Police departments depend on forensic scientists to analyze physical evidence and DNA from crime scenes and determine possible links between suspects and crimes. They may also reconstruct crime scenes or consult with coroners to derive their conclusions on crimes. If you want to become a forensic scientists, you need at least a bachelor's degree in forensic or natural science. With a PhD, you may earn a higher salary, but it will vary depending on the state or district in which you work.
Salary Over $60,000
The average salary for a forensic scientist with a PhD was $65,000 as of 2014, according to the job site Simply Hired. Along with a bachelor's degree, you may also need to train at the police academy, as many forensic scientists who work for local police departments do, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other essential requirements for the job are composure, an attention to detail and critical-thinking, writing, speaking and problem-solving skills.
Top Pay in D.C.
In 2014, average salaries for forensic scientists with PhDs varied the most in the South, according to Simply Hired, where they earned the lowest salaries of $51,000 in Mississippi and the highest of $103,000 in Washington, D.C. If you worked as a forensic scientist with a PhD in the West, you would make $52,000 in Montana or $74,000 in Alaska or California, which represented the lowest and highest salaries in that region. In the Northeast, you would average $59,000 to $79,000 in Maine or Massachusetts, respectively. Forensic scientists with PhDs in the Midwest earned the least in South Dakota and the most in Minnesota at $51,000 and $69,000, respectively.
PhD Worth $19,000 More Than Bachelor's
While forensic scientists with PhDs made $65,000 in 2014, those with master's degrees earned $61,000 the same year, according to Simply Hired, while forensic scientists with bachelor's degrees made $46,000. In comparison, forensic science technicians earned average annual salaries of $55,730 as of May 2012, according to the BLS. Forensic science technicians who worked in medical diagnostic labs earned $66,390 per year, according to 2012 BLS data. They made $55,950 at local government agencies, which includes metropolitan police departments.
Below-Average Job Growth
The BLS estimates a 6 percent increase in employment for forensic science technicians, including forensic scientists with PhDs, from 2012 to 2022, which is statistically below-average compared to the 14 percent national rate for all occupations. Advances in DNA technology and a growing interest in forensic analysis in courtrooms should increase jobs for all forensic scientists.