Forensic scientists need training in both law enforcement and science. Some prepare by obtaining degrees that focus on criminal investigation, while others pursue a science degree supplemented by legal training. Educational requirements vary widely by employer, with some smaller law enforcement agencies adopting more lenient requirements and allowing a significant amount of on-the-job training.
Forensic scientists who work in a lab analyzing evidence and samples need a degree in the scientific discipline in which they specialize. For example, someone who performs DNA testing needs a biology degree, while someone who conducts testing on trace evidence such as fiber or hair samples needs a degree in chemistry. The Florida State University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice suggests chemistry as the best overall major for aspiring forensic scientists, adding that students should take elective courses related to the field they wish to specialize in. A forensic scientist specializing in DNA testing should supplement a biology degree with courses in genetics and biochemistry.
Many universities offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs in forensic investigation or forensic science. While not a requirement for a forensic science career, these programs help students understand how to apply a scientific discipline such as chemistry or biology to the legal field. For example, students learn how to present evidence in court. Florida State University recommends students pursue a science degree first to gain a thorough understanding of basic scientific principles, followed by a graduate degree in forensics to prepare them for working within the legal system.
Related Reading: What Classes Do You Need to Take to Become a Forensic Anthropologist?
You might also like: