associate degree. Almirall and Furton posit that future trends favor a minimum of a graduate degree in almost all areas of forensic science.9

An issue that has received much attention is the degree requirements for positions in crime laboratories. A requirement for an entry-level position in most crime laboratories is at least a bachelor’s degree in a natural science or forensic science, and many laboratories require a year or two of experience, with a master’s degree. Over the years, most crime laboratory hires have been and continue to be graduates with degrees in chemistry or biology.

Several studies have focused on the needs of crime laboratories. In 1988 Siegel conducted a survey of undergraduate students at Michigan State University, forensic science practitioners employed by the Michigan State Police, and 240 members of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD).10 Survey respondents expressed a strong preference for a master’s degree in forensic science and a lack of preference for the B.S. in criminalistics/forensic science. One explanation noted by the respondents was “that too many programs passing themselves off as forensic science programs were actually little more than criminal justice programs with a forensic science internship and a smattering of ‘hard’ science.”11 Another finding was the importance of chemistry in the backgrounds of prospective forensic science examiners.

Also in 1988, Higgins and Selavka surveyed laboratory managers.12 Similar to the findings of Seigel, “chemical knowledge was the most important ability they considered when evaluating potential employees….”13 In 1996, Furton et al. surveyed members of the ASCLD, primarily drug chemists and trace evidence analysts.14 This survey found that “the majority of crime lab directors responding require applicants to have B.S. degrees with a preference for chemistry/biochemistry, followed by biology and forensic science with a requirement for a substantial number of chemistry and other natural science courses.”15




J.A. Siegel. 1988. The appropriate educational background for entry level forensic scientists: A survey of practitioners. Journal of Forensic Sciences 33(4):1065-1068.


Ibid., pp. 1067-1068.


K.M. Higgins and C.M. Selavka. 1988. Do forensic science graduate programs fulfill the needs of the forensic science community? Journal of Forensic Sciences 33(4):1015-1021.


Ibid., p. 1017.


K.G. Furton, Y.L. Hsu, and M.D. Cole. 1999. What educational background is required by crime laboratory directors? Journal of Forensic Sciences 44:128-132.


Ibid., p. 130.

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