Students who might be considering a career in forensic science in South Carolina (SC) will want to know more about the current outlook for the profession in the state, as well as the steps to enter the profession. The demand for forensics specialists in the state (and especially nationally) is strong and growing, and while South Carolina hosts a limited number of forensic science programs, there are also online options available. Forensic science jobs in the state tend to be concentrated primarily in the larger population centers such as the cities of Charleston and Greenville.
People who are reviewing forensic science colleges in South Carolina should take some time to understand all the steps involved in becoming a forensic scientist in the state, and also what out-of-state educational options may be available, since as mentioned the in-state options are minimal. This may mean looking to a nearby state (see the list at the bottom) or to online forensic science colleges. Learn more below about forensic scientist demand and educational options for SC residents.
Forensic science students may choose different paths toward this exciting career, with each involving a commitment to hands-on training as well as academics. Students preparing earlier are more likely to be able to find employment down the line. Some even start their pursuit as early as high school.
So what can students expect from a forensics college in South Carolina? O*NET (2023)—a data group sponsored by the US Department of Labor—reports that these professionals must be trained in several skills including liaising with law enforcement, medical, and other professionals; testifying as expert witnesses in court; collecting, analyzing, and carefully documenting evidence from crime scenes; and performing laboratory tests on various types of evidence. Notably, several forensics specialties are available, such as criminalistics, toxicology, forensic accounting, cybercrime, DNA analyses, document examination, arson investigations, ballistics, and other subfields.
Prospective forensic science techs looking to learn more about this field and wanting to work in South Carolina (SC) will find they have limited options for online and on-campus programs. Students considering a career in the field can learn more about potential jobs, fellowships, and resources through the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) website.
People come to the forensic science career from many different backgrounds, and while the following set of steps is the most common, there are other options. For instance, Those looking to change careers may have a more accelerated path they can take, especially if they have earned an undergraduate degree in a related scientific field.
The vast majority of forensic science technicians (97 percent according to Career One Stop) have graduated from high school, so this is a critical step towards finding employment in the field. High school students should focus their efforts on being well-rounded but should pay particular attention to natural science courses and mathematics if they eventually want to work in a forensic laboratory.
The forensic science profession is not licensed by any government body, which means that the educational requirements are somewhat fluid. However, most successful forensic scientists have some amount of college under their belt. In fact, CareerOneStop indicates that 45 percent of forensic science technicians have either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. Earning a degree in forensic science can certainly be helpful in an employment search, but many forensic professionals have degrees in related fields such as biology, chemistry, or criminal justice.
Most entry-level forensic science jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. However, technicians may become certified in a specific area to advance in the field and obtain jobs with more responsibility and autonomy. As of 2023, 10 different organizations have been approved by the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) to issue professional certification in areas as diverse as forensic toxicology and forensic document examination. Each specialty will have its own requirements, but applicants should expect to prove their experience in the field and usually submit to an exam in their chosen area of expertise.
A graduate degree can be an asset for experienced forensic scientists who want to advance further in their careers. Approximately 16 percent of employed forensic technicians have a graduate degree at either the master’s or doctoral level. This type of degree does require more dedication in terms of time and financial resources and as such should be carefully considered.
Overall growth in the forensic science occupation is quite strong. 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 growth rate expected for all occupations during that time period (5 percent). And this expected addition of 2,000 positions nationally is only one career possibility for people trained in forensic science.
The outlook is even brighter for residents of SC. Projections Central (2023) found that demand for forensic science technicians in South Carolina specifically is expected to grow 25 percent between 2020 and 2030. With just 130 employed forensic science technicians as of May 2022, Palmetto State has a limited array of employment opportunities in this particular field. Still, for the educated and qualified individual, there should be opportunities.
The BLS (2022) found that 27 percent of forensic science technicians in the US work for the state government and 62 percent work for the local government. They work in morgues, crime laboratories, medical examiner offices, or police departments. There is a wealth of other places of employment in forensic science, depending on one’s specialty.
These professionals may go into several available careers such as forensic engineers, medical examiners, crime laboratory analysts, crime scene examiners, document examiners, physical anthropologists, criminal profilers, digital analysts, and behavior scientists.
