The Beaver State is the jewel of the Pacific Northwest and its lush old-growth forests, arid high plains and deserts, and expansive dramatic coastline provide a desirable location for aspiring forensic scientists. Several universities in Oregon offer high-quality forensic studies and related options, although as of 2023, none are accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Accreditation by FEPAC has been earned exclusively by a select few forensic science programs in the United States and is not necessarily reflective of the quality of programs offered by Oregon universities.
The job growth outlook for forensic scientist technicians in the United States is very promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic science technicians are experiencing an 11 percent rate of growth (2021-2031), which is much faster than the national average (5 percent).
In May 2022, Oregon employed 270 forensic science professionals, and the industries with the highest concentration of employment in this occupation are the state and local government, medical and diagnostic laboratories, architecture and engineering, and the federal executive branch of government (BLS May 2022). The average salary for a forensic science technician in the United States is $69,260.
Read below to discover more about becoming a forensic science specialist in Oregon, including occupational demand, featured programs, and accreditation information.
While there are many pathways toward becoming a forensic scientist in Oregon, most forensic scientists and technicians prepare for their careers by earning a four-year degree in natural science, chemistry, biology, or forensic science. Here is a step-by-step guide for students interested in pursuing a career in forensic science in Oregon and the recommended timeline for each step.
Having a strong academic background in mathematics and physical science courses is recommended for prospective forensic science technicians.
A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement for forensic scientists and some positions require a master’s degree. Most forensic scientists have academic backgrounds in biology, molecular biology, chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, and the interdisciplinary field of forensic science.
Some employers prefer applicants who have prior professional experience in a forensic laboratory. Specializations in specific subfields of forensic science such as fingerprints, toxicology, controlled substances, firearms, trace evidence, DNA, or digital evidence can provide valuable on-the-job training. Students can earn college credit or financial stipends through such opportunities.
Requirements for licensing and levels of certification vary by state and may or may not be necessary for employment. The Forensic Specialities Accreditation Board (FSAB) offers ten professional certifications (e.g., forensic anthropology, and toxicology). According to CareerOneStop, an organization sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, there are 2 available licenses for forensic science technicians in Oregon, including Polygraph Examiner – Trainee and Polygraph Examiner – General.
CareerOneStop reports that 11 percent of forensic scientists hold advanced degrees in forensic science or a related discipline. The additional theoretical framework and opportunities for specialization and research can boost a candidate’s eligibility for jobs with higher levels of leadership opportunities and salaries.
There is excellent news for aspiring forensics professionals in OR. Forensic science is a field on the rise. As proof of point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022) projects that openings for forensic science technicians will increase 11 percent between 2021 and 2031, much faster than the expected growth rate for all occupations (5 percent). And this expected addition of 2,000 positions nationally is only one career possibility for people trained in forensic science.
Compared to the national growth rate of 11 percent, Oregon is ahead of the curve with a 20 percent rate of growth predicted for positions in forensic science. CareerOneStop shows that 40 new forensic science jobs are needed every year throughout the state. The majority of available jobs are concentrated in the greater Portland metropolitan area, which is Oregon’s most populous regional area.
After completing a degree program and specialized training, those with degrees in forensics may pursue jobs such as crime scene investigators, laboratory scientists, toxicologists, medical examiners, forensic engineers, cybercrime analysts, forensic accountants, criminal profilers, forensic nurses, odontologists, document examiners, arson investigators, and more.
Aspiring professionals in forensics have employment options in an abundance of places. The BLS states that 89 percent of forensic science techs work for the local and state government. Additionally, depending on specialty, these professionals may work in private laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, ecological research institutes, biomedical research organizations, private investigation offices, insurance companies, law firms, and other businesses seeking forensic expertise. Forensics specialists normally work normal business hours, but those who work in criminal investigations may also be called upon to work evenings, weekends, and holidays.
Finally, the ForensicsColleges blog offers many in-depth career articles for graduates in forensic science in its How to Become series, with step-by-step instructions to becoming profilers, crime scene technicians, forensic psychologists, forensic accountants, detectives, and more.
In addition to a strong occupational outlook, Oregon boasts salaries that are higher than the national average. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics (May 2022), the 17,590 forensic science technicians across the nation earned an average annual salary of $69,260. In comparison, the 270 forensic science technicians working in Oregon earned an average of $93,900 per year (the highest in the nation).
In more detailed terms, here is a breakdown of the salary percentiles among all forensic science technicians in the country compared with those in OR (BLS May 2022):
|Number of Forensic Science Technicians Employed||17,590||270|
|Annual Mean Wage||$69,260||$93,900|
*This is likely an error, but has been reported as it was in the latest BLS data.
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 technicians reporting their annual salaries, PayScale found these percentiles for the US:
It is important to note that while the wages in OR are higher than national wages, so too is the cost of living. For illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2023) reported that OR is the eighth most expensive state in the country, particularly for housing and transportation. A high cost of living means that even higher than average salaries will not go as far as they would in other states, so prospective forensic science technicians should keep that in mind while evaluating the state’s salary data.
Several universities in Oregon offer high-quality forensic studies as well as related options. While no programs are accredited by FEPAC, as of 2023, they are still in good standing with their institutional and regional accrediting organizations.
Oregon State University (OSU), located in the heart of the Willamette Valley in Corvallis, Oregon, offers a bachelor of science program in chemistry featuring two tracks, each having a core set of chemistry courses and a selection of accompanying options. Track two is ideal for those who wish to target a particular career direction, continue with graduate education in chemistry or related areas, or gain extensive experience in a secondary area. Options in this track include forensic science, business, biochemistry, chemical engineering, chemistry education, materials science, pre-medicine, and environmental chemistry.
