Last Updated on January 16, 2023 by Team College Learners
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For Texans with inquisitive minds, a knack for reconstructing events, and strong stomachs, becoming a forensic scientist can be a fitting career choice. Luckily for people living in the Lone Star State, there is a wealth of educational and career-related opportunities available.
By illustration, theBureau of Labor Statistics(BLS 2019) reports that Texas (TX) employs the third most forensic science technicians of any state in the U.S. with 1,480 working currently.Career One Stop—a research organization sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor—expects this figure to grow 28 percent in Texas between 2018 and 2028, much faster than the 14 percent growth in this job anticipated for the country at large (BLS 2019).
Becoming a forensic science tech is only one of many career paths chosen by people with degrees from forensics colleges in Texas. These individuals also go on to become criminal investigators, profilers, digital scientists, toxicologists, handwriting experts, and forensic anthropologists, to name a few.
To learn more about the bright academic and professional landscape in Texas—including how to become a forensic scientist, the occupational demand in TX, featured programs around the state, and program accreditation—read on below.
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HOW TO BECOME A FORENSIC SCIENTIST IN TEXAS
There are a variety of paths to becoming a forensic scientist or technician in Texas. Some choose to join a police academy and get extensive on-the-job training and may get a college degree later to complement their empirical knowledge, while others may pursue postsecondary education prior to employment.
Here is the most common path to becoming a forensic scientist in Texas:
- Step 1: Graduate from high school.Successful forensic scientists typically have strong grades in mathematics and science courses (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics). A number of these courses may even be prerequisites to entering a forensics college in Texas.
- Step 2: Pursue a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or a related discipline, especially in the natural sciences (four years).According to Career One Stop (2020), 33 percent of working forensic science technicians have bachelor’s degrees. Texas boasts four forensic science programs that are accredited by theForensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission(FEPAC)—the main accreditation agency for programs of this kind—although it’s not necessary to attend one of these to join a career in this field. Some students major in forensic science with courses such as crime scene investigation, latent print processing, and principles of forensic entomology. Others major in natural sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and if available, may choose a forensic science concentration, emphasis, or minor.
- Step 3: Apply for specialized certification through a national organization (optional, timeline varies).While individual certification may not be necessary, it can enhance one’s resume, serve as an indicator of merit to future employers, and even get a person increased job responsibilities or pay. In the U.S., the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has given approval to 10 organizations to grant professional certification in various fields such as criminalistics, document analysis, and toxicology.
- Step 4: Pursue an advanced degree in forensic science (optional, two to four years).According to Career One Stop (2020), 11 percent of working forensic science technicians hold at least a master’s degree. Some typical courses in these programs include DNA and serology, drug chemistry, and and advanced investigative techniques.
OCCUPATIONAL DEMAND IN TEXAS FOR FORENSIC SCIENCE SPECIALISTS
As one of the most populous states in the U.S., Texas has a promising job outlook for graduates of forensic science programs. For example, theBureau of Labor Statistics(May 2019) finds that among the 1,480 forensic science technicians working in the state, these are the top-employing regions:
- Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX: 470 employed
- Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX: 390
- Austin-Round Rock, TX: 230
- San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX: 140
As stated above, openings in this profession are expected to swell 28 percent in Texas between 2018 and 2028 resulting in many more opportunities in metropolitan and rural areas.
So how much do forensic science technicians make in Texas? Here are the salary ranges for these professionals in the Lone Star State (BLS 2019):
- 10thpercentile: $36,230
- 25thpercentile: $42,940
- 50thpercentile (median): $52,670
- 75thpercentile: $69,420
- 90thpercentile: $84,110
In general, metropolitan and more densely populated regions in Texas tend to pay forensic science technicians more. Here is a breakdown of the top-paying regions in the state:
- Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX: $66,310 average annually
- Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX: $55,820
- Austin-Round Rock, TX: $48,220
- San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX: $47,050
Overall, since the projected growth in openings for forensic science technicians in Texas is higher than the national average, residents of the Lone Star State may have an advantage in the job hunt. The first step to securing work in forensic science in Texas, however, is getting an education. Read on to explore some of the quality, accredited forensics colleges in the state.
FEATURED FORENSICS PROGRAMS IN TEXAS
As mentioned above, Texas hosts four programs which are accredited by the prestigiousForensic Science Educational Programs Accreditation Commission(FEPAC):
Sam Houston State University(SHSU) of Huntsville, in the heart of the scenic Sam Houston Forest, boasts “one of the best educational values in Texas.” In addition to advanced coursework in areas such as instrumental analysis, pattern and physical evidence concepts, and forensic biology, this school places students in supervised internships for empirical instruction in controlled substance analysis, firearms, and DNA analyses, among other concepts. At SHSU, students can earn a FEPAC-accredited master of science in forensic science (MSFS) degree, with graduates having placement rates of more than 90 percent in forensic science laboratories and research positions across the U.S.
