Texans with curious minds, a knack for reconstructing events, and strong stomachs can invest their time and talents into a forensic science career. Luckily for residents of the Lone Star State, there is a wealth of educational and career-related opportunities available for aspiring forensic scientists.
By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020) reports that Texas employs the second-highest number of forensic science technicians (also known as forensic science techs) in the U.S., with 1,580 currently employed. Career One Stop (2022)—a research organization sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor—expects this figure to grow 19 percent in Texas between 2018 and 2028.
Becoming a forensic science tech is only one of many career paths chosen by people with degrees from forensics colleges in Texas. These individuals also go on to become criminal investigators, profilers, digital scientists, toxicologists, handwriting experts, and forensic anthropologists, to name a few.
To learn more about the bright academic and professional landscape in Texas, read on below to learn how to become a forensic scientist and the occupational demand in Texas, featured programs around the state, and program accreditation.
There are a variety of paths to becoming a forensic scientist or technician in Texas. Some forensic science techs choose to join a police academy, get extensive on-the-job training, and get a college degree later to complement their empirical knowledge. In contrast, others may pursue postsecondary education before employment.
Here is the most common path to becoming a forensic scientist in Texas:
Step 1: Graduate from high school. Successful forensic scientists typically have strong grades in mathematics and science courses (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics). A number of these courses may even be prerequisites to entering a forensics college in Texas.
Step 2: Pursue a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or a related discipline, especially in the natural sciences (four years). According to Career One Stop (2021), 31 percent of working forensic science technicians have bachelor’s degrees. In addition, Texas boasts four forensic science programs accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC)—the leading accreditation agency for programs of this kind—although it’s not necessary to attend one of these to join a career in this field.
Some students major in forensic science with courses such as crime scene investigation, latent print processing, and principles of forensic entomology. Other majors in natural sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and if available, may choose a forensic science concentration, emphasis, or minor.
Step 3: Apply for specialized certification through a national organization (optional, timeline varies). While individual certification may not be necessary, it can enhance one’s resume, serve as an indicator of merit to future employers, and even get a person increased job responsibilities or pay. For example, in the U.S., the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has approved 10 organizations to grant professional certification in various fields such as criminalistics, document analysis, and toxicology.
Step 4: Pursue an advanced degree in forensic science (optional, two to four years). According to CareerOneStop (2022), 11 percent of working forensic science technicians hold at least a master’s degree. Typical courses in these programs include DNA and serology, drug chemistry, and advanced investigative techniques.
Being the second most populated state in the U.S., Texas has a promising job outlook for graduates of forensic science programs. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2020) finds that among the 1,580 forensic science technicians working in the state, these are the top-employing regions:
So how much do forensic science technicians make in Texas? Here are the salary ranges for these professionals in the Lone Star State (BLS May 2020):
In general, metropolitan and more densely populated regions in Texas tend to pay forensic science technicians more. Here is a breakdown of the top-paying regions in the state:
Overall, since the projected growth in openings for forensic science technicians in Texas is higher than the national average, residents of the Lone Star State may have an advantage in the job hunt. However, the first step to securing work in forensic science in Texas is getting an education. Read on to explore some of Texas’s quality, accredited forensics colleges.
|Featured CSI & Forensic Science Programs|
|Purdue University Global||BSCJ - Crime Scene Investigation||Visit Site|
|Arizona State University||Biochemistry (BS)||Visit Site|
|Arizona State University||Forensic Science (BS)||Visit Site|
|Arizona State University||Forensic Science (PSM)||Visit Site|
|Stevenson University Online||Online Master of Forensic Science (MFS)||Visit Site|
|Stevenson University Online||Online Master's in Crime Scene Investigation||Visit Site|
As mentioned above, Texas hosts four programs accredited by the prestigious Forensic Science Educational Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), which approves programs that meet high standards for academic and professional rigor.
Sam Houston State University (SHSU), located in Huntsville, Texas, the College of Criminal Justice’s Department of Forensic Science was one of the first schools to offer an accredited master’s degree in forensic science. SHSU offers a FEPAC-accredited master of science in forensic science and an undergraduate and doctoral program in the field.
