It may be that you have always had an interest in forensic science, following the likes of well-known investigators like Henry Lee and Michael Baden. But maybe that’s not you, and you are just looking for an exciting career to enter as you think about your future beyond college. Whatever your background, it’s never too late to sharpen your forensic science skills, a path that can be taken by completing one of the forensic science programs in Hawaii.
A forensic science education can help you to prepare for a career in a lab. Typically, you need to complete a bachelor’s degree specifically in forensic science or a field like biology, chemistry, biology, physics or physical anthropology, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). At the graduate level, a forensic science degree may enable you to become involved in research, further grow your investigative skills for your own private business or enter administration or upper-management. At the doctoral level, it may enable you to become a professor or lab director. Entering crime scene investigation (CSI) is another choice. This will keep you mostly out in the field, documenting crime scenes and finding and storing the right pieces of crime scene evidence. A four-year forensic science degree may be helpful in entering CSI, as may completion of a police academy program. Other options are to work on a certificate or associate degree program specifically in CSI.
Forensic science is a relatively high paying career, both nationwide and in the state. The mean annual wages for forensic science technicians, as of May 2014, were $58,610, according to the BLS. In Hawaii, forensic science technicians fare nearly as well with mean wages at $56,720, shows the BLS. Although this isn’t as high as the nationwide average, it is still remains above the mean wages for all occupations combined in U.S., which were, of as May 2014, $47,230, according to the BLS. Nationwide, opportunities for forensic science technicians are expected to grow by 6 percent. In Hawaii, this job growth is also expected to be six percent, from 2012 to 2022, but pay can depend on a number of factors.
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Becoming a forensic scientists most often requires a four-year bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS. Most students need at least a high school diploma or GED to enter a postsecondary program. High schools classes in biology, calculus, chemistry and physics can be particularly relevant. Once accepted into a postsecondary institution, students could:
What other types of skills are essential to become a forensic scientist? The AAFS says that curiosity and integrity are important as well as the ability to solidly communicate with others and to effectively take notes and carry out documentation. Forensic scientists also need to remain professional at all times, and stay composed no matter what they may see as a result of a crime.
CSI is another branch of forensic science that may be of interest. Instead of being in the lab, this will put you out in the field at the scene of the crime or traveling to consult with other professionals about what may have happened. The steps for entering CSI are not as direct as for forensic science and primarily depend on how much time you want to invest in your education. Some ways to enter CSI include:
Whatever path you choose, certification may be valuable. While a full list of agencies offering certification or membership is provided at the end of the article, some of particular relevance to CSIs include: the International Association for Identification (IAI); the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA); and The American College of Forensic Examiners Institute (ACFEI). Requirements may vary per organization, so be sure to familiarize yourself with them beforehand.
The best job opportunities in Hawaii may be found in some of its larger cities, simply because more crime can occur there. In Hawaii, the cities of Honolulu, Hilo, and Kailua are among the largest. Individuals could look for employment with Honolulu Police Department’s Scientific Investigation Section, a full-service lab accredited in multiple areas, including biology, controlled substances, trace evidence, and others. Additional places to look for employment could include:
Of course, forensic scientists may also be able to work in a morgue or a coroner’s office, particularly when they have training as a pathologist, or for any number of police departments or agencies. Jobs also could be found with federal, state or local agencies as well as private companies.
While there are a number of forensic colleges in the Aloha State, none are accredited through the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), the accrediting branch of the AAFS. Graduation from a FEPAC-accredited program is not necessary, however, but could be preferred by employers. You may find that other job candidates in Hawaii have not graduated from a FEPAC-accredited school either, and that the strength of your grades and experiences may speak more to your qualifications. Some of the forensic science schools in Hawaii include:
Many degree-based forensic science programs may require students to obtain a specific GPA in classes in their area of study. They may also need to complete an internship or do lab work. Students looking for more opportunities beyond those listed above, may want to explore what online programs have to offer.
Students in Hawaii can find a wide variety of forensic science programs and degrees online. These will vary from the certificate level all the way up to advanced degrees. Classroom discussion, collaborative projects, and video instruction can comprise part of their Internet-based learning.
Additional programs are listed in the AAFS website, including undergraduate, graduate and online certificates. Contact information, e-mail and website URL for these programs are provided on the site.
Enrolling in a FEPAC-accredited program may be helpful to launching a career, but not necessary. Since there are no ground-based FEPAC-accredited schools in Hawaii, students may want to ensure the institution they are attending is regionally accredited. In Hawaii, regional accreditation is granted through the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Someone in Hawaii really wanting to attend a FEPAC-accredited program could seek out one of those offered online, however. FEPAC accreditation can help assure future employees that individuals have received the necessary training to work in a laboratory.
Additionally, a number of different organizations offer forensic science certification that can help provide proof of an individual’s skills. These includes organizations, such as the
The types of certifications available through these organizations will vary and applicants may need to pass an examination or meet other requirements, such as graduating from a program backed by the organization. As well, some of these may offer membership that can include benefits, such as continuing education opportunities, networking and outreach, and even job boards.
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