Forensics Colleges in Georgia – Programs & Degrees
Georgia (GA), also known as the Empire State of the South, offers abundant opportunities to forensic science people. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI), there were 703 reported murders across the state in 2018—the latest data available as of 2021.
However, these aren’t the only cases requiring careful evidence collection, documentation, and analysis of a skilled forensic scientist. A majority of the crimes committed in Georgia in 2018 were non-violent and related to the theft of personal property. There were 214,421 cases of robbery reported, 65.22 percent of all crimes in the state. In these cases, forensic scientists assist in collecting biological, chemical, or physical evidence to discover the identity of the perpetrator.
For people interested in crime-solving, there are many forensic science schools in Georgia to provide proper training. Coincidentally, the state motto embodies the core of a successful forensic investigation: “Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation.”
Read on to discover how to become a forensic scientist in Georgia and the occupational demand, featured forensic science colleges, program accreditation, and professional certification.
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How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Georgia
In Georgia, there are several paths to becoming a forensic scientist or forensic science technician. Some candidates receive hands-on crime training at a police academy and pursue associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees in forensics later on. As access to quality forensic science programs increases, it is becoming increasingly common to pursue one’s education and credentials before joining any number of investigative occupations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), most forensic science technicians have at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for entry-level positions.
Here is one direct path to becoming a forensic scientist in Georgia:
- Step 1: Graduate from high school (four years). Due to the science-heavy nature of the profession, aspiring forensic scientists are advised to apply themselves in classes such as biology, chemistry, and physics. If available, training in statistics can also prove useful for future data-gathering responsibilities. Finally, some high school students may volunteer with their local police force, fire department, or various types of laboratories to receive valuable experience and enhance their college admission credentials.
- Step 2: Pursue a bachelor’s degree in forensics or a related branch of science such as biology, chemistry, or physics (four years). Some colleges offer full forensics programs, while others provide forensics as a minor for students in other science departments. Students must complete courses such as criminalistics, criminal justice, and forensic bio-traces for schools with forensics programs. Some programs have additional specialized courses or seminars in more specific areas such as handwriting or blood-spatter analysis.
- Step 3: Apply for certification from a national organization (optional, timeline varies). Depending on one’s college degree and training, it may be advisable to seek certification. This process can indicate a certain baseline of skills to prospective employers or college admissions committees (for those interested in graduate studies). As of March 2021, ten certification organizations are accredited by the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) with unique admissions processes but typically involve an application and an examination to demonstrate one’s forensic specialty competencies. A list of some of the FSAB-recognized certification agencies is at the bottom of this article.
- Step 4: Pursue a master’s degree in forensic science or a related discipline (optional, two years). For those seeking more advanced training in forensic analysis, particularly for those interested in more leadership opportunities, responsibilities, and possibly higher pay, it may be necessary to enroll in graduate studies in forensic science. These degrees offer not only opportunities to conduct original research and add to the academic canon of the discipline, but they also provide more in-depth training in the rapidly evolving worlds of microbiology, chemical analysis, and microscopy, to name a few of the fields.
Forensics Career Outlook & Salaries in Georgia
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019), there are currently 560 forensic science technicians employed in Georgia. This is one of many occupations that people trained in forensic science pursue. Alternatively, graduates for forensic science colleges in Georgia become crime scene investigators (CSIs), detectives, laboratory managers, handwriting analysts, forensic pathologists, and other related professions.
The BLS (2019) provides a breakdown of the annual salary ranges for the 560 forensic science technicians in Georgia, who commanded an average annual salary of $49,990 and the following percentiles:
- 10th percentile: $28,900
- 25th percentile: $35,350
- 50th percentile (median): $45,630
- 75th percentile: $61,480
- 90th percentile: $75,690
In hourly figures, these equated an average of $24.04 per hour, and these percentiles:
- 10th percentile: $13.94/hr.
- 25th percentile: $17.00/hr.
- 50th percentile (median): $21.94/hr.
- 75th percentile: $29.56/hr.
- 90th percentile: $36.39/hr.
It’s no surprise that the highest employment regions tend to be located around major urban centers. In fact, 410 of the 560 forensic science technicians in GA worked in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell area and earned an average annual salary of $49,690, slightly lower than the state average (BLS 2019). Here were the annual salary percentiles for that region of Georgia:
- 10th percentile: $28,540
- 25th percentile: $34,940
- 50th percentile (median): $45,510
- 75th percentile: $60,390
- 90th percentile: $776,130
Additionally, there are several employment opportunities for those trained in forensic science in Georgia. In fact, the (BLS 2020) projected a 14 percent explosion in job openings nationwide for forensic science technicians between 2019 and 2029, much more robust than the average growth expected across all occupations during that period (4 percent).
Some of the common employing organizations across the state include:
- Georgia Bureau of Investigations Forensic Science Division
- Diagnostics and medical labs
- Consulting agencies
- Local police and fire departments
Finally, there are many resources to provide support and further training to forensic scientists in Georgia. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) offers a comprehensive list of societies, professional organizations, conferences, publications, employment opportunities, and more, all related to the varied fields of forensics.
Featured Forensic Science Colleges in Georgia
Georgia is host to many quality forensic science programs, including one bachelor’s program in forensic science accredited by the prestigious Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC):
Albany State University’s FEPAC-accredited forensic science bachelor of science (BS) degree program is offered through the College of Sciences and Technology. Through its rigorous coursework and supervised externship opportunities, Albany State aims to prepare aspiring professionals in forensic chemistry, microscopy, toxicology, photography, fingerprinting, and DNA.
