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Forensic Science Colleges in Alabama

Alabama (AL) residents who work in forensic science labor alongside law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and other crime scene analysts to reconstruct the events of a crime and ultimately help to convict or exonerate the accused.

Of course, there is no state which is immune to crime. This means there is a demand for forensic science technicians that help identify criminals in Alabama.

Those interested in forensic science will find several programs of study in Alabama, including one program that has earned accreditation from the prestigious Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Community colleges, state colleges, and universities are among the institutions offering academic programs.

Students can choose to take varied paths toward this career, each involving a commitment to academics and hands-on training. The earlier someone starts down the path, the more likely they will be able to find employment. Some forensic scientists even start pursuing a career as early as high school. Luckily for aspiring crime solvers in Alabama, there is a healthy employment landscape for these trained professionals.

Projected employment growth for Alabama forensic scientists (denoted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as Forensic Science Technicians) is on par with the growth opportunity nationally. Projections Central (2023), which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor has found that the demand for forensic science techs in Alabama will grow by 11.1 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is slightly faster than the nationwide expected growth rate of 11 percent between 2021 and 2031.

Alabama residents committed to pursuing a forensics career in their home state should start with a strong educational foundation. A few local options are available for dedicated students, primarily traditional, campus-based programs, along with some online programs offered by out-of-state universities.

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How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Alabama

There are a few different ways that people can come to work in the forensic science field. For instance, some forensic technicians begin their careers at the police academy, while others come directly from a 4-year university. The following steps show one of the more direct pathways leading to a career in forensic science:

  • Step 1: Graduate High School (four years)

According to CareerOneStop, only 3 percent of forensic science technicians have not completed a high school diploma, so this step is essentially required. High school students interested in pursuing this kind of career should be sure to pursue (and excel in) math and science classes for the best educational foundation.

  • Step 2: Earn an Undergraduate Degree (two to four years)

Not all forensic scientists have completed an undergraduate degree, but in a state like Alabama where competition is fierce, this kind of training can make a difference. According to Career One Stop, around 45 percent of forensic science technicians have either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. These technicians may have degrees in forensic science, or they may have a degree in a related field such as biology, chemistry, or criminal justice.

  • Step 3: Become Professionally Certified (timeline varies)

For those looking to advance in their chosen forensic science specialty, professional certification can be an important step. The certification process works differently for different specializations. As of 2023, the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has approved 10 different organizations to issue professional certification in areas as diverse as forensic toxicology and forensic anthropology. Those interested in pursuing one of these specialties should be sure to research the corresponding requirements.

  • Step 4: Earn a Graduate Degree (optional, timeline varies)

A graduate degree at either the master’s or doctoral level can be another way to differentiate oneself in a competitive job market. Around 15 percent of forensic science technicians, according to CareerOneStop, have a graduate degree.

Occupational Demand in Alabama for Forensic Science Specialists

While Alabama has a low concentration of forensic science specialists or jobs for those specialists, there are still opportunities for the right people. Because large swaths of Alabama are quite rural, about 50 forensic science technicians out of the 150 are employed in the Birmingham metropolitan area, which amounts to about 50 jobs, according to the BLS.

Across the country, job opportunities for forensic science technicians are expected to grow by 11 percent from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than the expected growth for all jobs, standing at just 5 percent. According to the BLS (2022), this level of growth could result in 2,000 new positions becoming available during this time.

The outlook is on par for residents of Alabama. Projections Central (2023) found that demand for forensic science technicians in Alabama specifically is expected to grow 11.1 percent between 2020 and 2030. Despite this good job growth, jobs can still be competitive, so prospective students should focus their education on completing a master’s degree or gaining expertise in digital computer forensics or DNA to have a competitive edge.

The BLS (May 2022) found that 89 percent of forensic science technicians work for the state or local government. There is a wealth of other places of employment in forensic science, depending on one’s specialty.

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) has distinguished several subfields of forensics, including anthropology, criminalistics, digital & multimedia sciences, engineering sciences, general jurisprudence, toxicology, psychiatry & behavioral science, questioned documents, pathology & biology, and odontology. Therefore, forensic science techs with specialized training or certification may be called upon to work in pharmaceutical companies, research institutes, law offices, insurance companies, accountants’ offices, and other industries.

Finally, the ForensicsColleges blog offers several in-depth career articles for graduates in forensic science in its How to Become series, with step-by-step instructions to becoming a crime scene technician, profiler, forensic accountant, forensic psychologist, detective, and more.

Forensic Science Salaries in Alabama

In terms of salary, Alabama is fairly competitive with the U.S. overall. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022) reported 150 forensic science technicians in the state.

