Forensic Degrees in Iowa

iowa forensic science

Forensic Science

Forensic science combines science and investigation in order to aid and support  the prosecution or defense in criminal and civil investigations. While the profession has been widely romanticized by various TV shows, make no mistake – this job is most likely different that you expect.  In contrast with popular perception, this is a highly scientific role, which often involves detailed, painstaking work. Field duties are limited to a few areas of expertise, and most often than not a forensic scientist will spend his time in the lab.

If you made it this far, though, congratulations! You’re taking the first steps in joining a very rewarding profession and itsGOV is here to guide you through what you need to know and what you need to do to join a forensic science program in Iowa.

Depending on the type of forensic science practiced, different degrees and educational backgrounds may help a candidate get a job and excel in this field. Regarding formal education, requirements vary across jobs, but you should definitely have a solid background in mathematics, biology and chemistry.

The National Institute of Justice, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, offers guidelines for model undergraduate and graduate forensic science degree programs. According to the American Academy of Forensic Science, strong programs should offer a curriculum that concentrates on scientific writing, laboratory skills, public speaking, and computer software application training.


Forensic scientists in Iowa are responsible for applying scientific methods to the analysis of evidence collected from crime scenes and civil investigations and work on behalf of either the Criminalistics Laboratory or the State Medical Examiner.

The Division of Criminal Investigation, Criminalistics Laboratory, under the Iowa Department of Public Safety umbrella, is responsible for providing forensic science services to the local, state and federal agencies in Iowa. The Criminalistics Laboratory, which was created in 1969, consists of the following sections:

  • Drug Identification
  • Impression Evidence (footwear and tire tracks, latent prints)
  • Photography
  • Breath Alcohol
  • Arson
  • Crime Scene Processing
  • DNA
  • Questioned Documents
  • Toxicology
  • Evidence Processing
  • Firearms and Toolmarks
  • Trace Evidence

Forensic Science Requirements in Iowa

Education is the key to becoming proficient in a profession as demanding as forensic science. Des Moines is home to a number of colleges and universities which can help in preparation for a career in CSI, and others can be found online. Earning a bachelor’s degree is one of the best ways to enter the field of crime scene investigations or forensic lab science.

There are certain degree programs that are directly relevant to CSI work available in Des Moines. These degree programs tend to be science based and include:

  • Forensic Science
  • Criminal Justice
  • Criminology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physics
  • Chemistry

Des Moines is somewhat unique in relation to other cities when it comes to crime scene investigation training. There are community colleges that offer courses in criminal investigation in conjunction with concentrations in law enforcement. Other CSI-specific courses include:

  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Impressions and Bloodstains
  • Scientific Investigation

Forensic Science Training in Iowa

Iowa is home to a multitude of colleges and degree-granting schools that offer forensic science programs. In addition to undergraduate degrees in chemistry and biology, a number of institutions now offer programs in forensic science. These programs offer courses in not only biology, physics, and chemistry, but also in collection and processing of evidence, forensic practice and ethics, providing students with a strong foundation for a career as a forensic scientist.

In addition to a number of graduate programs in forensic science, such as a Master of Science in Forensic Science, many students pursue a graduate certificate upon completion of an undergraduate program.

A Forensic Science Graduate Certificate helps prepare Iowa’s students for careers in the forensic sciences and to serve the larger forensics community.

Forensic scientists in Iowa, who are often referred to as criminalists, are responsible for collecting and preserving evidence and conducting a wide array of complex forensic analyses and examinations. These forensic professionals also conduct forensic examinations and analyses using a variety of electronic and digital source media and write laboratory reports on analyses conducted on physical evidence.

Individuals who want to become a forensic scientist in Iowa must possess a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, forensic science, biology, physics, or a closely related physical or natural laboratory science.

Candidates for forensic scientist jobs may also qualify by substituting one year of education for experience, with crime laboratory experience in one or more of the following:

  • Latent print identification
  • Firearms identification
  • Document examination
  • Forensic toxicology
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Forensic training
  • Trace evidence

All candidates for forensic scientist jobs in Iowa must also pass a thorough background investigation conducted by the Division of Criminal Investigation.

Forensic Science Salary in Iowa

The average salary of a Forensic Science Technician is $63,240. Salaries start from $48,240 and go up to $83,590. Please note that the average salary for a Forensic Science Technician may vary depending on several factors, like level of education, amount of experience, industry, company size and location. Our source, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, produces some of the United States most sensitive and important economic information, which is based on their strongest commitment to accuracy, quality and integrity.The top 10% of Forensic Science Technicians in Des Moines, Iowa earn $83,590, the top 25% of Forensic Science Technicians in Des Moines, Iowa earn $79,310, the middle 50% of Forensic Science Technicians in Des Moines, Iowa earn $58,990, the bottom 25% of Forensic Science Technicians in Des Moines, Iowa earn 51,130, and the bottom 10% of Forensic Science Technicians in Des Moines, Iowa earn 48,240.

