science degree from any school. Accreditation means that the school has been evaluated by a recognized body for its curriculum faculty, facilities, and learning outcomes. Both programmatic and institutional accreditation are worth considering.
The main accrediting body for forensic science programs is FEPAC, which is a division of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). While FEPAC accreditation can be indicative of a quality program, it is important to note that FEPAC accredits very few programs overall, so there are many worthwhile MS in forensic science programs that do not have the distinction of FEPAC accreditation.
In addition to programmatic accreditation, a college or university should have institutional accreditation that indicates the quality of the school as a whole. The accrediting bodies for this type of accreditation are organized by region and include such organizations as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).