How Much Does a Forensic Scientist Make?

Updated December 12, 2022

Forensic scientists are crucial members of investigation teams. Career advancement and higher salaries for forensic scientists are obtainable through postgraduate coursework. In this article, we discuss what forensic scientists are, their duties, requirements to become one, their salaries by state and job outlook.

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What is a forensic scientist?

Forensic scientists analyze evidence from crime scenes and present their findings in court. Using their sophisticated techniques and knowledge, they study small marks on objects, fingerprints and even wounds on bodies. Forensic professionals gather all of the information they can to answer questions that police and other investigators weren't able to at a crime scene. They spend most of their time analyzing materials such as:

  • Body hairs

  • Clothing fibers

  • Debris

  • Marks or wounds on the skin

  • Fingerprints on various objects

What does a forensic scientist do?

A forensic scientist's daily job duties include:

  • Responding to crime scenes and conducting investigative tasks

  • Taking pictures and videos of crime scenes

  • Bringing all evidence back to the crime laboratory for further analysis and study

  • Using advanced techniques and practices such as high-performance liquid chromatography, mass and infrared spectroscopy and genetic fingerprinting

  • Attending or conducting autopsies

  • Recording findings and working with outside agencies as necessary

  • Presenting and explaining findings in a court of law as necessary

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Types of forensic scientists

There are many different types and subspecialties of forensics. Each forensic scientist specializes in a niche area and often has differing responsibilities. Some of these types or fields of interest include:

  • Forensic accounting and auditing

  • Forensic toxicology

  • Forensic psychology

  • Forensic pathology

  • Computer or cyber forensics

  • Forensic dentistry

  • Forensic archeology

  • Forensic engineering

  • Forensic entomology

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Forensic scientist work environment

Forensic scientists most often work in crime labs. Their role requires them to frequently venture into the field to study crime scenes. Crimes occur in a wide variety of places, exposing these professionals to all types of weather and other environmental conditions. Depending on their specialty, some forensic scientists spend most of their time in office spaces. For example, forensic accountants primarily sit at a computer analyzing financial records.

The importance of forensics

Most places legally recognize forensics in their courts of law. Scientific methods and evidence lead forensic scientists to have no particular bias, giving their testimony beneficial credibility. Forensic methods guarantee certainty in determining the cause of crimes and reduce the amount of time it takes to reach a solution. Forensic labs are effective and efficient in their procedures, both of which are critical components during all investigations.

Requirements for becoming a forensic scientist

Requirements for being a forensic scientist often vary depending on the specialty. Most forensics candidates should expect to meet requirements in these areas:


Entry-level positions in the forensics field often require candidates to have at least a Bachelor's Degree in Forensics, Criminology or a related field. The role requires a large amount of writing, requiring most candidates to take advanced courses in English and creative writing. For further advancement in the field, many candidates earn a graduate degree, choosing specialization such as toxicology, ballistics or media sciences. In rare circumstances, some Ph.D. holders find themselves in forensics careers due to their area of expertise such as dentistry or archeology.


Those candidates who began their career as a technician may need the Forensic Science Technician certification. However, not all forensic scientists need certification. Education, licensing and certification requirements differ by department and area of expertise. Various organizations offer certification programs, including:

  • International Association for Identification (IAI)

  • International Board of Forensic Engineering Sciences (IBFES)

  • American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT)

  • American Board of Forensic Document Examiners (ABFDE)


Most forensic scientists require the following skills:

  • Oral and written communication

  • Attention to detail

  • Analytical skills

  • Problem solving

  • Critical thinking


Newly hired forensic scientists often undergo additional training within their first year. Their department or organization either teaches them in-house or sends them to advanced workshops in molecular biology and biochemistry. Additionally, any assisting position in a crime lab while in an undergraduate program or shortly after makes a more competitive resume.

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Forensic scientist salaries by state

On average, forensic scientists make around $65,174 per year in the U.S. The salaries below were populated using state-specific data from Indeed Salaries. The following list breaks down the average salary of a forensic scientist by state:

  • Alabama: $65,566 per year

  • Alaska: $70,369 per year

  • Arizona: $71,457 per year

  • Arkansas: $64,674 per year

  • California: $75,654 per year

  • Colorado: $70,181 per year

  • Connecticut: $72,268 per year
    -Delaware: $68,027 per year
    -Florida: $66,993 per year

  • Georgia: $69,789 per year

  • Hawaii: $67,572 per year

  • Idaho: $62,433 per year

  • Illinois: $71,098 per year

  • Indiana: $50,525 per year

  • Iowa: $66,149 per year

  • Kansas: $61,357 per year

  • Kentucky: $64,345 per year

  • Louisiana: $65,854 per year

  • Maine: $65,363 per year

  • Maryland: $66,573 per year

  • Massachusetts: $74,722 per year

  • Michigan: $67,444 per year

  • Minnesota: $55,925 per year

  • Mississippi: $62,081 per year

  • Missouri: $68,170 per year

  • Montana:$62,594 per year

  • Nebraska: $58,834 per year

  • Nevada: $95,589 per year

  • New Hampshire: $67,028 per year

  • New Jersey: $72,483 per year

  • New Mexico: $61,199 per year

  • New York: $80,625 per year

  • North Carolina: $67,823 per year

  • North Dakota: $67,154 per year

  • Ohio: $67,283 per year

  • Oklahoma: $64,626 per year

  • Oregon: $69,567 per year

  • Pennsylvania: $69,212 per year

  • Rhode Island: $68,297 per year

  • South Carolina: $65,660 per year

  • South Dakota: $64,068 per year

  • Tennessee: $57,147 per year

  • Texas: $69,684 per year

  • Utah: $65,176 per year

  • Vermont: $65,893 per year

  • Virginia: $70,273 per year

  • Washington: $73,530 per year

  • West Virginia: $62,918 per year

  • Wisconsin: $67,211 per year

  • Wyoming: $64,925 per year

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Job outlook for forensic scientists

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field of forensic science is expected to grow 14% by 2028. Current projections say fewer jobs than normal may open during that time, however, due to the small size of the industry. The BLS also states that many U.S. governments, both state and local, expect to hire more forensic scientists to handle their often high amount of cases. Further advancement in forensic technology might also influence job growth as technicians and specially trained individuals are needed.

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