In addition to advanced coursework in instrumental analysis, pattern and physical evidence concepts, and forensic biology, this school places students in supervised internships for practical instruction in controlled substance analysis, firearms, and DNA analyses, among other ideas. Graduates from these programs boast placement rates of more than 90 percent in forensic science laboratories and research positions across the U.S.
Texas A&M University in College Station, located in east-central Texas, offers one of the nation’s only FEPAC-accredited bachelor of science (BS) programs. The forensic and investigative science program is housed within the Department of Entomology and offers two distinct emphases: pre-law and science.
The university offers extensive online syllabi for most of its coursework to give prospective students a flavor for the program. Students in this program are trained to study molecular, organismal, environmental, and ecological evidence and apply their findings to real-world forensics issues.
University of North Texas (UNT)—located in Denton, north of Fort Worth and Dallas—has full FEPAC accreditation for its forensic science certificate in conjunction with its biochemistry, chemistry, and biology bachelor’s programs. After nearly 50 years in operation, UNT offers a 19-semester-hour forensic science curriculum with courtroom testimony, quality assurance, ethics, and forensic microscopy, among other subjects.
Upon completion of the certificate program, students must take the Forensic Science Assessment Test (FSAT) offered by the American Board of Criminalistics to complete the program requirements.
In addition to these FEPAC-accredited options, there are many other degrees and training programs available to aspiring forensic scientists including:
Texas Tech University’s Institute of Forensic Science in Lubbock offers a master of science (MS) in forensic science. In this 45-credit program, students from a variety of undergraduate backgrounds can choose from two tracks: forensic chemistry or forensic investigation.
The former is designed for students who want to work in laboratory settings and have a bachelor’s degree in biology or chemistry. The latter is for those interested in working in the field with a bachelor’s degree in a social science. In addition, these programs are offered by the Department of Environmental Toxicology which also offers a forensic science minor for undergraduate students.
The University of Texas at Austin offers a forensic science certificate through the College of Natural Sciences. This 18-credit program is open to undergraduate students in all majors. Prerequisite courses include introductory biology and chemistry. Internships may be available as part of this certificate program.
Upon competition of the forensic science certificate requirements, transcripts will reflect completion of the certificate and students can list this credential on a resume or CV and many graduates find work in law enforcement, universities, crime laboratories, federal agencies, and hospitals.
Several colleges and universities based in Texas offer online forensics programs and many more in our national database of online forensic science programs. Below are some of those Texas-based schools.
Texas A&M Extension has a number of certificate programs comprising courses approved by the International Association for Identification (IAI) and the International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts. These certificates cover a variety of professions and competencies—forensic technician, forensic investigator levels I & II, major crimes investigator and property, and evidence management—and are approved by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. In addition, some of the courses are offered online, such as basic criminal investigation, death investigation, and basic property technician training.
University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth offers free forensic case samples through the Center for Human Identification (CHI), an accredited forensic laboratory. Additional services are offered at this globally-recognized lab include forensic genetic and anthropological examinations for criminal cases and identifying missing persons.
It is important to note that while most online forensics programs primarily feature courses that can be completed online, some may have an in-person or laboratory component due to the hands-on nature of the field.
The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) is the primary accrediting agency for these types of programs in the country and has approved three programs in Texas. While graduating from a FEPAC-accredited program may not be a prerequisite for employment in Texas, it can indicate a student’s quality of education. FEPAC weighs criteria to gauge a program’s value such as course offerings, faculty research, and physical facilities. However, a program that lacks FEPAC accreditation can still be well-regarded, particularly in the criminal justice and crime scene investigation fields, since FEPAC does not accredit such programs.
In addition to programmatic accreditation from a source like FEPAC, schools should have institutional accreditation. For example, institutions of higher education that confer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in Texas are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
After graduating from a forensic science program and getting some work experience, some professionals choose to get certified in their specialty. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has approved 10 organizations to grant professional certification or licensure across the U.S. The prerequisites to join each of these certifying boards differ but generally involve some measure of educational attainment, work experience, and an exam. Some of the specialty boards include:
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.