How to become a Forensic Scientist

This article provides in-depth information into What is a Forensic Scientist? What Forensic Scientists do? Degrees for Forensic Scientists, Steps to become Forensic Scientist and much more.

A forensic scientist collects evidence and analyzes the evidence in a laboratory and summarizes their findings in written reports. They often testify in court, particularly if they have specialized areas of expertise such as fingerprinting, biochemistry, DNA analysis, blood spatter patterns, chromatography analysis, or handwriting analysis. To become a forensic scientist, you must complete the steps and requirements in order to achieve success.

What does a Forensic Scientist do ?

A forensic scientist provides impartial scientific evidence for use in courts of law to support the prosecution or defense in criminal and civil investigations.

  • Analyses samples, for example, hair, body liquids, glass, paint, and medications, in the research facility.

  • Apply techniques such as gas and high-performance liquid chromatography, scanning Electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy and genetic fingerprinting

  • Sift and sort evidence, frequently held in minuscule quantities

  • Record findings and collect trace evidence from scenes of crimes or accidents

  • Attend and examine scenes of crimes

  • Liaise with team members and coordinate with outside agencies such as the police

  • Analyse and interpret results and computer data

  • Review and supervise the work of assistants

  • Present the results of your work in written form or by giving oral evidence

  • Justify findings under cross-examination in courts of law

  • Research and develop new forensic techniques.

Steps for becoming a Forensic Scientist


Earn A Bachelor’s Degree

To become a forensic scientist a student should pursue a bachelor’s degree. There are some programs where students can earn a forensic science degree but degrees in one of the natural sciences are also applicable. 

Although requirements for entry-level or trainee work in one of the forensic science disciplines often vary according to the law enforcement or governmental agency, the majority of employers require, at a minimum, an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university.


Earn A Master’s Degree

Some jobs in forensic science require a master’s degree and specialized training. For these jobs, students have to complete a master’s degree in forensic science. Earning a degree from a college known for its forensic science program can help improve your marketability. 

Most people who advance in their forensic science careers hold a master’s degree in forensic science.


Pursue An Internship

Whether you’re still pursuing a forensic science degree or recently earned one, an internship in a crime lab working as a forensic science technician is a great way to gain experience.

Look for opportunities to work in forensic science, either in the law enforcement field or in fields that do similar work. The experience you gain can help you choose a specialization and improve your marketability when you apply for full-time jobs.


Gain Experience

Once you land a job, you’ll work under the supervision of a senior forensic scientist. You can work with the senior forensic scientist to get on-the-job training and to learn more about your chosen field and specializations.

Some companies will pay for you to continue your education or provide on-the-job training that you can use to advance your career. Take every opportunity you can to learn more about forensic science and to grow your skill set.


Pursue Professional Certification

Certifications are one of the best ways to learn more and to show your skills. Even once you have a degree in forensic science, certifications can teach you about specific aspects of the field and give you a way to show your specializations. Some employers even require their forensic scientists to hold certain certifications.

Even if your employer doesn’t require certifications, earning a certificate can help you advance in your career and may help you find another job if you decide to change employers.

Forensic Scientist Salaries

Forensic Scientist

Forensic Scientist Degree Levels


You can earn a bachelor’s degree in forensic science if you attend a college with a forensic science program. Some students instead opt for a degree in a science like biology or chemistry which can apply to the field of forensic science.

Some forensic science bachelor’s degrees allow students to take additional courses and electives to focus on a specific area of forensic science, such as DNA, trace evidence, or ballistics.

Molecular biology
  • Genomics & Post-Genomics

  • DNA Replication

  • Retroviral & HIV molecular biology

  • To study about nucleic acid structure

  • The mechanics of replication in bacteria

  • Repair, transcription, and translation in bacteria

Forensic biochemistry
  • Statistics

  • Spectroscopy

  • Analysis of Forensic Samples

  • Analysing forensic samples

  • Review the existing scientific literature

  • Apply modern methods of forensic analysis

  • The Bacterial Cell

  • Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology

  • Molecular Regulation

  • Provide a conceptual and experimental background in microbiology

  • Comparative characteristics of microbial organisms

  • Physical and chemical microbial control


A master’s degree in forensic science provides students with the opportunity to focus their forensic science careers on a specific area of forensic science. Many individuals seek master’s degrees to make them more marketable to employers or to help them advance in their careers.

  • Crime Scene Investigation

  • Organic and Inorganic Analysis

  • Bloodstain pattern analysis

  • To learn recognition and analysis of physical evidence

  • examinations of criminal cases

  • Reporting in criminal law

Forensic Biology
  • History & Basic Genetics

  • DNA Extraction & Quantitation

  • DNA Statistics

  • To explores fundamental procedures of DNA technology

  • Application of DNA to forensic settings (human and non-human)

  • Collect, analyze, and present information

Biomedical Forensic Science
  • Forensic Genetics and Medicine

  • Genomic and epigenomic medicine

  • Analytical Toxicology

  • Basic biomedical knowledge in the legal system

  • Human biological evidence

  • Bloodstain pattern analysis


Ph.D. programs are generally reserved for advanced study in forensic chemistry, forensic biology, and forensic biochemistry. This makes them ideal for individuals interested in pursuing scholarly work or teaching opportunities.

