Some forensic science students have always had an interest in forensic science, following the likes of well-known investigators like Henry Lee and Michael Baden, while others find themselves looking for an exciting career to enter. Whatever a student’s background, it is never too late to sharpen forensic science skills, which can be taken by completing one of the forensic science programs in Hawaii (HI).
Forensic science education can help prepare graduates for a career in a lab. Typically, students need to complete a bachelor’s degree specifically in forensic science or a field like biology, chemistry, biology, physics, or physical anthropology, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). At the graduate level, a forensic science degree may enable involvement in research, further investigative skills, or facilitate entrance into administration or upper management. At the doctoral level, it may enable a forensic technician to ultimately become a professor or lab director.
Entering crime scene investigation (CSI) is another choice. However, this path keeps its professionals mostly out in the field, documenting crime scenes and finding and storing the right pieces of crime scene evidence. A four-year forensic science degree may help enter CSI, as may completion of a police academy program. Other options are to work on a certificate or associate degree program specifically in CSI.
Forensic science is a relatively high-paying career nationwide and in the state. The mean annual wages for forensic science technicians, as of May 2022, were $69,260, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022). Unfortunately, the BLS has no salary information for forensic science technicians in Hawaii. Salary.com, on the other hand, states that the average forensic science technician salary in Hawaii is $65,379 as of July 2023, typically between $58,508 and $76,839.
Although this isn’t as high as the nationwide average, it still remains above the mean wages for all occupations combined in the U.S., which were, as of May 2022, $61,900, according to the BLS. Nationwide, opportunities for forensic science technicians are expected to grow by 11 percent between 2021 and 2031. In Hawaii, this job growth is also expected to be 25 percent, from 2020 to 2030, but pay can depend on many factors (Projections Central 2023).
Becoming a forensic scientist most often requires a four-year bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS. Most students need at least a high school diploma or GED to enter a postsecondary program. High school biology, calculus, chemistry, and physics classes can be particularly relevant. Once accepted into a postsecondary institution, students could:
What other types of skills are essential to become a forensic scientist? The AAFS says that curiosity and integrity are important as well as the ability to communicate with others solidly and to effectively take notes and carry out documentation. Forensic scientists also need to remain professional at all times and stay composed no matter what they may see as a result of a crime.
CSI is another branch of forensic science that may be of interest. Instead of being in the lab, this will put you out in the field at the crime scene or traveling to consult with other professionals about what may have happened. The steps for entering CSI are less direct than for forensic science and primarily depend on how much time you want to invest in your education. Some ways to enter CSI include:
Whatever path you choose, certification may be valuable. While a full list of agencies offering certification or membership is provided at the end of the article, two that may be particularly relevant to CSIs include the International Association for Identification (IAI) and the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA). Requirements may vary per organization, so familiarize yourself with them beforehand.
The best job opportunities in Hawaii may be found in some of its larger cities, simply because more crime can occur there. In Hawaii, Honolulu, Hilo, and Kailua are among the largest. Individuals could look for employment with Honolulu Police Department’s Scientific Investigation Section, a full-service lab accredited in multiple areas, including biology, controlled substances, trace evidence, and others. Additional places to look for employment could include:
Of course, forensic scientists may also be able to work in a morgue or a coroner’s office, particularly when they have training as a pathologist, or for any number of police departments or agencies. Jobs could also be found with federal, state, or local agencies and private companies.
While there are several forensic colleges in the Aloha State, none are accredited through the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), the accrediting branch of the AAFS. Graduation from a FEPAC-accredited program is optional, however, it could be preferred by employers. You may find that other job candidates in Hawaii have not graduated from a FEPAC-accredited school either and that the strength of your grades and experiences may speak more to your qualifications. Some of the forensic science schools in Hawaii include:
The undergraduate certificate in applied forensic anthropology is a collaboration between Leeward Community College and the University of Hawaii at West O’ahu. Providing students with a solid forensic anthropology foundation and a strong introduction to the forensic science field, this certificate may be earned by itself or along with a bachelor’s degree, such as a bachelor of arts (BA) in social sciences with a concentration in anthropology or a bachelor’s of arts in public administration with a concentration in justice administration.
Comprising 29 to 30 credits, the program includes courses such as archaeological field techniques; human ecological adaptation; forensic anthropology; advanced techniques in forensic anthropology; criminal law & procedures; human skeletal biology; and biological anthropology.
Chaminade University’s School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics offers a bachelor of science (BS) degree in forensic science that teaches students the techniques used to recognize, document, and analyze physical evidence. Students learn about the latest technological and scientific advancements in the field and the importance of criminal law. The program also provides an excellent basis for students who wish to build a career in dentistry, medicine, law, veterinary medicine, and pharmacy.
Made up of 139 credits, the program includes courses such as forensic sciences; physical forensic sciences; crime scene investigation; forensic chemistry; forensic anthropology; medicolegal death investigation; forensic taphonomy; and professional skills for forensic scientists.
Notably, all students in this program will be required to complete a rigorous, 135-hour internship. Previously, graduates of this program have completed internships with several entities, including police departments in Hawaii and Guam, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command’s Central Identification Laboratory, and the Honolulu Department of the Medical Examiner.