Furthermore, this competitive program has received grants from the U.S. Departments of Education and Defense. It has the distinction of being the only established forensics program among HBCU (i.e., Historically Black Colleges and Universities) institutions nationwide. For the 2020-21 school year, tuition costs $169.33 per credit hour. Additional fees may apply.
There are several other notable forensic science colleges in Georgia, such as:
- Savannah State University offers a bachelor of science (BS) in forensic science program through its College of Sciences and Technology. Students choose between two specialty tracks: chemistry or biology. This “highly marketable interdisciplinary degree” requires core coursework in personal identification with DNA, drug abuse and analysis, and a forensic science seminar. Additionally, several electives are offered to accommodate more specialized interests, such as computer forensics, lab biotechnology, and forensic photography. Tuition for this undergraduate program costs $169.33 per credit in 2020-2021 for in-state residents and $616.07 per credit for out-of-state residents.
- Ogeechee Technical College in Statesboro provides a crime scene investigation (CSI) certificate through its criminal justice program. Students complete fundamental courses such as methods of criminal investigation and crime scene processing. This hands-on program may be ideal for those looking to work in police departments. Tuition varies by the number of credit hour units taken and can be found on OTC’s tuition table.
- Georgia Southern University, also located in Statesboro, hosts a specialty track in the growing field of forensic accounting, open to students in their esteemed masters of accounting program. This program comprises courses in expert witnessing, law and ethics for accountants, and fraudulent financial reporting. Georgia Southern’s program is designed to prepare students for careers at law firms, public accounting firms, and professional litigation support consulting companies. Please note that GSU also has introductory courses in forensics for high school students, such as Forensics: From Candy DNA to Solving Crimes. Graduate tuition at GSU varies by many factors and can be found through the Office of Student Accounts.
- Southern Crescent Technical College of Griffin, Georgia, offers a 68-credit forensic science degree with coursework in criminal justice, anatomy and physiology, crime scene investigation, victimology, death investigation, crime scene processing, and latent print examination, among other classes. SCTC also provides a 12-credit forensic science fundamentals certificate and two closely related criminal justice programs that award a 12-credit technical certificate or a 48-credit diploma. Please use the SCTC Net Price Calculator to estimate tuition.
- American Intercontinental University in Atlanta hosts a 180-credit bachelor of science (BS) degree in criminal justice with a forensic science specialty. Notably, this program is also offered online with training in forensic biology, psychopathology and criminality, and arson investigation. The Atlanta-based program costs $4,750 per quarter.
These are only a few of the forensics programs available. Here are some other renowned forensic science colleges in GA, including some with distance-based programs:
Online Forensic Science Colleges in Georgia
With rapidly expanding access to technology, schools have been developing distance education options for students who cannot attend more traditional, campus-based programs. ForensicsColleges.com has gathered a compendium of online forensic science programs of varying levels and organized them by specialty to meet the needs of students regardless of their location.
As mentioned above, American Intercontinental University (AIU) offers its bachelor of science (BS) in criminal justice program through its Atlanta campus and provides the coursework online. AIU offers an optional specialization in forensic science, to make attending school more convenient for working professionals, parents, and people with other types of obligations.
The Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State University offers a fully online master’s of information systems (MIS) degree program in criminal justice. In 2021, the U.S. News & World Report ranked this criminal justice program #22 on the list of best criminology schools. The online masters in criminal justice program earned a #26 spot on the list of best online master’s in criminal justice programs in the nation.
Being one of the only online master’s degree programs in forensic science in Georgia, this program also offers a law enforcement leadership academy allowing students with professional experience to complete the program faster with pre-approval. This 30-credit MIS program can be taken on a full- or part-time schedule requiring approximately two or three years to finish depending on the number of courses taken each semester. A capstone is required to complete this degree, and students and their advisor committee select research topics.
Graduates from this program go to work for federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations. For the academic year 2020-2021, tuition costs for this program are $398 per credit for in-state residents and $1,259 for out-of-state residents.
These are only a few of the online forensics programs available from GA-based campuses. Again, Georgia residents may qualify for programs located in other states and are encouraged to check out the main page for online forensic science degree programs.
Program Accreditation & Professional Certification in Forensics
The primary accrediting body for forensics programs across the country is the Forensic Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). There is currently one FEPAC-accredited bachelor’s program in Georgia at Albany State.
While graduating from a FEPAC accredited program is not generally a prerequisite to employment or certifications in Georgia, it can be a useful marker of programmatic integrity, indicating to potential employers or graduate program admissions committees a student’s level of achievement. In addition to FEPAC, a program-accrediting organization, there are several institutional and regional accreditation bodies.
In Georgia, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) approves degree programs. SACS weighs criteria such as the quality of faculty, physical facilities, school finances, and student outcomes, among other measures.
Finally, several specialized professional certifications that aspiring forensic scientists may choose to pursue depend on their discipline. While admissions procedures vary, the process typically involves applying, verifying one’s educational and professional experience, and passing a competency-based examination. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has accredited 10 organizations to award professional certification. These FSAB-accredited organizations include:
- American Board of Criminalistics (ABC)
- American Board of Forensic Document Examiners (ABFDE)
- International Board of Forensic Engineering Sciences (IBFES)
- American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO)
- American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA)