Forensic Experts


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Almost all jobs in this field require at least a bachelor's degree. In high school, you can begin to prepare for a career in forensics by taking a heavy concentration of science courses, including chemistry, biology, physiology, and physics. Computer skills are also important, especially for fingerprint classifiers and computer forensics specialists. Classes in spoken and written communications will be useful because forensic experts must write very detailed reports and are sometimes called on to present their findings in court.

Postsecondary Training

You will need at least a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, molecular biology, criminalistics, natural science (such as chemistry or biology), or a related field to work as a forensic expert. If you work in a specialty, such as forensic engineering or nursing, you will need a degree in that area—engineering and nursing, respectively. Many forensic experts in top positions or who work as consultants have graduate degrees. Visit the Web site of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences ( for a list of colleges and universities that offer classes and programs in forensic science and related fields.

Many crime scene investigators who are employed by police departments are sworn police officers and have met educational requirements for entry into a police academy. They augment this training with a bachelor’s degree in either forensic science or one of the natural sciences.


Some colleges and universities offer certificates in forensic science and its specialties. For example, California State University-Chico offers a certificate in forensic science, and Texas Tech University offers a graduate certificate in forensic engineering. Contact schools in your area to learn more about available programs. 

Other Education or Training

Many forensic science associations offer continuing education opportunities. For example, the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute provides online classes such as Blood Spatter Interpretation at Crime Scenes and Causes of Failure: What a Forensic Engineer Looks For. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences also offers continuing education opportunities at its conferences and meetings. Contact organizations in your specialty for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Becoming certified shows employers that you have met the highest standards established by your industry. Those who are certified often receive higher pay and have a better chance of landing a job than those who are not certified. The following organizations provide voluntary certification for forensic experts: American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists, American Board of Criminalistics; American Board of Forensic Anthropology; American Board of Forensic Document Examiners; American Board of Forensic Entomology; American Board of Forensic Odontology; American Board of Forensic Psychology; American Board of Forensic Toxicology; American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators; American Board of Pathology; American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology; American College of Forensic Examiners Institute; Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners; International Association of Forensic Nurses; International Association for Identification; International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists; and the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

You won’t start out in your career as a forensic expert. It usually takes a couple of years working as a forensic science technician or as a professional in nursing, engineering, botany, entomology, etc. to gain experience in that particular discipline and in forensic science before you will be considered a "forensic expert."

To be successful in this field, you should have an aptitude for scientific investigation, an inquiring and logical mind, and the ability to make precise measurements and observations. Patience and persistence are important qualities, as is a good memory. Forensic experts must constantly bear in mind that the accuracy of their lab investigations can have great consequences for others. Other important traits include a detail-oriented personality, strong communication and organizational skills, and a willingness to continue to learn throughout your career.