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Master of Science in Forensic Medicine: Program Information

Forensic medicine is a medical specialty that examines and analyzes medical facts in civil or criminal cases. Forensic medical professionals obtain physical evidence from patients or crime victims to determine the causes of their injuries, illnesses or deaths and often testify about their examination of physical evidence in court. They may work for law enforcement agencies or in private laboratories.

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Educational Requirements for a Master of Science in Forensic Medicine

Most master's degree programs in forensic medicine require applicants to have a bachelor's degree and completed coursework in college biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology. These programs may also require standardized graduate admission tests and personal interviews before admittance. For applicants with non-science undergraduate degrees, some programs provide a specialized track of intensive science coursework in biology, chemistry and anatomy before starting the forensic medicine curriculum.

Coursework for a Master of Science in Forensic Medicine

The curriculums of forensic medicine master's degree programs include the theory, concepts and practices of forensic medicine. M.S. programs generally offer a combination of science courses in clinical pathology with coursework in forensic toxicology, anthropology, odontology, entomology and neuropathology. Students learn about the science behind physical evidence, including:

  • Hair and fibers
  • Fingerprints and physical matching
  • Blood spatter
  • Serology and DNA
  • Ballistics and firearms
  • Paint and road traffic accident evidence
  • Narcotics
  • Clandestine graves

Most programs also offer coursework in statistical analysis and research methods, ethics and legal issues, which teaches students techniques for documenting evidence and testifying as an expert witness.

Generally, these programs require students to complete an internship or perform fieldwork with a participating law enforcement agency, coroner's office or private forensics laboratory before graduation. Some schools may also require a thesis or oral examination. Some universities may offer similar coursework in a Master of Science in Forensic Science program.

Employment Opportunities for Graduates with a Master of Science in Forensic Medicine

Those interested in obtaining a master's degree in forensic medicine may already be working as medical or law enforcement professionals, including physicians, physician assistants, nurses, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, criminal investigators, coroners or police officers. Program graduates are eligible to take certification examinations offered by the American College of Forensic Examiners International (www.afcei.com) in a variety of areas, including Registered Investigator, Certified Forensic Nurse, Certified Medical Investigator or Certified Forensic Physician. Local, state or federal law enforcement agencies or private investigation firms or laboratories may employ forensic medicine graduates. In addition, nurses, physicians and physician assistants may work with accident or crime victims in healthcare settings.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that forensic science technicians would see a 6% growth in employment opportunities from 2012 to 2022. Additionally, the BLS reported that forensic science technicians had a mean annual wage of $55,730 in May 2012.

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