The Great Lakes State boasts more than 11,000 inland lakes and 36,000 miles of streams, making it an especially fertile ground for those interested in ecological forensics. In fact, the catastrophic Flint water crisis was uncovered by careful, scientific assessments of lead contamination in the drinking water. This devastating disaster is just one example of how a subfield of forensics is helping to unearth criminal misconduct.
According to Michigan State University (MSU), additional areas of forensics specialization include biological evidence, toxicology, drugs & firearms, pathology, odontology, anthropology, toxicology, trace evidence, and even entomology (i.e., the study of insects). The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) adds to this list the following subfields: arson, bite mark, blood & bodily fluids, crime scene, child abuse, DNA, death investigation, digital evidence, fingerprints, and sexual assault. Forensic students might major in forensic science or pathology, for example, and still have the option to specialize in one or more of those other areas.
According to AAFS’s comprehensive career brochure entitled So You Want to Be a Forensic Scientist, forensic scientists typically have at least a bachelor’s degree and maintain responsibilities such as scientifically analyzing different types of evidence; meticulously documenting laboratory analyses; working with law enforcement and medical personnel; constructing plausible explanations for crime scene findings; and serving in court as expert witnesses.
The Wolverine State is home to a wealth of forensics colleges at every level, including certificate, associate, bachelor’s, and graduate programs. Further, forensic science professionals are relatively well-compensated. As proof of point, Michigan’s forensic science technicians make more money annually than the average salary of all occupations across Michigan. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that all workers in Michigan made an average annual salary of $58,000 and forensic science technicians made 29.8 percent more at $58,990 (BLS May 2022).
Read on to discover the occupational outlook for forensic scientists in Michigan, as well as the variety of accredited forensics programs in the state and professional certification information.
Prospective forensic science techs in Michigan have a variety of experiential and educational paths, although professionals in this field typically pursue at least a four-year degree in natural sciences prior to employment.
In fact, Career One Stop (2023)—a job-planning tool sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor—reports that 31 percent of forensic science technicians have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 14 percent with associate degrees and 24 percent with some college education.
Following is one of the most common paths to becoming a forensic scientist or technician in MI:
As mentioned above, forensic science technicians stand to make more money annually than the average for all occupations across the state, and there’s more good news for aspiring forensics professionals in Michigan.
The BLS (2022) projects that openings across the country for forensic science technicians will swell 11 percent between 2021 and 2031, substantially faster than the average growth anticipated for all occupations during that time period (5 percent). The outlook is even brighter for residents of Michigan. Projections Central (2023) found that demand for forensic science technicians in Michigan is expected to grow 19 percent between 2020 and 2030.
There are currently 520 forensic science technicians employed in Michigan, but this doesn’t include those in related occupations such as medical examining, forensic nursing, forensic accounting, cybercrimes (i.e., digital evidence tracing), questioned documents, handwriting analysis, forensic odontology, forensic anthropology, DNA analysis, and more.
It’s clear that a majority of forensic science technicians are employed in the public sector. The BLS (2022) reported that the government employs 89 percent of people in this field. The AAFS details common places of employment for forensic scientists, including crime laboratories, police departments, medical examiner offices, hospitals, universities, and independent forensic science groups. Some work normal business hours, although due to the nature of crime scene processing and forensic work, they may be called upon to work evenings, weekends, and holidays as needed.
One prominent employer of forensics professionals in the Mitten State is the Michigan State Police. It boasts seven regional laboratories in its Forensic Science Division with testing services for DNA, firearms & toolmarks, latent prints, bloodstain patterns, controlled substances, trace evidence & questioned documents, and toxicology. The Midwestern Association of Forensic Scientists (MAFS) also hosts job postings, forensics grants, and workshops.
Further, the Michigan Civil Service Commission (MCSC) website provides more information on forensics positions available.
|Featured CSI & Forensic Science Programs
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022) reported 520 forensic science technicians in the state.
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 MI, the average salary in this field is $58,590.
