Career Paths With a Forensic Science Degree in Law Enforcement

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Key Infor­ma­tion:

  • Foren­sic sci­ence com­bines sci­ence and law to solve crimes and prove innocence.
  • There is a grow­ing demand for foren­sic sci­en­tists, with job growth expect­ed to be 13% through the ear­ly 2030s.
  • A foren­sic sci­ence degree can lead to careers such as foren­sic ana­lyst, crime scene inves­ti­ga­tor, and foren­sic pathol­o­gist.
  • Emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies like DNA sequenc­ing and dig­i­tal analy­sis tools are mak­ing foren­sic inves­ti­ga­tions more accu­rate and reliable.

Foren­sic sci­ence exists at the inter­sec­tion of sci­ence and the law. On the one hand, foren­sic sci­ence is the process of apply­ing sci­en­tif­ic meth­ods to crime inves­ti­ga­tions. On the oth­er hand, foren­sic sci­ence tech­niques can also be used to pros­e­cute crimes or prove a defendant’s innocence.

In oth­er words, foren­sic sci­ence is an excit­ing career with many pos­si­ble appli­ca­tions in law enforcement!

Bet­ter still, there is a grow­ing demand for qual­i­fied foren­sic sci­en­tists in law enforce­ment. Accord­ing to the Bureau of Labor Sta­tis­tics (BLS), foren­sic sci­ence careers are expect­ed to grow at an annu­al rate of 13 per­cent through the ear­ly 2030s. That’s good news for some­one like you con­sid­er­ing careers in foren­sic analy­sis and relat­ed fields.


Educational Requirements for a Career in Forensic Science

A bachelor’s degree sat­is­fies foren­sic sci­ence edu­ca­tion require­ments in most cas­es. Pop­u­lar under­grad­u­ate majors for this career include foren­sic sci­ence, biol­o­gy, and phys­i­cal sci­ence. Addi­tion­al train­ing or cer­ti­fi­ca­tions might also be required, depend­ing on the specifics of the job.

For exam­ple, your foren­sic sci­ence train­ing might need sup­ple­men­tal edu­ca­tion in law enforce­ment or legal stud­ies. Like­wise, you might need job-spe­cif­ic train­ing in areas such as:

  • Foren­sic Pathology
  • Dig­i­tal Forensics
  • Foren­sic Psychology
  • Foren­sic Toxicology
  • Crime Scene Analysis

A bachelor’s degree usu­al­ly takes four years to com­plete. With addi­tion­al cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and train­ing, you might need six or so years to acquire the need­ed edu­ca­tion and expe­ri­ence for careers in this field.

Career Opportunities in Forensic Science

As men­tioned ear­li­er, foren­sic sci­ence is a broad field with many spe­cial­iza­tions and appli­ca­tions. The table below sum­ma­rizes some of the most pop­u­lar and impor­tant careers in foren­sic sci­ence.

Job TitlePri­ma­ry Duties and Responsibilities
Foren­sic AnalystForen­sic ana­lysts col­lect, process, and ana­lyze crime scene evi­dence like fin­ger­prints, bal­lis­tics, and blood. Spe­cial­iza­tion is com­mon in areas like dig­i­tal analy­sis, blood spat­ter analy­sis, and DNA analysis.
Crime Scene InvestigatorCrime scene inves­ti­ga­tor jobs usu­al­ly revolve around col­lect­ing and ana­lyz­ing phys­i­cal evi­dence found at crime scenes, like fin­ger­prints, DNA, and weapons. They also doc­u­ment the scene, mark­ing impor­tant pieces of evi­dence, tak­ing mea­sure­ments, and pho­tograph­ing the scene.
Foren­sic PathologistForen­sic pathol­o­gy careers require a med­ical degree to deter­mine the man­ner and cause of a person’s death. They per­form foren­sic eval­u­a­tions of the body, includ­ing autop­sies, to con­clude if a death was by acci­dent, homi­cide, sui­cide, or oth­er causes.
Dig­i­tal Foren­sics AnalystDig­i­tal foren­sics roles include ana­lyz­ing dig­i­tal evi­dence from phones and com­put­ers; recov­er­ing lost, dam­aged, or manip­u­lat­ed data; and track­ing suspect’s move­ments through GPS, dig­i­tal finan­cial trans­ac­tions, and oth­er dig­i­tal trails.
Foren­sic ToxicologistA foren­sic tox­i­col­o­gist ana­lyzes tis­sues and body flu­ids like blood and urine to deter­mine the pres­ence of drugs or oth­er for­eign sub­stances in the body. The foren­sic tox­i­col­o­gy field is impor­tant in law enforce­ment because it can help deter­mine a person’s cause of death or explain their behav­ior pri­or to their death.
Foren­sic PsychologistForen­sic psy­chol­o­gy careers blend the study of human behav­ior and the law. Foren­sic psy­chol­o­gists work in many areas, from behav­ioral research to for­mu­lat­ing pro­files of sus­pects to con­duct­ing crim­i­nal eval­u­a­tions of defen­dants. Some foren­sic psy­chol­o­gists also train law enforce­ment, pro­vide coun­sel­ing for crime vic­tims, and con­sult with attor­neys on issues of com­pe­tence for tri­al and jury selection.