The option in forensic science is appropriate for students interested in working in crime labs or pursuing graduate degrees in forensic science or chemistry. This program’s curriculum includes five advanced lab courses emphasizing analytical skills and an opportunity to explore minors in other areas such as toxicology.
Some of the courses included in the curriculum are environmental forensic chemistry; principles of statistics; general microbiology; mass spectrometry of organic compounds; bioanalytical chemistry; genetics; fundamentals of toxicology; analytical chemistry; and cell and molecular biology.
Western Oregon University also offers a bachelor of science program in chemistry with a concentration in forensic chemistry. This forensic chemistry major is recommended for students who wish to pursue careers in criminal investigation or pursue graduate studies in forensic science. This program also helps students develop the analytical skills required in other areas of civil law, such as accident investigation, product liability, and environmental pollution.
In addition to the core chemistry coursework, the program includes forensic courses in the fundamentals of photography for forensic science; introduction to forensic science; forensic documentation and laboratory techniques; applications of forensic sciences; and principles of forensic investigation.
Portland State University’s Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice offers a campus-based master of science program in criminology & criminal justice, providing students with a unique opportunity of studying crime and the criminal justice system in a vibrant urban setting. Through coursework, peer interactions, community-based learning experiences, and collaboration with faculty members, graduates of this program will be prepared to solve problems, give informed solutions to justice and crime issues, and assist criminal justice agencies.
The program includes courses such as theories of crime; analysis of crime and justice data; criminal justice theory; criminal justice research; criminal justice policy; and advanced topics in research methods.
Portland State University also offers a bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice in both an on-campus and an online format (profiled in the online section below) format.
Warner Pacific University offers a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, which is ideal for students who are passionate about criminal justice and want to see their community grow stronger through reconciliation and reform. This program’s equity-focused curriculum was created with inputs from community leaders in corrections, policing, faith-based and cultural organizations, community partners, and advocacy.
Some of the courses included in the curriculum are criminology; introduction to peace studies; foundations of the American legal system; restorative justice; race and ethnic relations; human trafficking, and human rights; and stress, crisis, trauma, and self-care.
Graduates of this program will be ready for positions in corrections, law enforcement, forensics, politics, and public service.
Clackamas Community College offers an associate of applied science degree in criminal justice, providing students with the skills and knowledge needed for work in the criminal justice field. Ideal for students interested in the legal system, crime prevention, and law enforcement, this AAS degree program emphasizes topics such as criminal investigation, community policing, criminological theory, and routine patrol.
This 90- to 92-credit program includes courses such as criminology; juvenile delinquency; introduction to law enforcement; introduction to courts; criminal law; introduction to corrections; crisis intervention; criminal investigation; criminal justice ethics; and procedural law, among others.
For more information on forensics degrees and specializations, please visit the forensic programs page.
Southern Oregon University (SOU) in Ashland, Oregon offers a bachelor of arts (BA) or science (BS) degree in criminal justice. This online program aims to challenge, motivate, and inspire its students to be critically thinking and civically engaged professionals in criminal justice. The concepts and frameworks covered in this program prepare students for various criminal justice careers at the local, state, and national levels.
The bachelor’s program includes 71 credits of core curriculum classes giving students a solid background in law, policing, theory, and corrections. The educational fundamentals of this program prepare students for career opportunities such as air marshals, CIA officers, computer forensics investigators, correctional officers, criminal investigators, FBI agents, police officers, and youth correctional counselors. Graduates of this program are also prepared to pursue advanced degrees in forensics or criminal justice.
A capstone research project is required to complete this degree program and topics are determined by individual students and their course professors or advisors. Students are encouraged to choose topics of interest related to their criminal justice internship experience.
A 33-credit criminal justice minor is also offered at SOU as an add-on for students majoring in social sciences. There are 19 required credits for all minors and 16 upper-division courses selected by students based on their areas of interest or specialization.
Bushnell University offers an online bachelor of science program in psychology with a concentration in forensic psychology. In addition to providing students with a strong foundation of psychological principles, this concentration offers an in-depth understanding of how these principles influence the criminal justice sphere.
Courses within this major include forensic psychology; theories of personality; psychology of addictive behaviors; psychometrics; psychology of trauma; corrections in the 21st century; criminal law and procedure; criminal investigation; criminology; juvenile justice system; and victimology.
In addition to offering on-campus undergraduate and graduate programs in criminology and criminal justice, Portland State University also offers an online bachelor’s degree in this field. This online degree provides graduates with a broad knowledge base about victims, offenders, crime, and the justice system. It includes coverage of the research on crime prevention, crime control policy, current practices in policing, courts, and corrections, and criminological theories.
Courses in this 180-credit program include policing in America; American courts; criminology and criminal justice; punishment and corrections; race, crime, and criminal justice; theories of crime and justice; crime control strategies; crime analysis; and criminal law and legal reasoning.
There is also a variety of online forensics programs available to Oregon-based students from schools in other states.
When considering which forensic science programs to pursue, accreditation is a key factor. A discipline-specific, regional, or national organization can offer accreditation.
Although the forensic science programs in Oregon are not accredited by the discipline-specific Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), these institutions are in good standing with their regional accrediting agencies. For example, Oregon State University has been accredited since 1924 and is currently accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), and Southern Oregon University also holds accreditation by NWCCU.
Lastly, forensic scientists in Oregon with solid academic records and professional experience have several certifications and licenses available to them as proof of their expertise and professional competency. Certifications vary by discipline and job position. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) features a list of ten organizations that award professional certification to individuals in forensic science. The list of accredited specializations is as follows:
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.