Associates in Forensic Science Degrees & Schools Guide

Associates Degree in Forensic Science Career Options & Salary

Overview of an Associates in Forensic Science


If you're hooked on TV shows such as CSI and Forensic Files you may be considering a career in forensic science. An associate degree can be your first step in entering the field of forensics as it will give you valuable insights into the field as well as a solid foundation on which to build your education.

Forensic science is a division of criminal justice and that is the degree field you will need to enroll in. There are many aspects to forensics and many careers to choose from within the field. It can be a confusing subject to navigate, and the following information will give you valuable insight on important topics you should know when considering an Associate Degree in Forensic Science.

Criminal Justice & Law Degrees & Career Paths


PROS

  • An associate degree will give you exposure to various aspects of the criminal justice system and an inside view of the world of forensics.
  • Your associate degree will allow you to explore different careers within the field so you can zero in on your ideal area of forensic work.
  • An associate degree makes you more valuable to employers and you will most likely earn more than a coworker with no degree, regardless of your occupation.
  • When choosing between two equal job applicants, employers almost always choose the one with a degree over the one who only holds a high school diploma.
  • A career in forensics is an excellent way to make a difference in the world, as your work could be the driving factor in putting a criminal behind bars.
  • The field of forensics is growing, so you will most likely have no problem finding a job and advancing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a national growth of 17% in the next 10 years, which is much higher than the national average for all occupations.

CONS

  • Your associate degree won't qualify you for many positions within the field of forensics. On the associate level, forensics is taught as part of a criminal justice program, so you'll only be exposed to a small percentage of actual forensic coursework.
  • Most jobs in the field of forensics require at least a bachelor’s degree and higher positions will require a master's degree or doctorate. This is because those who work in forensic careers are often called to testify in a court of law and must show they are experts in their field.
  • Many positions in forensics carry the risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals as well as drugs that may have been confiscated at a crime scene.
  • You will need to undergo extensive background and psychological testing as part of the hiring process for forensic positions.
  • Careers in forensics can be stressful and if your work involves crime scenes you may be exposed to horrific scenarios.

Certificate vs. Associates


In the field of forensics, a certificate program is useful to someone who holds a degree in a field other than criminal justice. Because most entry-level jobs require at least a bachelor degree, you may not qualify for a certificate program; if you do you should make sure the credits will transfer to a bachelor’s degree program at a later date.

Certificate programs are different than certification. The Forensic Science Accreditation Board (FSAB) accredits several certifications for professionals in the field; these are designed to show expertise in a specific area of forensics, such as crime scene investigation or crime scene analysis.

What Forensic Science Associate Degrees are Available?


There are three types of associate degrees, and you will find criminal justice/forensics degree programs of all three types:

  • Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

An AA will give you more leeway in your choice of electives and may be a good choice in a criminal justice program that offers a wide range of forensics electives. An AS degree will have a narrow choice of courses you can take as electives but may be an excellent degree choice if the electives are subjects you wish to take anyway. Both the AA and the AS are designed to transfer smoothly to a four-year bachelor’s degree program.

An AAS degree is designed for immediate entry into the workforce and may work for you if you need to find employment in a short period of time. The downside is the AAS is not designed for transfer to a four-year program, so if you're considering an AAS program you should look closely on whether all of your credits will be accepted when you return to school for your four-year degree.

Here are some sample degree titles from various schools:

  • Associate in Science in Criminal Justice Technology
  • Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences in Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Science with a major in Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice Technology

Admission Requirements


Associate degree programs are designed to have minimal entry requirements and, generally speaking, you only need transcripts of your high school diploma or GED for admission. You will also have to fill out the admission application and pay a standard fee. Most schools also require you to show proof of residency in order to qualify for in-state tuition rates. You should make sure the program you are considering is fully accredited and all your credits will be transferable to a four-year program.

How long does it take to earn a Forensic Science Associates?


An Associate degree is considered a two-year degree because it will take you about two years to complete if you attend school full-time. If you are still in high school, you may be able to take college level courses in subjects such as English or math and earn one or more semesters worth of college credits before graduation.

Many schools participate in the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) which allows you to test out of subjects for a nominal fee. CLEP currently offers 33 exams in a wide range of topics and you can earn many of your associate degree level credits if you are well-versed in topics covered by your associate degree program. This can cut a year or more off the time it will take to earn your degree.

Potential Careers in Forensic Science with an Associates


As mentioned above, an associate degree is not the norm for entry-level careers in forensics. For the most part, the following positions will require a bachelor’s degree or higher, but you may qualify for assistant positions working under these titles (for example, forensic science technician assistant). The annual salaries listed are average rates; in an assistant position you will most likely earn less but will gain valuable experience while continuing your education.

