Published on June 10, 2024
Edited by Evelyn Keener
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What is Forensic Science?


Pursuing a forensic science degree in Indiana offers a gateway to a dynamic and vital field with a growing demand for skilled professionals. Indiana boasts a variety of educational pathways for those interested in forensic science, catering to a range of specialized interests and career goals. Whether it's criminalistics, forensic biology, or forensic chemistry, the state's academic institutions provide rigorous programs that equip you with the necessary scientific knowledge and practical experience needed to excel.

Forensic science merges science with the justice system and, as you explore degrees in Indiana, you'll have the opportunity to engage with expert faculty and access advanced technology and facilities. Through these programs, you can find yourself working in crime labs, hospitals, or federal agencies. The versatility of a forensic science degree ensures that your career could be as diverse as the field itself, with roles that allow you to contribute to critical aspects of criminal investigations.

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Understanding the Forensic Science Field


As you explore the forensic science field, it's essential to understand the roles and responsibilities that come with this career, as well as how it differs and is tied to related professions, such as forensic pathology or forensic psychology.

Your day-to-day as a forensic scientist involves applying scientific techniques to the analysis of evidence collected from crime scenes. You might specialize in areas like forensic biology or forensic chemistry, where your work directly contributes to piecing together the narrative of a crime.

On the job, you'll engage with a range of duties, such as:

  • Collecting and preserving evidence
  • Conducting laboratory analysis
  • Interpreting data findings
  • Testifying in court as an expert witness

Working in this field requires a delicate balance of fieldwork and lab expertise. With concentrations available in universities across Indiana, such as criminalistics, you are equipped to enter a variety of laboratory-based and advanced forensic careers.

Forensic Scientists vs Forensic Pathologists

Understanding the distinction between your role as a forensic scientist and that of a forensic pathologist could help you make a crucial decision about the direction your career path will take. A forensic scientist often deals with various types of physical evidence, whereas a forensic pathologist focuses primarily on the medical examination of bodies. This is different from a forensic psychologist, who is primarily focused on providing insight into a defendant’s state of mind or whether a ruling of insanity would be warranted in a case. Here are some of the responsibilities of forensic scientists and forensic pathologists.

Forensic Scientist Forensic Pathologist
Analyzes physical evidence from crime scenes Performs autopsies to determine cause of death
May specialize in chemicals, DNA, etc. A subspecialty of pathology
Usually requires a bachelor’s degree Requires a medical degree
Presents findings in court as needed May testify about medical findings in court

While forensic scientists have a broader range of responsibilities that may include analysis of fingerprints, blood spatter, or chemical substances, forensic pathologists concentrate on the medical aspect, deciphering causes of death and providing crucial insights during a legal investigation. Both roles can be vital in solving crimes and contribute differently to the justice system.

Exploring Forensic Science Degrees in Indiana


Indiana offers a variety of educational pathways for you to pursue a career in forensic science. From associate degrees to PhDs, you can find a program that fits your academic and career goals.

Associate Degrees in Forensic Science (AS)

In Indiana, associate degrees in forensic science serve as an introductory platform for your career or further education in the field. These two-year programs typically focus on foundational knowledge in criminal justice and basic scientific principles related to forensics.

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Bachelor's Degrees in Forensic Science (BS)

Completing a bachelor’s degree in forensic science in Indiana provides you with extensive education in various concentrations. For example, Indiana University Northwest offers a Bachelor of Science with specializations in forensic biology, forensic chemistry, and criminalistics. Furthermore, Indiana Tech emphasizes laboratory-based skills preparing you for careers with a median annual salary of around $58,230 for forensic science technicians.

  • Best BS Programs for Forensic Science in Indiana:
    • Indiana University Northwest
    • Indiana Tech
    • IUPUI (FEPAC accredited)
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Master's Degrees in Forensic Science (MS)

Pursuing a master’s degree in forensic science equips you with advanced knowledge and increases your competitiveness in the job market. Having a master’s can lead to senior roles within forensic laboratories or related fields. Indiana offers master’s in forensic science programs from a number of institutions, such as IUPUI.

National Rankings For Online MS In Forensic Science

PhDs in Forensic Science (PhD)

A PhD in forensic science allows you to engage in extensive research and contribute new knowledge to the field. These doctoral programs are designed for individuals aiming to become experts and potentially teach at the collegiate level. You may need to look outside Indiana to find the perfect PhD program in forensic science for you, but potential candidates can find programs that align with their research interests and professional aspirations all over the US.

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Specializations and Certifications


In Indiana, pursuing a degree in forensic science offers you the opportunity to specialize in a variety of areas, each essential to the criminal justice system. These specializations enable you to focus your studies and tailor your expertise to match the specific career path you aim to follow.

Investigative Forensics

If you choose to specialize in investigative forensics, you will gain skills pertinent to collecting and analyzing evidence at crime scenes. Programs like Indiana University Northwest offer a path in criminalistics, which encompasses these vital on-site investigative techniques.

Forensic Chemistry

In the forensic chemistry specialization, your focus will be on the chemical analysis of evidence. This includes understanding the composition of substances and materials to aid criminal investigations. Proficiency in laboratory procedures and analytical equipment is a critical component of this concentration.

Forensic Pathology

Opting for a specialization in forensic pathology will prepare you to determine the causes and circumstances of death. This is especially relevant for cases requiring autopsies and serves a pivotal role in legal inquiries and criminal investigations.