Advanced Roles and Specializations

The foren­sic sci­ence job mar­ket is rife with oppor­tu­ni­ties. The table above is proof pos­i­tive of that! But addi­tion­al advanced roles and spe­cial­iza­tions are also avail­able, pre­sent­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to con­cen­trate your work in a high­ly spe­cif­ic area. Pos­si­ble roles might include:

  • Foren­sic Lab Director
  • Lead Foren­sic Investigator
  • Foren­sic Engineer
  • Foren­sic Odon­tol­ogy (den­tistry)
  • Foren­sic Nursing

While some of these spe­cial­iza­tions might not direct­ly relate to a law enforce­ment career, the exper­tise of peo­ple in these fields is crit­i­cal for police inves­ti­ga­tions and build­ing cas­es against suspects.

An excit­ing com­po­nent of work­ing in this field is the foren­sic sci­ence tech­nol­o­gy trends that make inves­ti­ga­tions even more powerful.

A good exam­ple of this is DNA sequenc­ing, a process in which the sequences of mate­r­i­al in DNA are pre­cise­ly deter­mined. This tech­nol­o­gy has vast­ly improved over the years and allows foren­sic sci­en­tists to deter­mine every­thing from a suspect’s iden­ti­ty to the cause of a victim’s death.

Anoth­er great exam­ple of emerg­ing foren­sic sci­ence tech­nolo­gies is dig­i­tal analy­sis tools like Com­put­er-Aid­ed Inves­tiga­tive Envi­ron­ment (CAINE). This plat­form allows foren­sics experts to use mul­ti­ple tools to con­duct inves­ti­ga­tions and then col­lect, pre­serve, and ana­lyze data in a user-friend­ly format.

These and oth­er tools not only make the task of foren­sic inves­ti­ga­tions eas­i­er, but they also increase the reli­a­bil­i­ty, valid­i­ty, and accu­ra­cy of the con­clu­sions inves­ti­ga­tors make. Like­wise, with so many tools avail­able in this field, it’s easy to spe­cial­ize your skills for CSI careers, DNA analy­sis careers, cyber foren­sics jobs, and so forth.

Challenges and Rewards of a Forensic Science Career

Work­ing in foren­sic sci­ence can be incred­i­bly sat­is­fy­ing. After all, the work you do can be used to help catch and pros­e­cute crim­i­nals. At the same time, your work can help prove that some­one didn’t com­mit a crime.

Fur­ther­more, a foren­sic sci­ence career enables you to make pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions in a vari­ety of ways. Your work can make inves­ti­ga­tors’ jobs eas­i­er. It can also con­tribute to a safer com­mu­ni­ty. The exper­tise you devel­op through­out your career can also help advance the careers of oth­ers through teach­ing and train­ing future foren­sic scientists.

How­ev­er, this job is not with­out its chal­lenges. You’ll often work nights, week­ends, and hol­i­days. It’s a phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing job, too, with a lot of time on your feet. This is to say noth­ing of the extreme emo­tion­al effects a job like this can have. You will be privy to crime scene details, autop­sy pho­tos, and oth­er evi­dence that can be extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to forget.

Preparing for a Career in Forensic Science

Ear­li­er, it was not­ed that a bachelor’s degree is typ­i­cal­ly need­ed for a career in this field. But oth­er steps are need­ed to ensure you’re ready for a career after you grad­u­ate from college:

  • Par­tic­i­pate in practicum or intern­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties in col­lege. Doing so allows you to apply what you’ve learned in class in a real-world setting.
  • Net­work at every oppor­tu­ni­ty. This includes attend­ing job fairs and attend­ing con­fer­ences of pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tions. The more you net­work, the more like­ly you are to find employ­ment quick­ly. In some cas­es, you might land a job before fin­ish­ing your degree!
  • Con­tin­u­ous­ly seek new oppor­tu­ni­ties to learn. Foren­sic sci­ence is a cut­ting-edge field, so stay­ing abreast of new tech­nolo­gies, tech­niques, and prac­tices will help you pre­pare for your career.


It should be clear now that not all law enforce­ment degrees have to be in crim­i­nal jus­tice. Instead, you can use your inter­est and pas­sion for sci­ence to forge a path to a mean­ing­ful career sup­port­ing police inves­ti­ga­tions. In fact, the work of foren­sic sci­en­tists is as impor­tant to the admin­is­tra­tion of jus­tice as police mak­ing arrests and attor­neys pros­e­cut­ing a case — arrests and suc­cess­ful pros­e­cu­tions can’t be done with­out prop­er evidence.

This guide is a good first step in learn­ing how to use a foren­sic sci­ence degree to pur­sue a law enforce­ment career. The next step is to more clear­ly define the type of foren­sic sci­ence job you want and how to obtain the prop­er qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Speak­ing with teach­ers, pro­fes­sors, law enforce­ment pro­fes­sion­als, or expe­ri­enced foren­sic sci­en­tists can help you nar­row your focus and get you on a path to achiev­ing your career goals!