Should I Major in Forensic Studies?
Everyone wants to find a career that makes the world a better place. But which college majors actually prepare you for meaningful, well-paying jobs? If you’re interested in why crime happens, how to prevent it, and how to bring criminals to justice, Forensic Studies might be the right major for you.
As you probably know from TV shows like Criminal Minds, forensics is the study of crimes. Depending on your constitution, the idea of studying the thought process of a criminal may be unsettling. Either way, it’s important to note that there’s much more to majoring in forensics than interpreting crime scenes.
In this short guide, we’ll explain the complex, interdisciplinary field of Forensic Studies and the many careers it can prepare you for.
What is Forensic Studies?
Does the idea of “forensics” bring to mind images from your favorite crime drama? While crime scene analysis is a part of forensics, the field is much broader. “Forensic studies” refers to a wide range of disciplines involved in investigating crimes of all kinds and preparing cases for courts of law.
- “Forensic behavior” refers to the study that applies both criminal law and behavioral sciences to help understand, prevent, and mitigate violence and criminal behavior. To develop an understanding of forensic behavior, you’ll need to study:
- Forensic behavior
- Forensic linguistics
- Criminal law
- Risk assessment
- And other disciplines
In the process, you’ll develop competency at understanding the methodology behind violence and crime scenes in order to devise a prevention plan for the future.
- More broadly, the field of forensic studies includes concepts in law, psychology, and sociology that consider the roots of criminal behavior and the way we prevent, investigate, and prosecute violence and crimes.
- Depending on the specifics of your college’s curriculum, you might take courses in criminal psychology, computer programming classes, and more.
Career Paths in Forensic Studies
After you complete your undergraduate degree in Forensic Studies, you may want to pursue careers in a number of different fields including forensics, criminology, and related disciplines.
Next, we’ll take a look over four potential paths for Forensics Studies majors.
Careers in Forensic Science
What will you do after graduation? Fields of work for forensics studies majors include:
- Law enforcement
- Private security
- Emergency medical services
- Fire services
- Forensic linguistics
In any of these roles, you would use your forensic science knowledge to carefully interpret criminal behavior. Keep in mind that you wouldn’t become a lead investigator right away. Instead, you’d likely assist and support more senior staff through behind-the-scenes work.
With time and experience, you could progress through the ranks. Alternatively, a graduate degree in forensics or a related discipline can help you acquire finely honed investigative and analytic skills to further advance your career.
For example, advanced study of Forensic Behavioral Science could help you qualify to investigate and help prevent violence and crimes based on your understanding of human psychology and behavior. Other sub-disciplines in forensic studies in society include:
- Forensic linguistics – The study of how linguistic artifacts including text and audio can help to analyze crime scenes, criminal psychology and criminal intent.
- Forensic victimology – The study of how crimes impact victims, and how best to support those victims through individual counseling or larger support structures.
Careers in Law
Law firms sometimes hire their own investigators. However, beyond your analytic skills, you’ll also graduate with knowledge of the criminal justice system and how cases are prosecuted. This knowledge is transferable to several other career paths within the legal profession:
- Legal defense – After completing a BA or BS in Forensic Studies, you’ll have a strong background that could help you to succeed in law school and pass your state’s Bar examination. Your specialized knowledge could help you to defend or prosecute people accused of crimes.
- Trial consulting – Lawyers often draw on expert knowledge when assembling their cases (or defense). Use your specialized knowledge to work for lawyers and their clients, helping them make a case that the evidence fits their narrative of events.
Defense and Security
Depending on the specifics of your college’s curriculum, you may gain skills that can help to prevent crimes from happening in the first place.
Your study of human psychology can help hone your skills in situational awareness, qualifying you to become a security officer or to help support and train security officers
If you focus on computer science, you may be qualified to design and implement cyber security measures or help clients deal with the aftermath of cyber crimes (i.e. blackmailing and extortion)
Careers in Psychology
Are you drawn to forensic studies because of your interest in the social and environmental factors that drive some people to commit crimes?
While you’ll need an advanced degree to work with individuals or organizations to improve mental health outcomes, a bachelor’s degree in forensics studies could help prepare you for an eventual career in psychology.
Potential subfields include:
- Correctional psychology – Work within the criminal justice system to provide rehabilitative care for incarcerated people.
- Police psychology – Support law enforcement officers who are exposed to trauma while investigating major crimes.
- Victim support – Provide interventions and support for the victims of crimes and their families.
Job Outlook for Forensic Studies Majors
As you can see, forensic studies can provide you with a wide array of skills, from chemical analysis to behavioral insights to an in-depth knowledge of the legal system.
But will you actually make money with your degree?
In 2019, forensic scientists made an average of $28.44 per hour, or $59,150 per year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is expected to grow 14% in the next decade—much faster than the average profession. That could mean thousands of new jobs within the next ten years.
Keep in mind that these are the statistics for entry level jobs and most closely reflect the salaries for forensic scientists employed by federal and local law enforcement agencies.
- Advanced degrees in forensic science qualify applicants for higher-level jobs within government agencies and private corporations.
- Further experience and knowledge might prepare you for a career in forensic leadership, i.e., creating a strategy for a larger team or department.
The strong job growth in the field of forensics makes Forensic Studies an incredibly useful major. Whether or not you proceed to a career in the field, you’ll obtain valuable skills that are transferable to other professions.
Choosing Your Major
On average, people change their jobs over twelve times during their adult lives. That’s why it’s so important to pick a major that has excellent career prospects right now—and that provides you with strong analytical skills that are transferable to other fields. That way, as the economy changes and grows, you’ll stay prepared.
Is Forensic Studies the major that completes the bill?
As you complete your forensic science program, you’ll develop the following skills:
- Proficiency with math and data
- Logical thinking
- Analytic and deductive reasoning
- Understanding of psychology and forensic methods
- Chemical analysis
In addition, a focus on forensic linguistics or forensics and law might help you to develop strong communication skills. You could even double major in a discipline like English or Business to help supplement your analytical knowledge.
Either way, the technical, sought-after skills you’ll gain while studying forensics can help prepare you for a wide range of professions and for a potential career transition later in life.
The California School of Forensic Studies (CSFS) at Alliant International University
Are you looking for the right college to study forensics and criminal law?
Whether you’re interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree, an advanced degree, or a professional certificate, the California School of Forensic Studies has the right curriculum to help you meet your career goals.
Our courses are taught by experts with significant professional experience. Offered at our California campuses and online, it’s easy to find a degree program that fits your schedule while you begin a new course of study or begin a career transition. If you are looking to become a forensic scientist, you can get the training you need with Alliant as your guide.
Explore our offerings, and learn more about careers in law enforcement, forensic psychology, and other rewarding fields today.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. FAQ. https://www.bls.gov/nls/questions-and-answers.htm
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Forensic Science Technicians. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-scien…
Study.com Forensic Studies. https://study.com/forensic_studies.html