Furthermore, BLS found that the salary figures are somewhat lower than the national salary ranges. Furthermore, BLS found that the salary figures are somewhat lower than the national salary ranges. As proof of point, the United States employs 17,590 forensic science technicians with an average annual salary (mean annual wage) of $69,260. In AL, the average salary in this field is $54,360.

In more detailed terms, here is a breakdown of the salary percentiles among all forensic science technicians in the country compared with those in AL (BLS May 2022):

United States Alabama
Number of Forensic Science Technicians Employed 17,590 150
Annual Mean Wage $69,260 $54,360
10th percentile $39,710 $37,970
25th percentile $49,320 $44,200
50th percentile $63,740 $53,610
75th percentile $82,160 $63,770
90th percentile $104,330 $68,810

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, PayScale (July 2023), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the forensic science techs reporting their annual salaries, PayScale found these percentiles for the US:

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,163
  • 90th percentile: $61,000

While the figures for Alabama are lower than the national salary ranges found by the BLS (May 2022), it’s important to note that the cost of living is substantially lower than in many other US states. For illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2023) found that AL ranked 4th among all American states concerning affordability, boasting savings, especially in the realm of housing.

Featured Forensics Programs in Alabama

Those considering going to school in the state will find that forensic science colleges in Alabama are in short supply. In fact, very few traditional campus programs are available as of 2023, and of those, only one has been accredited by Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Interested students who do not want to attend one of the programs below can still look to online options or neighboring states for additional programs.

University of Alabama at Birmingham

The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers several different programs for those interested in the field. This includes a master’s of science degree in forensic science, which emphasizes using scientific methods and technologies in legal proceedings. It is this master’s program that has earned accreditation from FEPAC. In addition, the school offers a certificate in forensic accounting and a graduate certificate in computer forensics.

Applicants to the program must have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or biology from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 3.0. For those who have BS degrees in forensics, the program should be FEPAC-accredited.

Designed to be completed in just 21 months, this 40-credit program includes courses such as forensic toxicology; elements of forensic science; conventional criminalistics; forensic drug analysis; molecular biology in forensic science; law evidence and procedure; and biostatistics.

Graduates of the school’s master’s degree program have found employment with organizations like the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences and Greensboro N.C. Police Department.

  • Location: Birmingham, AL
  • Accreditation: Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 21 months
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($468 per credit); out-of-state ($1,109)

Alabama State University

Alabama State University in Montgomery also offers an MS in forensic science program. The program is housed within Alabama State University’s 50,000-square-foot Robert C. Hatch Forensic Science building, which has a moot courtroom, state-of-the-art forensic science laboratories, and classrooms. The program prepares students with science majors for entering and practicing in the forensic evidence examination field.

Made up of 42 credits, the curriculum includes courses such as principles of forensic toxicology; forensic biology; forensic chemistry; forensic analysis, crime scene investigation, ethics, and professional responsibilities; expert testimony in forensic science; forensic serology & DNA analysis; and chemistry and analysis of arson and explosives evidence.

To be eligible for admission, students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in their undergraduate coursework and complete courses in general chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and cell biology. The program also notes that it is specifically designed to “provide the State of Alabama with high-quality forensic practitioners to work in the State’s forensic laboratory system and to prepare scientists that can also work in the growing private sector for forensic providers.”

Notably, Alabama State University also offers a bachelor of science program in forensic chemistry and a bachelor of science program in forensic biology.

  • Location: Montgomery, AL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: MS (two years); BS (four years)
  • Estimated Tuition: Undergraduate (in-state: $11,248 per semester; out-of-state: $19,576 per semester); graduate (in-state: $8,876 per semester; out-of-state: $16,292 per semester)

Jacksonville State University

Jacksonville State University’s Department of Criminal Justice and Forensic Investigation offers several programs related to forensic science. These include a bachelor of science program in criminal justice, a bachelor of science program in forensic investigation, a master of science program with a major in criminal justice, and an internship program for undergraduates.

The bachelor of science program in criminal justice comprises 120 credits and has two concentration options in law enforcement and offender rehabilitation. The curriculum includes core courses an introduction to criminal justice; criminal law; criminal courts; theories of crime causation; and research methods.

The bachelor of science program in forensic investigation comprises two separate tracks in criminal investigations or forensic laboratory/technician. This major also consists of 120 credits and includes courses such as an introduction to forensic investigations; criminalistics; criminal investigations; forensic documentation; homicide investigations; crime scene processing; evidence; trace evidence; and medicolegal death investigation.

The master of science program comprises 30 credits and includes courses in contemporary criminal justice issues; applied data analysis for criminal justice; research methods in criminal justice; law enforcement; comparative criminal justice; criminal justice administration; juvenile justice; legal issues; and corrections.

The internship program is designed to provide efficient and effective training for undergraduate students currently enrolled in the Department of Criminal Justice & Forensic Investigation. This program is short but will provide students with a small taste of the agency and the Criminal Justice system.

  • Location: Jacksonville, AL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two to four years
  • Estimated Tuition: Undergraduate (in-state: $333 per credit; out-of-state: $665 per credit); graduate (in-state: $410 per credit; out-of-state: $820 per credit)

University of South Alabama

The University of South Alabama offers a bachelor of arts program in criminal justice providing broad exposure to students about the core aspects of the criminal justice system, including courts, corrections, and law enforcement. Graduates will gain solid critical and analytical thinking skills that will prepare them for careers in areas such as law enforcement, parole, victim services, and probation, or graduate school.

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as introduction to criminal justice; policing and society; correctional policies and procedures; research methods; judicial process; theories of offending; criminal law; constitutional law; crime and politics in Latin America; drugs and crime; sexual violence; and criminal investigations.

  • Location: Mobile, AL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($359 per credit); out-of-state ($718 per credit)

Faulkner University

For students who wish to take up careers in corrections, law enforcement, legal professions, and private security, Faulkner University offers a bachelor of science program in criminal justice providing them with the essential experience and knowledge required for entering the criminal justice field.

The program comprises 122 credits, and the curriculum includes courses in criminology, criminal justice ethics, criminal law, fingerprinting, private security, juvenile justice, criminal behavior analysis, terrorism, and more.

This bachelor of science program in criminal justice is also an excellent foundation for students who are considering law school in the future.

  • Location: Montgomery, AL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: $755 per credit

For more information on forensics schools, please visit the forensic programs page.

Hybrid & Online Forensics Programs in Alabama

While neither of the forensic science programs in Alabama offers an online or hybrid component, there are other options. Students in Alabama who do not have time or live near one of the on-campus forensic programs may choose to take online courses from a school outside of their state.

University of North Alabama

The University of North Alabama offers a master of science program in criminal justice, which can be completed entirely online or on campus. Ideal for working professionals, this 30-credit program provides students with the knowledge and professional skills required for success in advanced placement within emergency management and security and crime scene investigation roles.

With both thesis and non-thesis options, the program includes courses such as crime in America; methods of research in criminal justice; criminological theory; criminal investigation; forensic investigation; criminal evidence; criminal procedure; contemporary issues in juvenile justice; comparative criminal justice; and contemporary issues in law enforcement.

Applicants to the program must have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent from a regionally accredited institution with a GPA of 2.75.

Graduates will be ready for roles such as FBI agents, secret service agents, criminal investigators, treasury agents, criminal justice researchers, crime scene investigators, and risk management consultants.

  • Location: Florence, AL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: $350 per credit

University of Alabama

The University of Alabama offers an online bachelor of arts (BA) program in criminology and criminal justice. Emphasizing research and theory, this online degree helps students deepen their understanding of the legal system.

The program’s 120-credit curriculum includes courses in criminal justice; survey of criminal theories; law enforcement; juvenile delinquency; judicial process; corrections; social inequality and crime; hate crimes; and drugs, crime, and policy.

Graduates will be prepared to pursue careers in private or corporate security, law enforcement, legal and investigative services, compliance and intelligence analysis, or corrections.

  • Location: Tuscaloosa, AL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: $385 per credit

For more information on distance-based education and specialties, please visit the online forensic science degrees page.

Forensics Accreditation and Professional Certification

Students evaluating forensic science programs should look for both institutional and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation means that the school has been evaluated for its standards and efficacy. For example, the University of Alabama at Birmingham holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. In addition, the Forensic Science Master of Science program at UAB has been accredited by FEPAC, meaning that the forensic science program specifically has been evaluated for its faculty, courses, and facilities. UAB is currently the only forensic science program in Alabama to have earned FEPAC accreditation.

In terms of professional certification, requirements differ for each specialty. For instance, someone who wants to apply for certification from the American Board of Criminalistics must have a degree from an accredited university, but the science or criminal justice program itself does not need to have programmatic accreditation. For a certification such as Blood Pattern Analyst from the International Association for Identification, there are education requirements but no accreditation standards.

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 Name City Forensic
Total Forensics
Grads (2016-2017)
Alabama State University Montgomery x 15
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Birmingham x x 6
Faulkner University Montgomery x x 3

School "total forensics grads" data provided by IPEDS (2018) for the 2016-2017 school year, and includes all certificates and degrees awarded for the following programs: Criminalistics and Criminal Science, Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Science and Technology, Forensic Psychology, Cyber/Computer Forensics, and Financial Forensics and Fraud Investigation.


Farheen Gani

Farheen Gani writes about forensics schools across the United States, and has covered topics such as forensic chemistry and forensic science and biochemistry since 2018. She writes about healthcare, technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).