How Long Does It Take To Become A Forensic Scientist?

Everyone who enjoys criminal justice, forensics, or true crime has thought of becoming a forensic scientist. Whatever the motivation for your interest, being a forensic scientist can result in a fantastic and fulfilling profession. 

Being a forensic scientist is an interesting and worthwhile career choice because they are crucial to investigating crimes.

All you need to know about forensic scientists: the educational requirements, salary, job outlook, and the answer to the question, “How long does it take to become a forensic scientist?’ will be answered in this article. 

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What is a Forensic Scientist School Like?

Experts who deal primarily with law enforcement authorities are forensic scientists. They are primarily responsible for gathering and evaluating evidence to assist law enforcement in concluding criminal investigations. They frequently focus on two primary topics: 

  • Investigation of crime scenes. 
  • lab analysis of the relevant data

The term “forensic scientist” can refer to a variety of occupations. However, the focus of this section will be on forensic science technicians. New forensic science technicians should have at least a bachelor’s degree to have the best chance of finding employment. 

Forensic scientists are typically not required to be certified or licensed by law. Creating a Crime Scene Certification Committee in Indiana, specifically for the certification of crime scene investigators, raises the possibility that other states will adopt similar standards for licensure. 

Many forensic scientists choose to acquire certification in their chosen specialty in addition to legal certification to increase their career options. 

Certifications in forensic toxicology, criminalistics, and document analysis are accredited by the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB).

The prerequisites for each of these certifications vary, so anyone interested in obtaining one should research them.

Experts agree that a forensic science degree is advantageous when applying for positions in that profession, even though it is feasible to become a forensic scientist with a degree in a related academic topic. 

Experts advise that graduate-level credentials might improve someone’s chances of career growth because technical lead roles frequently need a master’s, and some lab director positions cannot be obtained without a Ph.D., according to experts. 

Students majoring in forensic science should expect to take various science courses, such as genetics, biochemistry, and microscopy. They should plan on spending a lot of time in the lab. They often also learn to write forensic reports and adhere to lab procedures. 

In forensic science graduate degrees, students typically focus on a specific branch of the field, like forensic biology or forensic chemistry.

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Is Attending a Forensic Scientist School Worth it?

The study of crimes, evidence, and legal processes is known as “forensic science.” It is a field with great possibilities for specialization and significant financial rewards. Knowing about the range of career possibilities this field offers and its prospects may be helpful if you’re interested in it.

Because it might help them prepare for their future roles and might be a requirement for a career as a forensic scientist, students may think that earning a degree in forensic science is worth the time, effort, and financial investment.

The right job choice is to work as a forensic scientist. The moment is now for anyone with the abilities and passion for the task. There is no reason not to pursue a career as a forensic scientist, given the field’s tremendous growth and lucrative salary.

What Schooling Do I Need to Become a Forensic Scientist?

Step 1: Complete your undergraduate studies 

The first step toward becoming a forensic scientist is earning an undergraduate degree. While some positions allow candidates with only an associate’s degree, most call for a bachelor’s. A bachelor’s degree is the best option if you are unclear about where you want to apply. 

A lot of forensic scientists opt to first get an Associate Degree in Criminal Investigation before going on to finish a Forensic Science Bachelor’s Degree. Additionally, there are alternatives to studying forensic science at both levels. 

Whatever path you select, enroll in as many science classes as possible because they will be very helpful to your profession.

Step 2: Get an advanced degree. 

Even though it’s not always required, getting a graduate degree is wise to ensure your job advancement. You will probably have no trouble finding work even if you decide not to pursue a higher degree, but it will be simpler to show prospective employers that you have a master’s or doctoral degree. 

If you choose to pursue a graduate degree, research the level of education needed for the job you want to apply for before selecting a school.

 If you don’t have to go that far, you might not be interested in spending more money, even if you desire to acquire a doctorate regardless of the criteria.

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Step 3: Workplace Training 

On-the-job training is the most effective method of learning, particularly in forensics. Learning concepts and techniques in a classroom setting is one thing; applying what you have learned at a real crime scene is quite another. 

It is possible to recreate murder scenes in a classroom, but it is challenging to duplicate the genuine thing. You will learn just as much in your first year or two of employment as you will in your time at work. 

If you decide to pursue higher positions or various types of employment, this helps you be more prepared for them.

Step 4: Acquire Certifications and Credentials (optional) 

Forensic scientists must obtain specialist certificates in some states and jurisdictions. While it’s not always necessary, qualifications make you more attractive to companies and can significantly advance your career. 