  • Forensic Science Technician
    A forensic science technician is often employed by police departments and is charged with transferring, receiving, preparing, and preserving items that are collected as part of an investigation. They may input the data into computer systems, classify evidence, and analyze data that is provided by lead investigators. The average pay for a forensic science technician is $48,600 per year.
  • Evidence Technician
    An evidence technician is primarily employed by police departments or private companies and their job is to assist forensic scientists and investigators by identifying, collecting, and processing evidence that is related to a crime. They typically travel to crime scenes and must write reports that detail their findings and analysis. They may also label, catalog, and index evidence found at a crime scene. The average pay for an evidence technician is $38,600 per year.
  • Latent Print Examiner
    The latent print examiner is in charge of collecting fingerprints from people and crime scenes. Their primary role is to lift prints from guns, doors, cars, and any other surface that may have been touched during the crime. The collected prints are then enlarged and compared electronically to one or more existing databases that contain the prints of known criminals. The average latent print examiner earns $56,800 per year

Options to Advance


Your associate degree will give you an excellent base of knowledge concerning the criminal justice system and will most likely allow you to decide the exact field of forensics you'd like to pursue. You should plan on earning your bachelor’s degree as soon as possible; long-term goals should include earning a master's degree and possibly a doctorate.

As well as earning your higher degrees, you should plan on earning certifications in the area of specialization you've chosen for your career in forensics. This will demonstrate that you are at the top of your field in both knowledge and experience.

Best Associate of Science in Forensic Science Programs


When choosing a college, you should verify the program is approved by The American Association of Forensic Science which, through the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, accredits most reputable degree programs.

  • Miami Dade College
    Miami, Florida

    This program has a focus on technology and is for those who do not intend to pursue a career in law enforcement. Miami Dade in known internationally as a premiere training center for public safety professionals and the AS in criminal technology transfers smoothly to their four-year program.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice Technology
  • Pamlico Community College
    Grantsboro, North Carolina

    Pamlico's program includes courses on investigative principles, computers in the legal system, criminology, and the technology used within the justice system. The AA degree is transferable to four-year programs, both on-campus and online, to give you options for your higher degree.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice Technology
  • Shoreline Community College
    Shoreline, Washington

    Shoreline has a standard AA, as well as a transfer program, that is basically the first two years of your bachelor’s degree and will move seamlessly into your four-year forensics degree. This program has a heavier concentration on crime scenes and the forensic aspects of law enforcement and is an excellent choice for those living in or planning to attend school in Washington State.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences in Criminal Justice
    • The Associate of Arts - Direct Transfer Agreement (AA-DTA)
  • South Texas College
    McAllen, Texas

    The program at South Texas is broad and designed to encompass all aspects of criminal justice. While you won't have exposure to as much forensics as some other criminal justice programs, you will have a much better understanding of the policies, principles, and practices within the criminal justice system.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Bismarck State College
    Bismarck, North Dakota

    Bismarck offers a balanced program that covers all the fundamental areas of criminal justice. The program was developed with criminal justice professionals and offers several electives in the areas of forensic science to give you a well-rounded undergraduate degree.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Science Criminal Justice

Traditional Schools Offering an AS in Forensic Science


  • New England College
    Henniker, New Hampshire

    New England College has a program that will give you an excellent foundation in criminal justice with a multidisciplinary approach that allows you to explore specific areas in depth via elective courses. The associate program can be studied completely online, making it an excellent choice for those with busy life schedules.

    Degrees Offered:

    • AA in Criminal Justice
  • Florida Institute of Technology
    Melbourne, Florida

    At Florida Tech you'll gain industry knowledge from professionals who work in the field of criminal justice. Florida Institute of Technology is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, so you can be assured your degree will transfer easily into a four-year program.

    Degrees Offered:

    • AA in Criminal Justice
  • Indiana Wesleyan University
    Marion, Indiana

    Wesleyan's criminal justice program is offered completely online as well as at locations in Kentucky and Indiana. The associate degree can be completed in 26 months and includes electives in forensics as well as crime scene investigation. All credits are transferable to a four-year degree.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science with a major in Criminal Justice
  • Liberty University
    Lynchburg, Virginia

    Liberty's program introduces you to the essential concepts of the criminal justice system as you learn about crime from inception to trial. Evidence collection and crime scene investigation are included to give you valuable insight into the processes involved in convicting criminals.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate Degree in Criminal Justice
  • Southern New Hampshire University
    Manchester, New Hampshire

    At Southern New Hampshire University, you'll learn a career-focused overview of the criminal justice system. The curriculum is designed to segue smoothly into the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program at the same institution but will also transfer to many other schools without issue. A wide range of electives will allow you access to more forensic science topics than you'll find at many schools and will give you an opportunity to fine-tune your career goals.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science Criminal Justice
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