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Forensic Science Colleges in Missouri

Perhaps you want to become a crime scene technician or investigator, work as a criminalist or even take a lead role as a forensic project coordinator or senior forensic analyst. Whatever your goals, a degree is important, and a bachelor’s is often required to enter the field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Since education is imperative, one of the forensic colleges in Missouri (MO) could provide you with the path for reaching your learning objectives.

From bachelor’s to master’s degrees, you can find forensic science options offering fundamentals in the natural sciences, most often biology and chemistry, and the law. Some programs even include crime scene investigation (CSI) as a component, but students also may be able to find CSI training available through stand-alone instruction, like a certificate-based or associate degree program. While forensic science programs enable individuals to work in the lab, a CSI education can help them compete for a career that puts them out in the field at crime scenes.

In addition to the exciting career that can be afforded through forensic science, the occupation can be rewarding in terms of pay. In fact, according to May 2017 data from the BLS, the mean annual wages for forensic science technicians working in Missouri were $51,600. This compares fairly well to the mean annual wage of $50,620 for all occupations in the U.S. combined, according to the BLS. Of course, there is nothing keeping individuals from looking for employment opportunities in other states. The BLS reports that some of the highest-paying states for forensic science technicians were California, Illinois, Nevada and Connecticut. But all across the nation, job demand is expected to grow 17 percent from 2016 to 2026, meaning that some 2,600 new jobs could become available. Job opportunities are expected to best for those with a bachelor’s degree in a natural science and a master’s degree in forensic science, according to the BLS, or those who have DNA specialties or skills in digital computer forensics.

How to Become a Forensic Scientist in the Show-Me State

According to the BLS, a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences, like biology or chemistry, is typically needed to enter the field. Students also may be able to find programs specifically available in forensic science, but that are heavy in biology and chemistry and that also teach about forensics. Often, the name of the program will provide some indication as to its focus. Some associate degrees also may be available, but often provide merely the foundational skills needed by those planning to continue on to a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Below are the most common steps that prospective forensic science professionals have followed for entering the field.

  • Step 1: Pursue a bachelor’s degree. This degree typically takes four years to complete and should enable students to build a strong base in the sciences, reports the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). Students may be able to choose concentrations at this level, and also take some crime scene-related classes, such as fingerprint evidence. According to Career One Stop, a site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, 32 percent of forensic science technicians in the U.S. have a bachelor’s degree.
  • Step 2: Continue to a master’s degree. According to Career One Stop, 12 percent of all forensic science technicians in the U.S. have a master’s degree. Why have these professionals pursued an advanced education? It may be necessary in some specialties, according to the AAFS. A master’s degree can also help students to strengthen their biology and chemistry skills, to specialize in particular areas, and can offer an opportunity to participate in internships or research projects. While some of these programs can be completed in as little as two years, others, particularly if a students attends part-time, can take up to five years.
  • Step 3: Consider a doctoral degree. Although a very small percentage of forensic science technicians, just 4 percent have a PhD or other terminal degree, advanced education can be helpful when it comes to employment opportunities like running a forensic science lab or teaching at a college or university ( These degrees can take from two to five years to complete.
  • Step 4: Work on certification. Many national organizations offer certification, which can help forensic science technicians to have proof of their skills. Each certification has its own standards, with some requiring a certain number of years of experience and others requiring an examination. While certification may not be required for hiring, some employers may prefer it or want employees who are working toward it.

Students also can find graduate-level certificates in forensic science offered. These may be best for students who are not ready to commit to a full master’s degree, but still want to advance in their skills. In these and other forensic sciences programs, students learn the critical-thinking skills, and the math and science knowledge essential to becoming a forensic scientist, according to the BLS. Good communication is also important, reports the BLS, since forensic scientists need to work with law enforcement specialists as well as write reports and present evidence in court.

Pursuing CSI in Missouri

Crime scene investigation (CSI) is a field of forensic investigations that intrigues many people. In this occupation, individuals look at the evidence left behind at a crime scene to determine what may have happened and who might have been involved. For this reason, documenting evidence is very important, and this is just one of the many components of instruction provided within a CSI program. If you are interested in CSI, you may want to choose from one of the following common paths:

  • Option 1: Seek a certificate or associate degree. Some programs in CSI are only a year in length, but those that lead to an associate degree typically take two. These programs generally cover fundamental topics in CSI, such as criminal investigation, crime scene safety, fingerprint development, and more.
  • Option 2: Complete a bachelor’s degree. The BLS indicates that the bachelor’s degree is usually an entry point for CSI. However, most of the bachelor’s degree programs will offer a degree in criminal justice with a specialization in CSI. This allows students to complete a four-year degree, learn about many of the same topics as at the associate degree level, but in more depth and with more electives.
  • Option 3: Be accepted into a police academy. Mny people enter CSI after they have become police officers and spent time on the job. To become an officer, individuals need to complete an academy, through which they develop a wide variety of skills from self-defense tactics to shooting a weapon. Police officers may later learn about CSI on the job, typically by working with another police professional or by completing academy-sponsored or similar training.

Certification can be a valuable tool in showing potential employees that you are knowledgeable in CSI. Some of the organizations offering certification include the International Association for Identification (IAI) and the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA). Because certification requirements vary, it is best to contact the specific organization beforehand to fully understand the steps that need to be taken.

Occupational Demand in Missouri

The largest cities in Missouri include Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield, and job opportunities could be best in these simply because there are more organizations to offer employment, but also more opportunities for people to commit crime due to larger populations. In fact, Kanas City has a population that exceeds more than 480,000. In St. Louis, the population is more than 310,000 and the St. Louis County Police Crime Laboratory serves nearly 90 municipal county police agencies as well as numerous federal ones. It has been functioning since 1966 and could offer entry-level occupational points. Other agencies offering opportunities could be:

Although forensic scientists can find jobs in a number of places, nine out of 10 work for local or state governments, particularly in coroner’s offices, crime laboratories, morgues or police departments, according to the BLS. While some forensic science technicians primarily work in labs, others spend some time outside at crime scenes or collaborating with others, including specialists and law enforcement personnel. CSI specialists may also need to work evening or night hours, depending on when a crime occurs, and even do overtime or be on call.

Featured Forensic Science Colleges in Missouri

There are a number of forensic science programs in Missouri, but none that are accredited through the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), the accrediting branch of AAFS. Graduation from a FEPAC-accredited program is typically not necessary for obtaining a job since very few programs have applied for and been granted programmatic FEPAC accreditation. Learn more about programmatic and institutional accreditation further down on this page. Some of the forensic science programs in Missouri include:

  • Columbia College, in Columbia, offers a bachelor’s of science (BS) in forensic science, covering a variety of biology and chemistry classes as well as physics and calculus. Students can specialize in either biology or chemistry, and also take electives such as bloodstain evidence, forensic anthropology, and abnormal psychology. A senior seminar is required as a final, evaluative experience.
  • St. Louis University provides both a major and minor in forensic science at the undergraduate level. Lab experiences in biology and chemistry are part of the BS program and a required practicum gives students fieldwork experience in their area of interest. The degree integrates both science and investigations and can prepare students for a variety of career paths.
  • Missouri State University, in Springfield, offers a bachelor of science degree in cellular and molecular biology with elective courses in forensic sciences. The university provides tracks for students who are ultimately interested in working in forensic chemistry, forensic pathology, and forensic molecular biology. Forensic science-specific elective courses include survey of forensic anthropology, medical and pathologic physiology,and recombinant DNA techniques.
  • At Southeast Missouri, in Cape Girardeau, allows students to work on an undergraduate chemistry degree with a specialization in forensic science. In this program, students study chemistry, math and science, and understand how these all relate to the forensic sciences. Students build more skills in the school’s forensic science laboratories, located in the Magill Hall of Science, and also network with forensic science alumni to develop mentoring and internship opportunities.

In campus-based programs, students often complete rigorous undergraduate coursework that is based in math and the sciences so that they can be well-prepared to work in a forensic science lab. At the graduate level, they often gain more nuanced skills, allowing them to develop their areas of niche interest and to better prepare them for jobs in crime laboratories, hospitals, law enforcement, medical examiner’s offices and other employment sites.

Hybrid & Online Forensics Programs

Students looking for additional opportunities in forensic science in Missouri and beyond can turn to online education. Programs available at the undergraduate and graduate level vary in terms of overall offerings. Many focus more on crime scene investigation and evidence and less on the natural sciences. But, even in an online environment, students are challenged to learn by engaging in discussion boards, working on group projects and participating in other activities. Some students are attracted to this learning environment because they have time to deeply think about what they want to say or contribute instead of immediately responding as they would in a campus-based classroom. Some of the online forensic science programs include:

  • American Intercontinental University offers a bachelor’s of science in criminal justice degree with a specialization in forensic science online. The degree can be completed in as little as 36 months and includes specialized courses in arson investigation, criminalistics, cybercrimes, forensic biology and more.
  • Liberty University Online features a bachelor’s of science in criminal justice degree with a specialization in crime scene investigation, enabling students learn about the practice of both forensics and the law.
  • St. Leo University Online makes a master’s of science in criminal justice degree with a specialization in forensics available. Students learn about crime scene investigation, but also about lab analysis of evidence, the history of criminalistics, and the forensic technologies that are now being accepted in the courtroom. Of the 36 credits in the master’s programs, 12 are specifically in forensic science.

Students can also find other undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as certificates that are available online and listed on the AAFS website.

Program Accreditation & Certification

Graduation from a FEPAC-accredited program is not necessary for entering the forensic science field, but may be helpful when seeking employment. In addition, many institutions are following FEPAC guidelines even though they have not achieved programmatic accreditation. It may be best to talk with the school you are considering to find out more information.

Regional institutional accreditation also provides validation to a school and its programs and, in Missouri, is typically granted through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

The AAFS is divided into 11 unique forensic science sections that include anthropology, criminalistics, odontology, and toxicology. That’s why there are so many different certifications and membership opportunities available. Certification may be offered through some of these organizations, but has requirements that vary, ranging from an examination to graduation from an approved program to a specific number of years of experience. Some of the organizations offering certification, or membership, include the:

In fact, standards for CSI and forensic science often vary widely from one jurisdiction to another, reports the BLS. For this reason, despite any certification received, some on-the-job training may be necessary for any new forensic science or CSI technicians.

School Name City Forensic
Total Forensics
Grads (2016-2017)
Columbia College Columbia x 28
Missouri State University-Springfield Springfield x x 9
Missouri Western State University Saint Joseph x 5
Maryville University of Saint Louis Saint Louis x x 4
Washington University in St Louis Saint Louis x 3
Saint Louis University Saint Louis 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.