From the dense cultural offerings of Baltimore to the storied halls of Annapolis, Maryland (MD) is a state that is rich in history. As one of the original 13 colonies, the Old Line State has plenty to draw in new residents and keep native Marylanders around. Of course, no state, no matter how historic, is immune to crime, which means there is certainly a demand for the forensic science technicians that help to identify criminals in MD.
Those who have an interest in forensic science will find that several different programs of study are available in Maryland, including two programs that have 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. In fact, Maryland could be an ideal state in which to pursue a career in forensic science with technicians earning a mean annual wage of $67,330 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017).
To discover more about becoming a forensic science specialist in Maryland, including occupational demand, featured programs, and accreditation information, read on below.
Maryland employs 420 forensic science technicians, according to data from the 2017 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, two Maryland metropolitan areas are among the top employing regions for forensic science technicians in the U.S. with Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division and Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD ranking 4th and 8th, respectively.
Those in the occupation in Maryland earned mean annual wages of $67,330, which is somewhat higher than the nationwide average for the occupation of $61,220 (BLS 2017). However, pay can vary based on time on the job and level of education. In fact, nationwide, forensic science technicians earned wages as low as $33,080 and as high as $95,600, with experienced technicians in major metropolitan areas earning even more. Forensic science technicians in Maryland or elsewhere can seek employment with local and state governments, medical and diagnostic labs, and even substance abuse hospitals. In Maryland, technicians may want to look for jobs in urban areas such as Baltimore or the aforementioned Washington, DC area.
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Education is critical to those who want to work in the forensic science field, with 62 percent of working forensic science technicians holding at least an associate’s degree (CareerOneStop.org). While a degree is not strictly required, it can certainly give those seeking a competitive entry-level position an advantage. Students will find a number of forensic science colleges in Maryland that offer education in the field, ranging from professional certificates to bachelor’s degrees to graduate-level coursework. The right program for any individual student will depend on that person’s career goals. Many forensic science technicians begin their careers with an undergraduate degree in the natural sciences, such as chemistry or biology, before pursuing graduate work in forensic science. However, a bachelor of science degree in forensic science is also an option. Students will want to be sure to contact the schools listed below for more details, but can use the list as a starting point for more in-depth research.
Towson University, located in Towson, Maryland offers two forensic science programs that have earned full accreditation from FEPAC. Undergraduate students can pursue a bachelor of science (BS) degree in forensic chemistry while those who have already completed an undergraduate degree can earn a master of science (MS) in forensic chemistry. Both programs focus on coursework in social science, chemistry, biology, mathematics and forensic science itself. The BS program will give students a strong foundation in the scientific method while the MS program will go deeper in DNA analysis and molecular biology.
Prince George’s Community College in Largo offers an associate of science (AS) degree in forensic science that incorporates various aspects of the field, including criminal investigation, the law, and physical science. Students can use this associate degree to transfer to other institutions including the University of Baltimore and the University of Maryland University College, but should speak to an enrollment counselor first.
The University of Baltimore offers a 12-credit, four-course, certificate in crime scene investigation (CSI). Students in this program do instrumental analysis, microscopy and crime scene recreation in the Jami R. Grant Forensic Laboratories, which was built in part with the Baltimore Police Department to train students and act as a back-up crime lab for the city. Students at the university can also choose to pursue a bachelor of arts in forensic studies or a master of science in forensic science – high technology crime. In the BS program, students will work closely with the Baltimore Police Department, giving students the hands-on experience they will need when they start working in the lab or in the field.
Students may not have time to take all of their courses at a traditional school and may be looking for other options that allow them to continue working or to continue to live far from the nearest campus. Fortunately, some forensic colleges in Maryland are using online learning capabilities to accommodate students who are unable to fully participate in an on-campus program.
The University of Maryland University College offers a bachelor’s of science degree in investigative forensics, which introduces students to basic investigative, laboratory-based and scientific forensics and helps them to understand both the theory behind and the practices comprising the forensics field. All courses at UMUC are available online, which makes this one of the most flexible options for interested students.
Prince George’s Community College offers distance learning, with both an associate of arts and associate of applied science degree in criminal justice being available entirely online. Students in on-campus programs can also choose from more than 300 online courses to supplement their in-person coursework.
Coppin State University offers a number of online programs as well. Students can choose to complete any of the following programs completely online:
Of course, the beauty of online learning is that a school does not necessarily have to be in the same state as the student. Maryland students who are considering online forensic science programs can look into programs at schools like:
The University of Florida, which offers a master’s degree in forensic science that can be completed online. The UF program includes courses in biological evidence, blood spatter, drug analysis, toxicology and more. The degree is offered through the school’s College of Pharmacy.
National University offers a master’s degree in forensic sciences that can also be completed entirely online. The MS at NU requiring eight core courses plus four courses in a concentration, which can be criminalistics or investigations. In order to pursue the criminalistics concentration, students must have a undergraduate degree in a laboratory science.
Students looking to complete a forensic science program in Maryland will want to ensure that the school they choose has received accreditation. As noted above, only Towson University has earned forensic science-specifc programmatic accreditation from FEPAC. However, this is not to say that non-accredited forensic science programs are somehow substandard. Rather, FEPAC has accredited only a small number of programs (less than 50 as of 2018).
To determine whether a program is worth investigating further, prospective applicants can evaluate a program’s institutional accreditation prior to applying, which also indicates the school has met a certain standard. In Maryland, the main accrediting agency for institutions of higher learning is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Most accreditation information can be found on a school’s website.
School data provided by IPEDS (2013), and includes all certificates and degrees awarded for the following programs: Arson Investigation, Computer Forensics, Forensic Accounting, Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Psychology, Forensic Science and Technology, and Law Enforcement Investigation