Texas A&M Universityof aptly named College Station, located in east-central Texas, offers one of the only FEPAC-accredited bachelor of science (BS) programs in the nation. The forensic and investigative science program offers two distinct emphases: pre-law and science. The university offers extensive online syllabi for most of its coursework to give prospective students a flavor for the program. Students in this program are trained to study evidence at the molecular, organismal, environmental, and ecological levels and apply their findings to real-world forensics issues.
University of North Texas(UNT)—located in Denton, north of Fort Worth and Dallas—has full FEPAC accreditation for its forensic science certificate in conjunction with its biochemistry, chemistry, and biology bachelor’s programs. After nearly 50 years in operation, UNT offers a 19-semester-hour forensic science curriculum with instruction in courtroom testimony, quality assurance, ethics, and forensic microscopy, among other subjects.
In addition to these FEPAC-accredited options, there are a number of other degrees and training programs available to aspiring forensic scientists including:
Texas Tech University’s Institute of Forensic Sciencein Lubbock offers a master of science (MS) in forensic science degree. In this 45-credit program, students from a variety of undergraduate backgrounds can choose from two tracks: forensic chemistry or forensic investigation. The former is designed for students who want to work in laboratory settings and have a bachelor’s degree in biology or chemistry. The latter is for those interested in working in the field with a bachelor’s degree in a social science.
FEATURED CSI & FORENSIC SCIENCE PROGRAMS
Arizona State University– Biochemistry (BS)
Arizona State University– Biological Sciences (BS)
Arizona State University– Forensic Science (PSM)
Purdue University Global– BSCJ in Crime Scene Investigation
Stevenson University– Master of Forensic Science (Biology & Chemistry Tracks)
Stevenson University– Master’s in Forensic Investigation
Stevenson University– Master’s in Crime Scene Investigation
HYBRID & ONLINE OPTIONS
There are several colleges and universities based in Texas that offer online forensics programs, and many more in our national database ofonline forensic science programs. Below are some of those Texas-based schools.
Texas A&M Extensionhas a number of certificate programs comprising courses approved by theInternational Association for Identification(IAI) and theInternational Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts. These certificates cover a variety of professions and competencies—forensic technician, forensic investigator levels I/II, major crimes investigator and property, and evidence management—and are approved by theTexas Commission on Law Enforcement. Some of the courses are offered online such as basic criminal investigation, death investigation, and basic property technician training.
University of North Texas Health Science Centeroffers some free forensic case samples through its Center for Human Identification. Additional services offered at this accredited and globally-recognized laboratory forensic genetic and anthropological examinations for criminal cases and identifying missing persons.
It is important to note that while most online forensics programs primarily feature courses that can be completed online, some may have an in-person or laboratory component due to the hands-on nature of the field.
ACCREDITATION AND PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATION
The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) is the primary accrediting agency for these types of programs in the country and has approved four programs in Texas. While graduating from a FEPAC-accredited program may not be a prerequisite for employment in TX, it can be an indicator of a student’s quality of education, as FEPAC weighs criteria to gauge a program’s value such as course offerings, faculty research, and physical facilities. However, a program that lacks FEPAC accreditation can still be well-regarded, particularly in the criminal justice and crime scene investigation fields, since FEPAC does not accredit such programs.
In addition to prgrammtic accreditation from a source like FEPAC, schools should have institutional accreditation. There are other regional and institutional accrediting bodies as well in Texas, including the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
After graduating from a forensic science program and getting some work experience, some professionals choose to get certified in their specialty. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has approved 10 organizations to grant professional certification or licensure across the U.S. The prerequisites to join each of these certifying boards differs, but generally involves some measure of educational attainment, work experience, and an exam. Some of the specialty boards include:
- American Board of Criminalistics (ABC)
- American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT)
- International Board of Forensic Engineering Sciences (IBFES)
- American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA)
|Coastal Bend College||Beeville||x||46|
|The University of Texas at Austin||Austin||x||40|
|Sam Houston State University||Huntsville||x||30|
|Texas A & M University-College Station||College Station||x||22|
|The University of Texas at El Paso||El Paso||x||13|
|Texas Tech University (TTU)||Lubbock||x||11|
|University of Houston-Victoria||Victoria||x||10|
|Saint Edward’s University||Austin||x||9|
|St. Mary’s University||San Antonio||x||9|
|Tyler Junior College||Tyler||x||6|
|Howard Payne University||Brownwood||x||2|
School “total forensics grads” data provided by IPEDS (2018) for the 2016-2017 school year, and includes all certificates and degrees awarded for the following programs: Criminalistics and Criminal Science, Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Science and Technology, Forensic Psychology, Cyber/Computer Forensics, and Financial Forensics and Fraud Investigation.