In more detailed terms, here is a breakdown of the salary percentiles among all forensic science technicians in the country compared with those in MI (BLS May 2022):
|Number of Forensic Science Technicians Employed
|Annual Mean Wage
The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, PayScale (June 2023), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the forensic science techs reporting their annual salaries, PayScale found these percentiles for the US:
Finally, although annual salary ranges in forensic science are somewhat lower in Michigan than national figures, the cost of living is also significantly lower in this state. By illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center found that Michigan ranked 14th among all American states with respect to affordability, with particular savings in housing costs compared to other US states (MERIC 2022).
Not surprisingly, salaries vary by metropolitan area as well, with higher salaries and more job opportunities offered in larger urban regions. Finally, salaries also vary by employment sector. The BLS found that the local government is the most lucrative place of employment in forensics. The top-paying industries for forensic science technicians nationwide were the following:
For prospective forensic scientists, there is an abundance of forensics programs in Michigan. Before enrollment, aspiring students are encouraged to verify the accreditation status of their programs. There are two main organizations to seek out: the Forensic Science Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) for programmatic accreditation or the regional Higher Learning Commission (HLC) for institutional accreditation. Please see the accreditation section below for more information on these approval processes.
For Michigan’s associate degree programs, admissions committees generally call for official secondary school (i.e., high school) transcripts; TOEFL test scores (for non-native speakers of English); and an application fee.
For Michigan’s bachelor’s degree programs in forensics, admissions committees typically ask for official high school transcripts with a competitive GPA (e.g., >3.0); a personal statement; letters of recommendation; official scores from the SAT or ACT test (and TOEFL for non-native English speakers); a background check; and an application fee.
For Michigan’s master’s programs in forensics, admissions requirements typically include submitting post-secondary transcripts in a relevant major with a competitive GPA (e.g., >3.25); completing prerequisite coursework (e.g., organic chemistry, biology, genetics, DNA analysis, forensic science, etc.); writing a personal statement; sending letters of recommendation from professors or mentors; sending official scores from the GRE or MCAT tests (and TOEFL for non-native English speakers); being interviewed; and paying an application fee.
Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, MI provides an associate’s degree in criminal justice with instruction in criminal law, criminal justice, and interpersonal communications. Designed to educate entry-level professionals in law enforcement, such as Border Patrol, Homeland Security, and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents, Kellogg can be an especially attractive option for undecided students who want to transfer to a four-year program.
Made up of 61 credits, the program includes courses such as introduction to criminal justice; criminal law; crime and delinquency; ethical problem-solving in policing; criminal investigation; client relations in corrections; and institutional corrections.
Wayne Community College offers an associate of applied science degree in criminal justice technology with a concentration in forensic science that focuses on the application of the biomedical, social, and physical sciences to the evaluation and analysis of human testimony, criminal suspects, and physical evidence. Students in this program will learn hands-on analysis of latent evidence and fingerprint identification and chemical development.
This 64-credit program includes courses such as crime scene processing; introduction to criminal justice; criminology; juvenile justice; criminal law; trace evidence; crime scene photography; criminalistics; interrogations; and friction ridge analysis.
Graduates of this program should qualify for employment in several criminal justice organizations, especially in state, local, and federal law enforcement, and correctional agencies.
Wayne Community College also offers a 17-credit certificate program in criminal justice technology with a concentration in forensic science.
Madonna University in Livonia hosts the only FEPAC-accredited bachelor of science (BS) in forensic science degree in Michigan providing students with a solid foundation across the sciences. Students in this program will also be able to obtain a minor in biology, chemistry, or both, further cementing their expertise in this field. Students are also allowed to join the prestigious Sigma Zeta Honor Society and the Madonna University Forensic Science Society (MUFSS).
As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as impression and trace evidence analysis; introduction to forensic science; firearm and tool mark analysis; forensic biology; forensic chemistry; forensic anthropology; toxicology; ethics and expert testimony; criminology; population genetics; criminal law & procedure; and biochemistry. The program also includes an internship.
