From college to career: What you can do with a forensic science degree

Although the titles crime scene investigator (CSIs) and forensic science investigator are often used interchangeably, they are different careers

Forensic investigators are professionals in lab coats who analyze evidence in a sterile environment. CSIs don personal protective equipment including gloves, goggles and, depending on the crime scene, full Tyvex suits. It can be a dirty, stinky and laborious job requiring long hours and the knowledge of how to painstakingly document and collect evidence from a variety of sources. This includes understanding how to properly identify and package evidence, search for and lift latent fingerprints, collect samples of possible DNA and use chemicals to locate blood and other bodily fluids.

While forensic science starts at the crime scene, little to no analysis occurs there. After CSI’s collect the evidence, forensic science investigators analyze it by applying scientific principals and methodology to legal and criminal investigations.

The Abby Myth
Call it TV magic that cases can be solved in less than an hour by a single do-it-all laboratory all-star, like Abby Sciuto from NCIS. In reality, laboratories rely on dozens of highly-trained analysts in specific disciplines, including:

  • Biology
    • Serology
    • DNA
    • Bioscreening
  • Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Digital evidence
  • Impression evidence
  • Fingerprint analysis
  • Document examination
  • Ballistic evaluation

Forensic science evolves with society and technology and it is not unusual for disciplines to change or be added with new technology.

The Degree You Need 
Law enforcement agencies and laboratories have varying requirements for entry-level positions. Chemistry, biology, anthropology or criminal justice degrees are good foundations for careers in CSI. A hard science such as chemistry or biology are good choices for anyone interested in a laboratory forensic science career.

FIU’s International Forensic Research Institute offers a certificate in forensic science as well as graduate degrees including:

  • M.S. in Forensic Science
  • Combined M.S. in Forensic Science/Ph.D. in Biology Pathway
  • Professional Science Master’s in Forensic Science
  • Ph.D. in Chemistry, Forensic Track

As a Carnegie R1 research institution, FIU provides students unique experiences with instruments used in agency laboratories, including access to the first Thermo Fisher Rapid DNA Center of Excellence. As part of the Global Forensic and Justice Center, the research conducted is a direct response to problems many law enforcement agencies face.  

As forensic science and criminal justice evolve, the Global Forensic and Justice Center is focused on cross-cutting innovation partnerships across the university. The partnerships are designed to break down the silos of each discipline and give students a more comprehensive understanding of how interconnected the crime scene and courtroom really are. Environmental forensics, forensic nursing, law and legal psychology, engineering and cybersecurity are just the beginning of this innovative approach to forensic science.

Outside the Laboratory
If you’re not sure a laboratory job is right for you, keep in mind that forensic science methodology is applied in several career paths including musicology, accounting, veterinary and communications.

To learn more about the opportunities that await with a forensic science degree, visit