Forensic Toxicology

Specializing in forensic toxicology involves studying the effect of drugs, alcohol, and poisons on the human body. Your expertise in this field is crucial for cases where substance use may have led to impairment or contributed to a person's death.

DNA Analysis

A focus on DNA analysis equips you with the technical ability to analyze genetic material derived from crime scene evidence. The School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Northwest, for example, emphasizes forensic biology as one of its concentrations, preparing you for a pivotal role in the identification of suspects.

Ballistics

By specializing in ballistics, you delve into the examination of firearms, ammunition, and the effects they produce. Your skills will be honed for the analysis of bullet trajectories, impact marks, and firearm operation, all vital for criminal investigations involving shooting incidents.

Career Paths with a Forensic Science Degree


With a forensic science degree from Indiana, you have multiple career avenues to choose from. Each role contributes to the criminal justice system in a unique and scientific way.

Forest and Conservation Workers

As a forest and conservation technician, you’ll apply your scientific knowledge to protect and manage our natural resources. Your forensic science background will be pivotal in investigating environmental crimes and analyzing data related to flora and fauna within forest settings.

Requirements:

High school diploma required with on-the-job training – Growth potential 9% Decline expected

  • Plant seedlings to reforest land
  • Clear brush and debris from trails, roadsides, and camping areas
  • Count and measure trees during tree-measuring efforts
  • Select or cut trees according to markings, sizes, types, or grades
  • Protect plants from disease by spraying trees or injecting vegetation with insecticides, fungicides, or herbicides
  • Identify and remove diseased or undesirable plant life or trees
  • Help prevent and suppress forest fires
  • Maintain equipment to ensure that it operates properly

Mean Annual Wage: $32,270

Life, Physical, and Social Science Technicians

As part of the Life, Physical, and Social Science Technicians category, a forensic science degree equips you to undertake roles involving lab work and evidence analysis.

Jobs in this sector include titles such as:

  • Forensic Science Technician
  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • Laboratory Analyst

These positions typically require detail-oriented individuals who can meticulously apply scientific methodologies to solve crimes.

Requirements:

Bachelor’s degree typically required with on-the-job training – Growth potential 13% (much faster then average)

  • Analyze crime scenes to determine what evidence should be collected and how
  • Take photographs of the crime scene and evidence and make sketches of the crime scene
  • Record observations and findings, such as the location and position of evidence
  • Collect evidence, including weapons, fingerprints, and bodily fluids
  • Catalog and preserve evidence for transfer to crime labs and reconstruct crime scenes

Mean Annual Wage: $63,740

Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers

If you're inclined toward law enforcement with a scientific edge, your degree paves the way to become police and sheriff’s patrol officers. Here, you’re on the front lines, often the first to respond to crime scenes, where you must properly secure evidence and understand its relevance within the broader context of forensic investigation.

Requirements:

High school diploma or associate’s (associate’s or bachelor’s preferred), Growth potential 3%

  • Respond to emergency and nonemergency calls and patrol assigned areas, observing people and activities
  • Conduct traffic stops and issue citations - Search restricted-access databases for vehicle or other records and warrants
  • Obtain and serve warrants for arrests, searches, and other purposes and arrest people suspected of committing crimes
  • Collect and secure evidence from crime scenes
  • Observe the activities of suspects
  • Write detailed reports and fill out forms
  • Prepare cases for legal proceedings and testify in court

Mean Annual Wage: $69,160

Biological Technicians

With a strong foundation in laboratory sciences, as a biological technician in the forensic field, you can assist forensic pathologists by conducting lab tests and experiments. Your work supports the analysis of biological evidence that may be critical to solving crimes and can relate to forensic pathology when involved in post-mortem examinations.

In the state of Indiana, graduates with a forensic science degree might seek additional education to specialize further, such as attending grad schools for forensic science, which can lead to roles like a forensic pathologist — where a forensic pathologist degree is a more specialized credential within the medical field, focusing on determining causes of death.

Requirements:

Bachelor’s degree, Growth potential 5% (faster than average)

  • Set up, maintain, and clean laboratory instruments and equipment, such as microscopes, scales, pipets, and test tubes
  • Gather and prepare biological samples, such as blood, food, and bacteria cultures, for laboratory analysis
  • Conduct biological tests and experiments and document their work - including procedures, observations, and results
  • Analyze experimental data and interpret results and write reports that summarize their findings

Mean Annual Wage: $49,650

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Frequently Asked Questions


What are the requirements to pursue a forensic science degree in Indiana?

To pursue a forensic science degree in Indiana, you typically need a high school diploma or equivalent as a foundation. You'll also need to meet any specific admission criteria set by the institution, which may include SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.

Can forensic science degrees be obtained online from institutions in Indiana?

While hands-on experience is crucial in this field, some institutions may offer hybrid programs that combine online coursework with in-person labs or internships. You will need to check with individual colleges to see if fully online forensic science degrees are available.

How does one become a forensic scientist in Indiana?

To become a forensic scientist in Indiana, you typically begin with obtaining a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related field. After education, gaining practical experience through internships or entry-level positions in labs, crime labs, or other law enforcement agencies is essential.

What are the career prospects and potential salary for graduates with a forensic science degree in Indiana?

The career prospects in forensic science are positive, with growth expected in the field. In Indiana, the median entry-level pay for forensic science technicians is around $62,000, though this can vary based on experience and the specific job market. The national average annual salary for forensic science technicians is approximately $69,260.

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