The experiential requirements, education, and training may vary for these professionals. The American Academy of Forensic Scientists (AAFS) has various resources for these professionals, including a list of journal articles, networking organizations, continuing education opportunities, and support for the Young Forensic Scientists Forum (YFSF).
Finally, the ForensicsColleges blog offers several in-depth career articles for forensic science graduates 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 terms of salary, South Carolina comes in somewhat lower than the U.S. overall. 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. The 130 forensic science technicians working in SC earned $49,490 per year.
In more detailed terms, here is a breakdown of the salary percentiles among all forensic science technicians in the country compared with those in South Carolina (BLS May 2022):
|United States||South Carolina|
|Number of Forensic Science Technicians Employed||17,590||130|
|Annual Mean Wage||$69,260||$49,490|
The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, PayScale (July 2023), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the forensic science techs reporting their annual salaries, PayScale found these percentiles for the US:
Although the average South Carolina wages for forensic science techs were somewhat lower, SC also has a cheaper cost of living than many states in the country. As proof of point, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2023) found that SC is the 20th most affordable in the country, boasting particular savings in housing costs. Prospective forensic science technicians should keep this in mind.
Students looking to attend one of the forensics colleges in South Carolina will find that they have a limited number of options. In fact, there are currently no programs in South Carolina that have been accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), although that accreditation does apply specifically to forensic science programs (as opposed to related ones), and relatively few schools nationally are FEPAC-accredited. In short, there are quality programs available that need to be FEPAC-accredited, as evidenced below.
Southern Wesleyan University offers a bachelor of science (BS) program in forensic science. Students that go through the program will receive training in biology and biochemistry, human anatomy and physiology, DNA analysis, and much more. Students in this program will learn how to use microscopic techniques to analyze the likes of hair, fibers, tissues, glass, and much more. Students in this major can choose chemistry, biology, or computing concentrations.
In this forensic science degree, students will get hands-on experience with various forensic analysis tools, including spectrophotometers, microscopes, electrophoresis apparatus, gas chromatography, high-performance liquid chromatography, physiological instruments, computer-based data acquisition equipment, and several other chemical analytical techniques and equipment used in laboratories and research settings.
This 120-credit program includes courses such as introduction to forensic science; forensic biology; forensic psychology; forensic chemistry; firearms evidence; fingerprint analysis; forensic computing; genetics; and laboratory processes, among others.
Graduates will be able to take up roles such as drug analysts, toxicology analysts, trace evidence analysts, DNA analysts, fingerprint analysts, and firearms analyst serologists, to name a few.
Notably, Southern Wesleyan University also offers a bachelor of science program in criminal justice studies for those wishing to enter criminal or civil law, law enforcement, human services, or corrections careers. Students in this criminal justice major will study criminology, criminal investigations, criminal law, police and community relations, forensic science, firearms in criminal justice, corrections, criminal justice management, social problems, and fitness in criminal justice.
Morris College’s undergraduate major in criminal forensics studies provides students with the tools, skills, and knowledge they need to explore the field of criminal justice. Whether students are interested in forensic biology, criminal investigation, cybercrimes, or criminalistics, the classes offered by this program are designed to engage them with real-world case studies.
Comprising 122 credits, the program includes courses such as an introductory survey of forensic studies; crime scene forensics; criminalistics; forensic pathology; digital evidence; forensic photography; forensic evidence and ethics; special topics in criminal forensics; and criminal forensics and the social sciences.
Graduates of this program will be well qualified to collect and classify several types of physical evidence, utilize different types of laboratory equipment, analyze the results of laboratory-based methods used in processing physical evidence, and develop formal reports of the results obtained from investigations.
Trident Technical College offers an associate in applied science program in criminal justice, preparing graduates for entry-level positions in detention facilities and corrections as jailers and corrections officers; in law enforcement agencies as civilian support staff and police officers; in criminal defense firms and prosecutors’ offices as clerks, investigators, and support staff; in corporate security departments as risk analysis officers and investigators; and in private security agencies as security officers.
As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as introduction to criminal justice; criminal law; criminology; criminal justice research methods; police administration; ethics in criminal justice; criminal investigation; criminal evidence; and correctional systems.
Columbia College offers a bachelor of arts program in criminal justice with a general and a forensic concentration, providing students with a well-rounded education for diverse criminal justice careers at the state, federal, and local levels. Providing an understanding of the components of constitutional limitations, criminal justice, and theoretical approaches, this program prepares students to become leaders in administration and offers them the necessary research skills required for graduate school.
