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 579 murders across the state in 2014, 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 2014 were non-violent and related to the theft of personal property. There were 225,567 cases of larceny reported, 61.62 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 CareerOneStop (2015)—a data organization sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor—30.9 percent of all working forensic science technicians report a bachelor’s degree to be their highest level of educational attainment, with another 15.1 percent achieving at least a master’s degree.
Here is one possible path to becoming a forensic scientist in Georgia:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014), there are currently 210 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 (2014) provides a breakdown of the annual salary ranges for forensic science technicians in Georgia:
It’s no surprise that the highest paying regions tend to be located around major urban centers. According to the BLS (2014), the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta pays significantly more than the state salary ranges. Here is the annual salary data for this region of Georgia which employs 150 of the state’s 210 forensic science technicians:
There is a number of employment opportunities for those trained in forensic science in Georgia and the BLS (2014) reports that these are expected to grow in coming years. In fact, the BLS predicts that openings for forensic science technicians will grow 6 percent between 2012 and 2022. Please note that this rate is somewhat slower than the average growth projected for all occupations during that time (11 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’s degree program is offered through the Department of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science. 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.
There is a wide array of other notable forensic science colleges in Georgia such as:
Savannah State University offers a bachelor of science (B.S.) in forensic science program through its Department of Chemistry and Forensic Science. Students choose between two specialty tracks: chemistry or biology. This “highly marketable interdisciplinary degree” requires core coursework in personal identification with DNA, drug abuse and analysis, and a forensic science seminar. Additionally, there are several electives offered to accommodate more specialized interests such as computer forensics, lab biotechnology, and forensic photography.
Ogeechee Technical College in Statesboro provides a crime scene investigation (CSI) certificate through its forensic science technology program. Students complete fundamental courses such as victimology, death investigation, forensic photography, forensic firearms and toolmarks, and latent print examination. This hands-on program may be ideal for those looking to work in police departments.
Georgia Southern University, also located in Statesboro, hosts a specialty track in the growing field of forensic accounting, open to students in their esteemed master’s of accounting program. This program comprises courses such as expert witnessing, law and ethics for accountants, and fraudulent financial reporting. Georgia Southern’s program is designed to prepare students for careers at law firms, public accounting firms, and professional litigation support consulting companies.
American Intercontinental University in Atlanta hosts a 36-month bachelor of science (B.S.) degree in criminal justice with a forensic science specialty. This program is also offered online with training in areas such as forensic biology, psychopathology and criminality, and arson investigation. Finally, the school has a professional certificate for those looking to boost specific skills in forensic science, which covers targeted topics such as medicolegal death investigations, evidence, and forensic psychology.
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 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 (B.S.) in criminal justice program through its Atlanta campus, but also provides the coursework online to make attending school more convenient for working professionals, parents, and people with other types of obligations. South University, based in Savannah Georgia, has an online B.S. program as well as an online master of science (M.S.) in criminal justice. This school can be an especially attractive option to people in the military for its tuition assistance.
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 17 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