However, some people who want to advance to the top levels of their careers may pursue a doctorate and continue to work outside of academia.

Crime Scene Reconstruction
  • Testimony

  • Photography

  • Diagramming

  • Effective crime  scene management

  • Comprehensive and accurate analysis of evidence

  • Objective analysis of evidence

Forensic Toxicology
  • Pharmacokinetics and Metabolism

  • Workplace Drug Testing

  • Quality Control and Assessment

  • The study of drugs

  • Implications of drugs in a forensic setting

  • Classification of poisons

Criminal Law & Ethics
  • Criminal Law and Procedure

  • Criminal Responsibility

  • Imputability

  • Explores elements of crimes against property

  • Principles and theories of responsibility

  • Legal concepts and their practical application


Certificates in forensic science are often pursued by individuals who want to supplement their main degree program. 

Graduate certificates in forensic science are ideal for those who already possess a bachelor’s degree in natural science or for professionals already employed in the forensic science field.

Certificates are also a popular way to learn more about a specific subfield of forensic science. You can use the certificates you earn to show your expertise and specializations to prospective employers.

Forensic Trace Analysis
  • Fingerprint Comparison & Background

  • Physical Patterns Shoeprints

  • Glass Evidence Analysis

  • Impression and trace evidence analysis

  • Securing a crime scene

  • Various types of evidence

Forensic Serology
  • Advanced body fluid identification techniques

  • DNA introduction

  • Biological Evidence

  • Contemporary forensic biochemistry

  • Collection, examination, and preservation of evidence

  • Evidentiary value

Human Molecular Biology
  • Molecular genetics theory

  • Haploid and diploid organisms

  • Evaluate scientific reports

  • Microbiological techniques

  • Coli as a model system

  • Geological and biological evolution

Forensic scientist careers

There are many careers available to students who study forensic science. Many of these careers involve working in law enforcement, criminal justice, or another field where you need to investigate something to put together a story as to what happened.

Forensic science technicians

A forensic science technician is something of a jack-of-all-trades. 

These people help with criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence. You’ll need to know many different forensic techniques and gain experience in many forensic disciplines, making a job as a forensic technician a great starting role for people interested in such topics.

Depending on where you end up, you may also have to do some work as a crime scene investigator. You’ll need a good eye for detail so that you can find clues to analyze. You may also find yourself serving as an expert witness during a trial where the evidence you’ve analyzed can make or break a case.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, forensic science technicians earn a median salary of just over $60,000 per year.

Forensic pathologist

A forensic pathologist is responsible for determining the cause of a person’s death, especially when it is unexpected, sudden, or if there is evidence of foul play.

This career involves both fieldwork, visiting the place where the deceased was before they died, and lab work. You’ll need an eye for detail as well as medical experience so that you can perform an autopsy and medical examination on the body.

In many states, if you want to work as a coroner in a morgue, you must be certified as a forensic pathologist.

The median forensic pathologist earns about $104,000 per year.

Forensic document examiner 

Forensic document examiners analyze and research documents to determine their legitimacy. For example, a document examiner may have to look at financial records, checks, a handwritten will, or letters to determine who wrote them and when.

Some forensic document examiners specialize in determining whether historical texts are authentic.

Often, document examiners work closely with law enforcement agents and insurance companies who are trying to identify and stop fraud.
The average forensic document examiner earns about $46,544 per year.

Forensic chemist

Forensic chemists examine different types of physical evidence left at crime scenes to help paint a clearer picture as to what happened. Many TV shows have put a spotlight on the field, which has drawn many people interested in criminal justice and science to a career as a forensic chemist.

If you choose this career, you’ll generally be working in a lab analyzing physical evidence such as glass or gunshot residue.

The median salary for a forensic chemist is about $53,073 per year.

Forensic biologist

Where forensic chemists analyze chemical samples left at crime scenes, forensic biologists analyze biological samples, such as blood, hair, plant or animal matter, and DNA.

Some forensic biologists may choose to specialize in specific fields, like forensic botany or forensic pathology, but most will spend their time working in a lab testing and analyzing samples from crime scenes.

The average forensic biologist makes $72,138 per year.

Forensic psychologist 

If you have an interest in criminal justice and psychology, you may want to consider a career as a forensic psychologist. 

These psychologists spend much of their time working with people who are involved with the criminal justice system, whether as witnesses, suspects, or people who are in jail. 

One of the best-known roles of forensic psychologists is trying to establish a suspect’s motives and whether they were of sound mind at the time they committed a crime. They also get involved during child custody cases, counsel victims of crimes, and evaluate different treatment programs offered to both adult and child offenders.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average psychologist, including forensic psychologists, makes $82,180 per year.


Forensic science is an exciting field with many different specialties and career paths. Whether your strengths lie in hard sciences, thorough research, or working with people, you can find a career in the world of forensic science.

If you’re interested in studying forensic science, there are many schools that offer relevant courses. If you’re interested in online schools, you can check out our list of the best online colleges.