Graduates will be able to take up roles such as forensic scientists, forensic biologists, forensic chemists, forensic anthropologists, crime scene technicians, forensic technologists, forensic pathologists, odontologists, entomologists, and laboratory managers, among many other such roles.
Notably, Madonna University also offers several certificate programs in DNA analysis, crime scene practice, crime laboratory technician, and applied forensic science research.
Lake Superior State University offers a bachelor of science program in forensic chemistry that combines elements of criminal justice with a strong emphasis on chemistry. Graduates of this program work in forensic laboratories for local, state, and federal government agencies and private investigative laboratories. Some might also go on to pursue graduate degrees.
Made up of 124 credits, the program includes courses such as introduction to forensics; medicinal toxicology; quantitative analysis; introduction to criminal justice; investigation; criminalistics; procedural law; substantive law; and principles of statistical methods.
Graduates can take up careers such as forensic science technicians, crime scene investigators, latent print examiners, DNA analysts, drug analysis technicians, forensic pathologists, medical examiners, forensic laboratory managers, and toxicologists.
Davenport University offers a bachelor of science degree in digital forensics where students will be able to gain the skills, knowledge, techniques, and tools needed for recovering and securing information from file systems, operating systems, mobile devices, and networks. Through hands-on experiences and courses woven into this degree, students will learn about collecting, processing, preserving, analyzing, and presenting digital-related evidence.
This 120-credit program includes courses such as digital forensics analysis and reports writing; evidence and criminal procedure; mobile device forensics; network forensics; windows digital forensics; and Linux/MAC forensics.
The Wayne State University of Detroit offers a post-baccalaureate certificate in forensic investigations, combining coursework in criminalistics and forensic analysis with hands-on internships and directed laboratory studies. The program utilizes experts from several areas, including the Departments of Criminal Justice and Applied Health Sciences. In addition, the Michigan State Crime Lab and personnel from the Medical Examiner’s Offices of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties also offer their expertise.
Comprising 24 to 26 credits, the program includes courses such as criminalistics; forensic investigation of firearms, ballistics, and explosives; forensic anatomic pathology; basic forensic analysis; interview and interrogation techniques; and advanced forensic analysis.
Michigan State University (MSU) offers a FEPAC-accredited master of science (MS) program in forensic science through its innovative School of Criminal Justice. MSU boasts state-of-the-art facilities for students to learn techniques such as chromatography, advanced microscopy, genetic analysis, capillary electrophoresis, and more. The program is designed to provide students with a broad practical and theoretical background in the legal, investigative, and scientific aspects of forensic science while also providing them with the opportunity to study forensic chemistry in depth.
Students enrolled in this program must complete a concentration in either forensic chemistry or forensic anthropology. Consisting of 38 credits, the program includes courses such as crime scene investigation; survey in forensic science; law and forensic science; mass spectrometry; forensic analysis of drugs and alcohol; forensic chemistry and microscopic evidence; osteology and forensic anthropology; and topics in forensic anthropology.
To be considered for admission, applicants must have a BS or BA degree in a discipline appropriate to the desired concentration with a minimum cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.0.
Students in Michigan Technological University’s graduate certificate forensic accounting program learn to investigate and prevent white-collar criminal activities in the banking and financial sectors. This certificate is ideal for qualified professionals looking to enhance their skill set and can be a foundation to continue to graduate degree programs.
Requiring a minimum of 9 credits, the program’s coursework allows students to develop skills and knowledge in fraud prevention and investigative accounting. Combining information security and data analysis techniques with traditional auditing principles, the program prepares students with advanced forensics training.
Moreover, this certificate assists students in passing examinations such as the CFF (Certified in Financial Forensics) and CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner).
With a graduate certificate in forensic accounting from the University of Detroit Mercy, graduates may qualify for the Certified Public Accounting (CPA) exam or launch a career as compliance officers or fraud examiners. Students will learn about auditing, accounting and financial rules, fraud detection, and the use and misuse of information technology. This certificate can either be taken as a stand-alone program or in conjunction with Detroit Mercy’s highly-ranked MBA program.
