At first glance, forensic science sounds like a very unfamiliar and distant concept. One way that the majority of people are introduced to this subject is through popular culture, wherein the application of forensic science is often seen in crime or law-related television shows and movies wherein crime scenes are investigated or certain situations and material are examined in order to provide evidence in court proceedings.
A succinct definition of forensic science (as used by Staffordshire University) is “any science used for the purposes of the law.” With this definition, one could easily tell that it is a field that deals with multiple disciplines and subjects, including biology, physics, psychology and chemistry.
Highlighted courses and degrees in Forensic Science
A significant number of institutions have general education requirements for most bachelor degree programs. General education courses include basic or introductory topics on natural sciences, mathematics, economics and humanities.
As mentioned, forensic science covers multiple subjects, and this is reflected in the curriculum of most universities and colleges offering a degree on it. Core subjects are likely to tackle biology, chemistry, anatomy, physics and various social sciences. Programs also include several law courses. Because of the nature of the field, students are likely required to participate in laboratory based classes.
Coursework for this degree may include written exams, research projects, case studies, presentations, and group work. An emphasis on data collection and analysis is expected. In the latter years of the program, a placement or internship may be required. Some institutions also require a major project or thesis to complete the degree.
Most universities provide specialisation options for their students, either through optional electives or as a mandatory part of the degree program. Availability of specialisations would also depend on the offerings of each university.
Below is a short list of forensic science degree specialisations offered by different institutions:
It is also worth noting that some institutions offer forensic science as a specialisation of other degree programs related to criminal justice.
The accreditation of a degree usually depends on the country where the degree is awarded. In most cases, countries have their own accreditation systems for universities, students and graduates.
Being a multidisciplinary subject, graduates of degree programs focusing on forensic science can end up in different professional positions and areas. As such, there is no universal licensing or certification that forensic science degree graduates must obtain to be able to find a position in the field.
A bachelor’s degree in forensic science can typically take around three to four years of full-time study. The exact period of time would depend on the university of your choice and the country wherein it is located.
There are also various degrees available for forensic science graduates at the graduate level. Master’s programs are available for those looking to deepen their knowledge of the field. Acceptance into crime and forensic science degree programs normally depends on the applicant’s previous education (level of attainment and GPA) and professional experience. These programs take one to two years to complete.
Entrance into a forensic science degree program varies from institution to institution. Some universities may require applicants to take an entrance exam, while some will take into consideration national or standard exams. A number of universities also take into consideration advanced placement exams, while some consider transfer credits for post-secondary students or applicants.
Some forensic science degree programs have a grade requirement, either from the entrance or standard exam, from previous courses taken in secondary school. High marks in subjects such as biology and chemistry as well as proof of basic numeracy skills may be a good boost to an application. Various leadership experiences and letters of recommendation may also be taken into consideration. Some institutions also require a letter of intent or an application essay in addition to an admissions interview. For international applicants, an additional requirement may be a proof of English proficiency.
For a complete list of requirements, you are advised to check out or contact the institution you are interested in applying to.
If you do not meet the entry requirements you may want to consider a pathway course.
Individuals holding a forensic science degree can pursue positions in crime laboratories, police departments, law firms and medical examination offices. With their qualifications, they can work as forensic science technicians, analytical chemists, toxicologists and crime scene investigators. A percentage of graduates pursue careers in the police force and government agencies.
Forensic science graduates will find that transferable skills gained throughout the degree program can be applied in pursuing their chosen career paths. These include the ability to work independently as well as part of a team, efficient verbal and written communication, logical and methodical thinking and argumentation and attention to detail.
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