Hawai’i Pacific University offers both a bachelor of science as well as a master of science program in criminal justice. The BS major is designed to prepare graduates for careers and jobs in law and other related fields at the state, local, and federal levels covering the theoretical aspects of criminal behavior and the practical application of skills to the criminal justice field.
Comprising 120 credits, the undergraduate major includes courses such as introduction to criminal justice; forensic science experiential learning; basic criminology; justice systems; ethics and justice; justice management; criminal procedures; criminal law; crime scene investigation; and crime victims and justice.
The master of science program is designed for students who wish to advance in the criminal justice field and gain an in-depth understanding of criminal justice issues. This program looks at the issues surrounding justice and crime and helps graduates develop the techniques and skills used by leaders in criminal justice and gain an informed perspective of the judicial system, corrections at the managerial levels, and law enforcement.
This 36-credit master’s degree includes courses such as criminal justice organizations; civil liability and civil rights challenges; administrative and constitution procedures for professionals; contemporary issues in criminal justice; media and the criminal justice professions; special topics in criminal justice; and homeland security.
Many degree-based forensic science programs may require students to obtain a specific GPA in classes in their area of study. They may also need to complete an internship or do lab work. Students looking for more opportunities beyond those listed above may want to explore what online programs offer.
Students in Hawaii can find a wide variety of forensic science programs and degrees online. These will vary from the certificate level up to advanced degrees. Classroom discussion, collaborative projects, and video instruction can comprise part of these online programs.
In addition to the on-campus BS program in forensic science, Chaminade University offers an online bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice. Offering experiential and theory-based learning experiences, a suite of internships, career development programs, and a vibrant, innovative, and supportive learning environment, this BS program prepares graduates to pursue careers in public safety, law enforcement, and criminology or criminal justice.
Comprising 120 credits, the program includes courses such as behavioral sciences statistics; career development in the behavioral sciences; contemporary issues in criminal justice; criminal law; criminal procedures; law enforcement; corrections; and juvenile deviance and juvenile justice.
Hawai’i Pacific University offers a master of science in criminal justice (MSCJ) degree that can be completed entirely online. Graduates of this program receive the credentials needed for entering leadership and management roles in the criminal justice field.
Courses include statistical analysis for effective decision-making; public administration and public service; administrative and constitution procedures for professionals; criminal justice organizations; civil liability and civil rights challenges; leadership and ethics; media and the criminal justice professions; and crisis negotiations.
Hawaii Pacific University’s 120-credit bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can also be completed online.
Students can enroll in the online diploma program in forensics training available through Ashworth College. They can progress at their own pace and complete the program in as little as four months. Students in this online program will learn about the techniques integral to forensic science’s role in solving crimes, including analyzing DNA, blood patterns, and fingerprints, as well as strategies for investigating crime scenes.
As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as foundations of forensic science, microscopy, impressions, forensic chemistry, forensic biology, fire investigation, document examination, and the future of forensic science.
American Military University provides an undergraduate certificate in forensic science that can help students to learn about managing and profiling crime scenes and using physical and psychological evidence and analysis to help identify potential perpetrators. Industry experts, such as individuals from police agencies, sheriff’s offices, and even Homeland Security, teach the classes.
This online certificate will help students in building their knowledge of profiling, criminal behavior, evidence collection and processing, criminal law, and criminal liability. This program does not award any professional certifications but may be helpful in preparing to earn such certifications.
Made up of 23 credits, the curriculum includes courses in criminal investigation; criminal profiling; principles of anatomy and physiology; crime analysis; criminalistics; the pathology of death investigations; and an introduction to chemistry.
Arizona State University offers an online bachelor of science program in forensic science teaching students about solving crimes and interpreting evidence using the latest science and technology. Preparing graduates to work in crime labs at the state, federal, and local levels, the program helps them in learning professional forensic science techniques and gain hands-on experience investigating crimes.
The program will equip them with the intricate analytical skills that are required for pursuing jobs related to forensic investigations. Notably, this online degree ends with an in-person culminating experience on ASU’s West campus.
Comprising 120 credits, the program includes courses such as fundamentals of genetics; modern concepts in biochemistry; principles of forensic science; fundamentals of forensic analysis; testimony and ethics in the forensic sciences; and analytical chemistry for life sciences.
Graduates can take up roles such as biological technicians, clinical trial managers, crime scene investigators, health sciences managers, medical scientists, and pathologists.
Additional programs are listed on the AAFS website, including undergraduate, graduate, and online certificates. Contact information, email, and website URL for these programs are provided on the site.
Enrolling in a FEPAC-accredited program may be helpful in launching a career, but optional. Since there are no ground-based FEPAC-accredited schools in Hawaii, students should ensure the institution they are attending is regionally accredited. In Hawaii, regional accreditation is granted through the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Someone in Hawaii really wanting to attend a FEPAC-accredited program could seek out one of those offered online, however. FEPAC accreditation can assure future employees that individuals have received the necessary training to work in a laboratory.
Additionally, a number of different organizations offer forensic science certifications that can help provide proof of an individual’s skills. These include organizations, such as the:
The types of certifications available through these organizations will vary. Applicants may need to pass an examination or meet other requirements, such as graduating from a program backed by the organization. Some of these may also offer a membership that can include benefits, such as continuing education opportunities, networking and outreach, and even job boards.
|Chaminade University of Honolulu
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 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).