With flexible weekend and evening hours, UDM’s program is uniquely designed for working professionals. The program comprises 24 credits and includes courses such as personal development, ethics & social responsibility in organizations; system forensics; corporate fraud detection & prevention; accounting during cash crisis; computer & information security; and principles of loss prevention.
For more information on forensics degrees and specializations, please visit the forensic programs page.
It’s not always easy to attend an on-campus program due to familial, professional, or other time commitments. Fortunately for residents of rural Michigan, there are distance-based forensics programs available.
Baker College offers an online bachelor of science (BS) in criminal justice. This school serves almost 28,000 students online and through its campuses around MI. The program is designed to prepare professionals in law enforcement, including aspiring criminal investigators and other forensics professionals. As graduates, students will be able to enter the workforce with the skills and knowledge needed for performing at a top level within the standards of the Michigan Corrections Officers Training Council.
The program consists of 120 credits and includes courses such as introduction to criminal justice; introduction to corrections; criminology; legal issues in corrections; criminal law; juvenile justice concepts; ethical issues in criminal justice; drugs, crime, and society; cybercrime investigations; evidence collection and procedures; and terrorism and homeland security.
Additionally, Michigan State University (MSU) has several master’s degree programs offered in an online format. These include a master of arts in criminal justice, a master of science in cybercrime and digital investigation, and a master of science in law enforcement intelligence and analysis. All programs require the completion of 30 credits.
The MA in criminal justice program includes courses such as crime causation, prevention, and control; criminal justice behavior and ethics; and basic and translational research fundamentals.
The MS in cybercrime and digital investigation program includes instruction in economic cybercrimes and fraud; interpersonal cybercrime; comparative criminal justice; and digital forensic investigations.
Courses in the MS in law enforcement intelligence and analysis program include design and analysis in criminal justice research; the intelligence process and counterterrorism; and comprehensive threat assessment.
Notably, Michigan State University also offers an online graduate certificate in cyber criminology and cyber security. This 15-credit program includes courses such as open source information analysis; cybercrime, deviance, and virtual society; digital forensic investigations; and cyber terror and cyber warfare.
In the state of Michigan, forensics certification may not be required for employment, but it can be advisable. Certification can enhance a job candidate’s resume and earning prospects and serve as an indicator of one’s skills. Typical requirements for various forensic certifications include having at least a bachelor’s degree in forensic science (or a related field); having at least one year of experience; paying an application fee; and passing an exam. To maintain various credentials, the organizations below generally ask candidates to recertify by paying a fee and fulfilling continuing education (CE) requirements.
There are 10 professional certifications recognized by the esteemed Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB), including:
For some subfields of forensics and employers in Michigan, certification may be required. For example, Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) reports that in an amendment to the longstanding Professional Investigator Act, computer forensics professionals must have two types of certifications: general information security certification and a computer forensics-specific certification.
Since requirements vary by place of employment, interested forensics professionals are advised to check with individual agencies for certification requirements.
As mentioned above, forensics students in Michigan are encouraged to check the accreditation status of their programs or institutions. The main approval body for programmatic accreditation is the Forensic Science Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), and for institutional accreditation, it’s the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The former selectively accredits the most competitive forensic science programs across the country. There are currently two schools in Michigan with FEPAC-accredited programs: Madonna University and Michigan State University (MSU). It is important to note that as of 2023 FEPAC has accredited fewer than 50 programs and a lack of FEPAC accreditation does not mean that a program is substandard. In many cases, a program that lacks programmatic accreditation may simply not have applied for accreditation up to this point.
The HLC is one of seven regional organizations recognized by the US Department of Education, which accredits universities. In addition to Michigan, the HLC approves programs in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Finally, both accrediting organizations weigh criteria such as student outcomes, faculty effectiveness, comprehensiveness of program curricula, institutional finances, quality of facilities, administrative organization, and other factors in their respective evaluation processes. Please visit accrediting body websites for a full list of evaluation criteria.
|Northern Michigan University
|Michigan State University (MSU)
|Ferris State University
|Oakland Community College
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.
Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.