With terrain ranging from the majestic Ozark mountains to the lowlands of the Mississippi Delta, Arkansas (AR) is a state that sits in the midst of the beautiful American South. Though it may not be the tourist mecca of nearby regions like New Orleans or have the white sandy beaches of the Gulf coast, Arkansas still plays an important part in U.S. geography and its economy.
Those ambitious citizens in Arkansas considering a career in forensic science have several options in what is known as “The Natural State.” Both on-campus and online opportunities are available for those who are willing to study and work hard towards this challenging career. With just 150 forensic science technicians currently employed in Arkansas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, competition for jobs can be significant (BLS, 2017). That said, the demand for forensic technicians is growing much faster than average at a national level, and those willing to work either in or out of state will maximize their opportunities.
Keep reading to learn about the forensic science colleges available to students in Arkansas and beyond.
Becoming a forensic scientist in Arkansas depends on developing a strong educational foundation. With nearly a third of forensic science professionals holding a bachelor’s degree, showing academic dedication is critical to getting started in this career. The following is just one potential path for an aspiring forensic technician, but it is among the most common paths followed.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 150 forensic science technicians are employed in Arkansas as of 2017, with 130 of those being employed in the greater Little Rock area (BLS, 2017).
In terms of salary, forensic technicians in Arkansas can expect to earn quite a bit less than the national average. As reported by the BLS, salary ranges are as follows:
The median annual wage (50th percentile) for forensic science technicians throughout the country is $61,220. Although the cost of living in Arkansas is lower than the national average, this is clearly not the state to work for those wanting to become high earners in the forensic science field.
When searching for a forensic program, prospective students will want to consider accreditation. The only recognized programmatic accreditation for forensic science programs comes from the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, also known as FEPAC. Unfortunately, there are no FEPAC accredited programs in Arkansas as of 2018, which means students should instead look for institutionally accredited schools. Each of the schools below has earned accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Arkansas Community College at Hope offers a few different options for those interested in forensic science in Arkansas, but willing to pursue a career more along the lines of crime scene investigation. Programs include a certificate of proficiency for crime scene investigation, a technical certificate in crime scene investigation, and an associate of applied science degree in crime scene investigation.
Arkansas State University at Beebe provides students with options to pursue an education that could lead to a forensic science career. For example, its 12-month certificate in criminal investigation science could enable students to pursue an occupation as a forensic science technician or in a related field.
The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith provides educational programs in criminal justice that may be of interest to those seeking forensic science schools in Arkansas. Although not strictly in forensic science, the university’s offerings include a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice. This degree can help to prepare students for a variety of roles in areas such as corrections, criminology and forensics science.
Arkansas students interested in attending school online have several options. Strayer University, for example, provides hybrid learning programs through its Little Rock campus. The school’s bachelor of science degree in information systems with a computer forensics management option provides an attractive alternative for students interested in digital forensic science. State school Arkansas State University at Beebe offers a hybrid associate degree in criminal justice and forensic science, giving students the opportunity to take some courses online while still maintaining some on-campus requirements.
Champlain College provides a 100 percent online degree to those interested in computer forensics and digital investigation, and the program was rated among the best cyber security higher education programs in 2018 by SC Magazine.
Students attending forensic science colleges in Arkansas or elsewhere should ensure that the school has received accreditation from a notable agency. Most often a school will be accredited through a regional accrediting agency as the State University of Arkansas is by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of College and Schools. Further, Strayer University is accredited through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Forensic science programs and schools can also be accredited through the American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS). The AAFS offers accreditation via its FEPAC arm. As mentioned above, as of 2018, no program in Arkansas holds FEPAC accreditation.
Requirements for professional certification differ for each specialty. Some specialties require a certain number of hours of professional experience while others require very specific educational background.
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.
|Arkansas State University-Beebe||Beebe||x||7|
|NorthWest Arkansas Community College||Bentonville||x||2|
|Arkansas State University-Main Campus||Jonesboro||x||1|
|National Park College||Hot Springs||x||1|
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.