The forensic concentration provides students an edge for careers in the forensic sciences, either in crime scene investigation or the laboratory. The curriculum includes courses such as forensic toxicology; forensic DNA; FBI fingerprint recognition and comparison; criminological theory; introduction to criminal justice; courts; corrections; and law enforcement & report writing.
Graduates can take positions such as correctional officers, criminal profilers, forensic investigators, forensic crime scene technicians, private investigators, probation or parole officers, and intelligence analysts, among many other such roles.
Columbia College also offers a bachelor of science program in forensic psychology focusing on behavioral analysis as it applies to the law. Students in this program participate in forensic investigations, develop strong clinical psychology skills, and gain an understanding of the legal proceedings that are essential for a forensic psychology career.
Benedict College’s bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration gives students a thorough understanding of justice administration and law enforcement, including an overview of policies and procedures, field operations, public service, and order maintenance.
Some of the topics students will delve into include an introduction to forensic science; juvenile justice; introduction to the correction systems; and theories in criminology. This program requires a total of 128 credits.
At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities such as correctional officers, police officers, criminal profilers, private investigators, crime scene investigators, forensic analysts, detective probation officers, and homeland security agents.
In addition to online forensic programs all over the country, there are a few predominantly web-based options within the state of South Carolina:
Southern Wesleyan University offers an online bachelor of science program in criminal justice where students will develop competency in courts, corrections, and law enforcement by studying criminal law, criminology, forensic science, criminal investigations, corrections, police and community relations, criminal justice management, and fitness in criminal justice. They will be able to discuss ethical implications at the state, federal, local, and international levels in criminal justice.
This 120-credit program includes courses such as introduction to criminal justice; health and fitness for criminal justice; courts and procedure; criminal law; criminal justice management; criminal investigation; and introduction to forensic science.
Charleston Southern University offers a bachelor of science program in criminal justice, which can be completed fully online or in the traditional classroom setting. At Charleston Southern University, students can observe active investigations, gather forensic evidence, include autopsies, and culminate in judicial presentations. They will also be able to observe state prisons, which provides additional insight into the various parts of the criminal justice process.
Graduates obtaining their bachelor’s degree will easily be able to transition into the university’s master’s degree program in criminal justice or public safety management. Courses in this 125-credit program include an introduction to criminal justice; police systems and practices; judicial systems and practices; prison systems and practices; theories of crime and justice; and ethical issues in criminal justice.
Graduates will be well-equipped to take up roles such as forensic science technicians, private detectives, police officers, probation officers, correctional officers, computer forensics investigators, and many more.
Columbia College’s online master of arts program in criminal justice can be completed in just 12 months. Through police intelligence, academic research, and organizational analysis, this program seeks to provide students with the necessary skills to become future leaders in the criminal justice field.
Made up of 30 credits, the program includes courses such as administration of organizations in criminal justice; U.S. constitutional law; criminological theory; diversity in criminal justice; qualitative research methods; police intelligence; and standard operating procedures.
Graduates of this program will be able to take up leadership positions such as attorney general investigators, forensic examiners, attorney general investigators, criminologists, criminal profilers, federal law enforcement officers, police chiefs, and police commissioners.
Students choosing a forensic science program should consider both institutional and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation means that the schools as a whole have been evaluated for their standards and efficacy. FEPAC is the main accrediting body for forensic science programs. Unfortunately, none of the South Carolina schools have earned FEPAC accreditation at this juncture, but students should look for SC programs to expand in the coming years and demand increases.
In terms of professional certification, requirements differ for each specialty. For instance, someone who wants to apply for certification from the International Association for Identification (IAI) in Tenprint Fingerprint, must have at least 40 hours of Board-approved education but that does not necessarily have to be accredited.
There are education requirements but no accreditation standards for a certification such as Bloodstain Pattern Analysis, which is also from the IAI. Ultimately, students should investigate their chosen specialty thoroughly to ensure that they are earning an education that will apply to their future career goals.
Farheen Gani writes about forensics schools across the United States, and has covered topics such as forensic chemistry and forensic science and biochemistry since 2018. She writes about healthcare, technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).