Forensic Biologist - How to Become a Forensic Biologist

Forensic Biologist

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Forensic Biologist Job Description


Examination of blood and other bodily fluids, hair and bones are carried out by forensic biologists. These examinations serve a number of different purposes depending on the situation, but they are mostly done to help identify victims and aid criminal investigation. The examination is not restricted to human beings. These tests can be carried out on insects, plants and animal remains as well.

Forensic biologists are up to date with the latest in laboratory technology. They use the technology to determine the time and the cause of the death.

Forensic biologists can choose to become experts in forensic entomology, forensic botany, forensic pathology, DNA analysis, biological chemistry and forensic anthropology.




Forensic biologists work alongside criminal investigations to provide evidence that would otherwise go undetected by performing analyses on biological evidence found at a crime scene, including:

  • DNA testing of suspects and comparing it to DNA found at the scene.

  • Blood testing of victims to determine if any drugs or toxins played a role in the cause of death.

  • Performing tests submitted by law enforcement agencies, including infrared spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, and electron microscopy. 

Part of their work involves maintaining detailed logs and writing detailed reports about their discoveries during the examinations. They must exercise great attention to detail since the smallest of mistakes can derail the investigation. Administrative duties they are responsible for include:

  • Guaranteeing that all protocols and regulations are followed and maintained.

  • Collecting and inputting data into relevant program databases.

  • Preparing written reports regarding evidence.

  • Bridging the gap between the forensic laboratory team and crime scene investigators.

  • Developing and maintaining high quality operating procedures.

In addition to aiding criminal investigation, forensic biologists are known to assess environmental contamination and evaluate threats to public health.





Must effectively communicate with your co-workers to ensure the best care and the proper procedures. Must be able to communicate in high-stress environments.

Active Listening

Offering your full attention to an individual person or group in order to fully understand problems and their nature.

Critical Thinking

Must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Judgment and Decision Making

Needs to be able to act autonomously and make difficult decisions that would benefit the patient or make corrections. Must consider all benefits and repercussions of potential actions and choose the appropriate one. 

Complex Problem Solving

Must be able to identify complex problems and develop and evaluate corrective options and implement solutions. 

Stress Management

Must be able to endure intense situations and handle pressure that comes with extreme situations you may encounter.


Must be trustworthy because you have people's lives in your hands and what you do could help or hurt them. They are entrusted with a great responsibility and must live up to it. 


Gauging how people react and read their body language to decipher their feelings and predict their actions. They must be able to determine if people could be a risk to themselves or others and to distinguish truths from lies.


Working Conditions


The work of a forensic biologist can be messy and unpleasant. Field work can be particularly distasteful as it often involves collecting and examining biological materials. This may require collecting material in the advanced stages of decomposition by digging through trash, mud, or debris.

The work of a forensic biologist can be repetitive and tedious at times. However, most find great satisfaction in finding the critical piece of the jigsaw puzzle in a highly important criminal investigation.



How to Become a Forensic Biologist:


1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)


Forensic biologists are scientists by definition, so a four year college degree in biology, biochemistry, molecular biology or forensic biology is mandatory. Extensive laboratory experience is required and courses in biostatistics, genetics, general chemistry and organic chemistry are recommended. Considerable knowledge in physics and math is preferred. Programs chosen by students should be accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.


The preparation timeline below provides an example biology curriculum:


Grade Level

Example Courses

Freshman Year


  • Biology I & Lab

  • Biology II & Lab

  • Chemistry I & Lab

  • Chemistry II & Lab

  • Calculus I

  • Calculus II

  • English I

  • Humanities Requirement/Electives

Sophomore Year

  • Genetics

  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab

  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab

  • Calculus II

  • Cell Biology

  • English II

  • Public Speaking

  • Humanities Requirement/Electives

Junior Year


  • Physics I & Lab

  • Physics II & Lab

  • Biostatistics

  • Molecular Biology

  • Evolution

  • Comparative Physiology

  • Humanities Requirement/Electives

Senior Year

  • Ecology

  • Vertebrate Histology

  • Biochemistry

  • Remaining Electives


2. Take the Graduate Requisite Exam (GRE)


Most graduate programs revolving around forensic science require the Graduate Requisite Exam (GRE) for admittance. It's a 3 hour and 45 minute, standardized, multiple choice exam that covers analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.


The GRE is broken down into six primary sections:


1 Analytical Writing Section

  • 2 writing assignments

  • 60 minutes

  • Tests student's abilities to assess arguments and communicate ideas

2 Quantitative Reasoning Sections

  • ~20 multiple-choice questions

  • 35 minutes per section

  • Tests student's abilities to solve mathematical problems and interpret data

2 Verbal Reasoning Sections

  • ~20 questions per section

  • 30 minutes per section

  • Tests the ability to understand and analyze written material

1 Unscored Section

  • A duplicate of one of the above sections


You can find study materials, GRE registration, and your test scores on the GRE website.


3. Earn a Master's Degree (2 Years)


A master’s degree in forensic science is required by most employers in order to seek employment in a private or federal crime laboratory.


The preparation timeline below provides an example forensic science curriculum:


Grade Level

Example Courses

First Year


  • Crime Scene Investigation & Reconstruction

  • Forensic Toxicology & Chemistry Analyses

  • Biostatistics

  • Genetics

  • Equilibrium & Analysis

  • Law & Ethics

  • Principles of Pharmacology

  • Forensic Serology

  • Forensic Chemistry

  • Forensic Microscopy 

Second Year

  • Forensic Toxicology

  • Human Molecular Biology

  • Forensic Trace Evidence Analysis

  • Advanced Forensic Chemistry

  • Quality Management

  • Graduate Practicum in Forensic Biology

  • Research Project in Forensic Biology


Salary Outlook