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Oregon Forensic Science Degrees & Colleges

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. Two of the public universities in Oregon offer high-quality forensic studies options, although as of 2019, 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 a 17 percent rate of growth (2016-2026), which is much faster than the national average. As of 2018, Oregon currently employs 100 to 210 forensic science professionals and the industries with the highest concentration of employment in this occupation are in medical and diagnostic laboratories, state and local government, architecture and engineering, and the federal executive branch of government (BLS 2019). The average salary for a forensic scientce technician in the United States is $58,230. Most positions require a bachelor’s degree (BLS 2019).

Read on to learn more about how to become a forensic scientist in Oregon.

How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Oregon (OR)

While there are many pathways towards becoming a forensic scientist in Oregon, the majority of 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.

  • Step 1: Graduate from high school or earn a GED (four years). Having a strong academic background in mathematics and physical science courses is recommended for prospective forensic science technicians.
  • Step 2: Get a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, a natural science, or a specialized related degree (four years). According to Payscale.com, 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.
  • Step 3: Pursue an internship or apprenticeship in a forensic laboratory (time varies). 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 and students can earn college credit or financial stipends through such opportunities.
  • Step 4: Apply for professional licenses or certifications through regional or national organizations (requirements and time vary by state). 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, toxicology). According to CareerOneStop, an organization sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, there are 33 available licenses for forensic science technicians in Oregon, including polygraph examiner, pharmacy technician, and emergency medical technician (EMT).
  • Step 5: Get a master’s degree in forensic science or a related disciplinary field (optional; two years). CareerOneStop reports that 12 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.

Occupational Demand for Forensic Scientists in Oregon

When compared to the national growth rate of 17 percent, Oregon is ahead of the curve with a 21 percent rate of growth predicted for positions in forensic science. One Stop Career shows that 30 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.

Featured Forensic Science Programs in Oregon

Two of Oregon’s public state universities offer forensic science programs. While these programs are not accredited by FEPAC, as of 2019, they are 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 27-credit undergraduate certificate in the highly relevant field of cybersecurity. Created in response to the growing need for systems security, this certificate program aims to prevent cybersecurity breaches and protect passwords, financial data, and private information for millions of companies and their clients. Cybersecurity certificate-holders are prepared for careers in cybersecurity analytics, cybersecurity engineering, information assurance, and security administration. This certificate program prepares graduates for careers as software engineers with a specialization in electronic information security.

Coursework in this program is divided into six required courses and offered at the OSU Corvallis and Portland campuses face-to-face, online (OSU Ecampus), and in a blended format (online and in-person learning). Students choose one elective course in information systems, cloud development, mobile app development, machine learning and data mining, parallel programming, and open source development.

Students who are already pursuing bachelor’s or post-baccalaureate degrees at OSU can apply for this program if they meet the following prerequisites: a GPA of 3.0 or higher and a grade of C or higher in four computer science courses: data structures, introduction to databases, operating systems 1, and introduction to computer networks. Applicants with three or more years of professional experience as software or system engineers can petition to waive one or more of the prerequisite requirements.

Referred to as a “hidden gem” by the New York Times, Southern Oregon University (SOU) in Ashland, Oregon offers a bachelor’s or arts (BA) or science (BS) degree in criminal justice. This on-campus program aims to challenge, motivate, and inspire its students to be critically thinking and civically engaged professionals in the field of criminal justice. The concepts and frameworks covered in this program prepare students for a wide variety of 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 for completion of this degree program and topics are determined by individual students and their course professors or advisors. Students are encouraged to choose topics of interest or ones that relate 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.

There is also a variety of online forensics programs available to Oregon-based students from schools in other states.

Forensics Program Accreditation and Certification

When considering which forensic science programs to pursue, accreditation is a key factor to consider. Accreditation can be offered by a discipline-specific, regional, or national organization.

Although the two forensic science programs in Oregon are not accredited by the discipline-specific Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), both institutions are in good standing with their regional accrediting agencies. Oregon State University has been accredited since 1924 and is currently accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). Southern Oregon University also holds accreditation by NWCCU.

Lastly, forensic scientists in Oregon with solid academic records and professional experience have a number of 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 are as follows:

  • Criminalistics
  • Medicolegal death investigation
  • Toxicology
  • Document examination (two certification organizations available)
  • Forensic engineering sciences
  • Forensic odontology
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Computer investigative specialist
  • Fire investigator