You might obtain numerous certifications based on your hobbies and areas of concentration. Examining fire debris, paints and polymers, hairs and fibers, and molecular biology are a few of the most well-known ones.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Forensic Scientist?

Law enforcement and forensic scientists collaborate to store, examine, and investigate crime scenes. A minimum 4-year bachelor’s degree in forensic sciences or a closely related discipline is required, as well as one to two years of relevant professional experience, to become a forensic scientist.

 A professional certification typically takes one year or longer if you plan to pursue further education.

It takes two years to earn an associate’s degree in forensic science, four years to earn a bachelor’s, and one to two years to earn a master’s. Completing a bachelor’s degree, which takes 5–6 years of study, is a prerequisite for receiving a master’s.

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How Much  Does it Cost to Become a Forensic Scientist?

A bachelor’s degree in forensic science and technology typically costs around $33,000 per year for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and room and board.

 However, the annual estimates for these costs might range from $11,000 to over $54,000. A Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with Forensic Sciences at the University of Houston Downtown costs $5,516 per year in in-state tuition and $14,204 per year for out-of-state students. 

The price of books and supplies is $1,167, whereas the annual cost of living for people living alone is $8,532. The budget for personal spending is $3,926, while the budget for transportation costs is $2,844.

Meanwhile, at the University of New Haven, A bachelor’s degree in forensic science and technology normally costs roughly $33,000 per year, including tuition, fees, books, supplies, lodging, and board. 

However, the annual estimates for these expenses might range from $11,000 to more than $54,000. The University of Houston Downtown charges an in-state tuition rate of $5,516 per year and an out-of-state tuition rate of $14,204 per year for its Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with Forensic Sciences program. 

Books and supplies cost $1,167, but a single person’s annual cost of living is $8,532. The budget for personal expenses is $3,926, while the budget for transportation expenses is $2,844. The annual tuition for full-time students for the Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science is $16,665.

Depending on the type of lodging, residential housing room fees can range from $4,530 to $5,275 per semester, while the cost of meals is roughly $2,625 per semester.

A post-baccalaureate certificate, which can be earned in one year or less, is an option if you already hold a bachelor’s degree in another discipline but wish to receive forensic training. 

For instance, Hamline University provides a post-baccalaureate degree in criminal justice and forensic science that can be completed in 16 months. 

The program’s total cost for tuition, fees, books, and materials is $25,300. For the duration of the program, those who desire on-campus housing and food must pay $18,200.

Salary and Job Outlook for Forensic Scientists After Study

A degree in forensic science can lead to various jobs, each of which calls for a particular set of educational qualifications. Careers in forensic science with little schooling still pay well. 

Some holders of forensic science associate degrees work as paralegals. According to the BLS, the median annual compensation for paralegals and legal assistants is $51,740. 

Learners should complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree in forensic science to enhance earnings and job possibilities. According to the BLS, forensic scientists make a median salary of $59,150. 

Information security analysts could be employed after graduating from forensic science programs with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. 

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for information security analysts is $99,730, and employment is expected to expand by 32% between 2018 and 2028.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2021) reports that forensic science technicians are paid well nationwide. The average annual wage (annual mean wage) for the 17,020 forensic science technicians in the US was $66,850, much higher than the average annual wage for all jobs in the country, which was $58,260. (BLS May 2021). 

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The BLS offers a salary range breakdown for forensic science technicians due to the fact that salaries can vary by geography, experience, education, and other criteria.

Frequently Asked Questions

How difficult is it to find work as a forensic scientist?

Finding a career in the highly competitive profession of forensic science can be challenging. Having advanced training and certificates can be quite beneficial. 

Is it risky to work as a forensic scientist? 

In addition to spending a lot of time in laboratories and among potentially hazardous chemicals, forensic experts also frequently visit crime scenes. 

Where are forensic scientists most successful financially? 

Forensic scientists are typically paid the highest in California’s cities. 

Does the FBI employ forensic researchers? 

The FBI does employ forensic scientists, but the jobs are competitive.

Which professions offer employment chances to forensic scientists? 

Typically, forensic scientists work for regional or local governments. This involves working for crime scene investigators, often known as CSI, and criminal justice departments. The field of forensics is crucial to both legal and medical endeavors. These researchers collaborate with the police and paralegals as well.


A bachelor’s degree in forensic science takes four years to finish, a master’s degree takes one to two years, and an associate’s degree takes two years to accomplish. 

A bachelor’s degree requires five to six years of study before earning a graduate degree. In addition, some students take a break between their two degrees to work.

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