Forensic Science Schools and Colleges in Iowa

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Iowa

University Graceland University, Pre-Forensic Studies B.S.
Duration 24 months
Type Full time, Part time
Tuition and fees $24,570 per year
Program link

Students interested in pursuing a M.S. or Ph.D. in forensic science or another related field should major in Biology or Chemistry. For the best preparation, we recommend a double major in both Biology and Chemistry. Students should review the admissions requirements for the graduate schools of their choice. The core modules are:

  • Internship in Biological Science
  • Human Anatomy
  • Human Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Instrumental Analysis
  • Introduction to Statistics
  • Calculus I

Graceland University educates students for advanced study, for productive careers and for rich lives. Its student body is a targeted, yet diverse group that includes persons of different ages, backgrounds and national origins who share a commitment to learning. Its curriculum, firmly rooted in the liberal arts tradition and enhanced by career-oriented practical experiences, affirms different styles of learning and prepares students to become competent professionals. Its highly qualified faculty excel in teaching and engage in scholarly, creative and professional activities. Together with the administration and staff, they care deeply about students.

Graceland offers a learning environment for the residential as well as the non-residential student that nurtures personal growth. Its challenging academic program stresses the joy of lifelong learning, the rigor of intellectual discipline and the relationship of both to a satisfying professional and personal life. Its size fosters genuine concern for the individual while providing fellowship and a sense of belonging. For the residential student, its rich co-curricular program of interest groups, athletics, student government, residential life and leisure activities provides opportunity to develop interpersonal skills, relationships, creativity and leadership.

University Simpson College, Forensic Science B.S.
Duration 24 months
Type Full time, Part time
Tuition and fees $32,550 per year
Program link

The biochemistry/forensic science major is intended to prepare students to obtain entry-level jobs in labs performing forensic analyses, go on to graduate work in forensic science, or to provide a good foundation for advanced degree work in areas such as chemistry, biochemistry, forensics, molecular or cell biology, or related technology fields.

In addition to a series of typical biology and chemistry courses, supporting work in math, physics and forensics/criminal justice is required. Transfer students are welcome and may be able to complete many of the required courses before entering this program. Students intending to seek entry level forensic positions after graduation are strongly encouraged to enroll in an internship. The core modules are:

  • General Chemistry I and II
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Principles of Biology
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Biostatistics
  • Instrumental Analysis
  • Cellular Biology
  • Criminal Justice Systems
  • Criminal Investigations and Law Enforcement
  • Criminology
  • Introduction to Forensic Science

The department allows students to fulfill the requirement of a capstone experience in a variety of ways. Students can combine a summer research experience (like an REU), an internship, a seminar Biol/Chem 370) or on campus research experience (Biol/Chem 398) with Chem 386 – Capstone Writing and Presentation to complete the capstone requirement. Students using a seminar as part of the capstone experience will need to complete a literature review of a topic explored in the seminar as a basis for their paper and presentation in Chem 386.

The Simpson College community is equally committed to: promoting integrative learning that enables students of all ages to develop intellectual and practical skills; nurturing values which foster personal worth and individuality within a creative, diverse and just community; graduating students who continue to grow as free, responsible and fulfilled individuals in the world of family, work, service and scholarship.

University Upper Iowa University, Forensic Science B.S.
Duration 4 years
Type Full time, Part time
Tuition and fees $26,084 per year
Program link

The forensic science major is a broad-based program with a strong science core which is excellent preparation for students seeking to continue their education at the graduate level. The major in forensic science can be individualized to prepare students for entrance into professional programs at schools of medicine or graduate programs in forensic science, biology, or chemistry. The core modules are:

  • Introduction to Forensic Science
  • Physical Methods
  • Forensic Professional Practice and Ethics
  • Evidence Collection, Identification and Processing
  • Forensic Chemistry
  • Forensic Biology
  • Precalculus
  • General Chemistry I and II
  • Organic Chemistry I and II
  • Introduction to Toxicology

Forensic science is the application of science to the law. Forensic scientists use scientific methodology to collect and analyze evidence. Forensic science is an applied discipline which requires an extensive background in the natural sciences, coupled with practical laboratory experience.

As a graduate, you will be prepared for careers with state, local, and federal crime laboratories as well as commercial laboratories that process forensic samples. You also will be ready for graduate study in forensic science, biology and chemistry.


Master’s Degree Programs in Iowa

There are currently no master’s programs in Iowa.




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