Georgia—also known as the Empire State of the South—offers abundant opportunities to people interested in forensic science. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI), there were 606 murders across the state in 2015, although these aren’t the only cases which require the careful evidence collection, documentation, and analysis of a skilled forensic scientist. A majority of the crimes committed in Georgia in 2015 were non-violent and related to the theft of personal property. There were 208,826 cases of larceny reported, 62.2 percent of all crimes in the state. In these cases, forensic scientists assist in the collection of biological, chemical, or physical evidence in order to discover the identity of the perpetrator.
For people interested in crime-solving, there is a wealth of forensic science schools in Georgia to receive proper training. Coincidentally, the state motto embodies the core of a successful forensic investigation: “Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation.” Read on to discover how to become a forensic scientist in Georgia, as well as the occupational demand, featured forensic science colleges, program accreditation, and professional certification.
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In Georgia, there are several paths to becoming a forensic scientist or forensic science technician. Some candidates receive hands-on crime training at a police academy and pursue associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees in forensics later on. As access to quality forensic science programs increases—especially with the recent explosion of online offerings—it’s becoming increasingly common to pursue one’s education and credentials prior to joining any number of crime-solving occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015)—the main data organization affiliated with the U.S. Department of Labor—a majority of forensic science technicians have at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for entry-level positions.
Here is one possible path to becoming a forensic scientist in Georgia:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2016), there are currently 450 forensic science technicians employed in Georgia. This is one of many occupations that people trained in forensic science pursue. Alternatively, graduates for forensic science colleges in Georgia go on to become crime scene investigators (CSIs), detectives, laboratory managers, handwriting analysts, forensic pathologists, and other related professions.
The BLS (2016) provides a breakdown of the annual salary ranges for the 450 forensic science technicians in Georgia, who commanded an average annual salary of $49,260 and the following percentiles:
In hourly figures, these equated an average of $23.68 per hour and these percentiles:
It’s no surprise that the regions with the highest employment tend to be located around major urban centers. In fact, 370 of the 450 forensic science technicians in GA worked in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell area and earned an average annual salary of $49,910, slightly higher than the state average (BLS May 2016). Here were the annual salary percentiles for that region of Georgia:
Additionally, there is a number of employment opportunities for those trained in forensic science in Georgia. In fact, the BLS (Dec. 2015) projected a 27 percent explosion in job openings nationwide for forensic science technicians between 2014 and 2024, much more robust than the average growth expected across all occupations during that time period (6.5 percent).
Some of the common employing organizations across the state include:
Finally, there are many resources to provide support and further training to forensic scientists in Georgia. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) offers a comprehensive list of societies, professional organizations, conferences, publications, employment opportunities and more, all related to the varied fields of forensics.
Georgia is host to many quality forensic science programs, including one bachelor’s program in forensic science accredited by the prestigious Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC):
Albany State University’s FEPAC-accredited forensic science bachelor of science (BS) degree program is offered through the College of Sciences and Technology. Through its rigorous coursework and supervised externship opportunities, Albany State aims to prepare aspiring professionals in forensic chemistry, microscopy, toxicology, photography, fingerprinting, and DNA. Furthermore, this competitive program has received grants from the U.S. Departments of Education and Defense and has the distinction of being the only established forensics program among HBCU (i.e., Historically Black Colleges and Universities) institutions nationwide. For the 2016-17 school year, tuition costs $161.93 per credit hour. Additional fees may apply.
There are several other notable forensic science colleges in Georgia such as:
These are only a few of the forensics programs available. Here are some other renowned forensic science colleges in GA, including some with distance-based programs:
With rapidly expanding access to technology, schools have been developing distance education options for students who are unable to attend more traditional, campus-based programs. ForensicsColleges.com has gathered a compendium of online forensic science programs of varying levels and organized by specialty to meet the needs of students regardless of their location.
As mentioned above, American Intercontinental University not only offers its bachelor of science (BS) in criminal justice program through its Atlanta campus, but also provides the coursework online, with an optional specialization in forensic science, to make attending school more convenient for working professionals, parents, and people with other types of obligations.
Also, Argosy University provides an online master of science (MS) in forensic psychology with three unique concentrations: assessment and treatment, homeland security, or law enforcement. Courses common to all the specialized tracks include maladaptive behavior and psychopathology, psychology of criminal behavior, research and evaluation, and psychology of the victim. This online program costs $750 per credit hour.
These are only a few of the online forensics programs available from GA-based campuses. Again, Georgia residents may also qualify for programs located in other states and are encouraged to check out the main page for online forensic science degree programs.
The primary accrediting body for forensics programs across the country is the Forensic Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). There is currently one FEPAC-accredited bachelor’s program in Georgia at Albany State. While graduating from a FEPAC accredited program is not generally a prerequisite to employment or certifications in Georgia, it can be a useful marker of programmatic integrity, indicating to potential employers or graduate program admissions committees a student’s level of achievement. In addition to FEPAC—a program-accrediting organization—there are several institutional and regional accreditation bodies as well.
In Georgia, the primary regional accreditation body is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). SACS weighs criteria such as the quality of faculty, physical facilities, school finances, and student outcomes, among other measures.
Finally, there is a number of specialized professional certifications which aspiring forensic scientists may choose to pursue depending on their discipline. While admissions procedures vary, the process typically involves an application, verifying one’s educational and/or professional experience, and passing a competence-based examination. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has accredited 10 organizations across the country to award professional certification. These FSAB-accredited organizations include:
School data provided by IPEDS (2013), and includes all certificates and degrees awarded for the following programs: Arson Investigation, Computer Forensics, Forensic Accounting, Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Psychology, Forensic Science and Technology, and Law Enforcement Investigation