ne

Forensic Science Colleges in Nebraska

 

From dental records to the contents of maggots’ bellies and even hair that still remains attached to a victim, numerous clues can give way to bodily identification at a crime scene. These clues are then sent off to a forensic science lab where technicians start the process of close analysis to help provide an idea about what may have happened at a crime or who may have been involved in its commission.

If a forensic science career sounds exciting to you, know that there are many different disciplines that you can become an expert in, including anthropology, entomology and even toxicology. These specific fields do require very high-level degrees, however, and if that is not quite your cup of tea, realize that most forensic science technicians have an undergraduate degree in the natural sciences followed by a master’s in forensic science, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

If laboratory work is not quite your idea of fun, you may want to consider a career in crime scene investigation (CSI) instead. Most often, a bachelor’s degree or work as a law enforcement official is needed to obtain these skills, but knowing how to secure a scene and collect and preserve evidence are of utter importance when it comes to solving crimes. There are several different educational options available in Nebraska when it comes to training for a forensic science career.

Programs for Nebraska Students

University of Cincinnati

Online MS in Criminal Justice (MSCJ)

Boston University

Online MS in Computer Information Systems

  • Cybersecurity Concentration
Utica College

Online Financial Crimes Investigator Certificate

Online BS in Economic Crime Investigation

Maryville University

Online MS in Cyber Security

Online BS in Cyber Security

St. Joseph's University

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ)

  • Federal Law Enforcement Concentration
  • Intelligence & Crime Analysis Concentration

Forensic Science Careers in Nebraska

The burning question on your mind may be whether forensic science technicians can earn a good income. According to May 2014 data from the BLS, they do. In fact, the BLS indicates that the mean annual wage for forensic science technicians working across the U.S. was $58,610, as of May 2014. Just in case you are not impressed, that’s $10,000 more on average than the mean annual income of $47,230 for all occupations in the country combined. In Nebraska, the mean annual wage for forensic science technicians was $51,870, according to May 2014 BLS data, but keep in mind that Nebraska also has the advantage of having a cost of living lower than the national average.

Nationwide, job opportunities for forensic science technicians are expected to grow by six percent. This growth is somewhat slow, but could still result in 700 new positions opening up from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS. In Nebraska, job growth is expected to be somewhat similar, at five percent, from 2012 to 2022, shows the website CareerInfoNet.com. This just means that graduates should be prepared to need to hone their competitive edge. Ways to do this include obtaining a master’s degree in forensic science or knowing about digital forensics or having a DNA specialty, according to the BLS.

How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Nebraska

A master’s degree in forensic science is typically needed to work in the field, although graduates may be able to find entry-level opportunities with just a bachelor’s degree. Because forensic science requires a vast understanding of the sciences, a significant amount of education is necessary to be able to perform such job-related duties. Some of the degrees available in the field include:

  • A bachelor’s degree. A four-year undergraduate degree in the forensic sciences trains students in-depth in biology and chemistry and also provides them with lab and hands-on experiences. If a bachelor’s degree in forensic science is unavailable in a student’s state, they may want to complete a bachelor’s degree in biology or chemistry – whichever field they prefer more or is available – and then look for forensic science training at the master’s level.
  • A master’s degree. A primary reason for completing a master’s degree in forensic science is that people with this level of training typically have better job opportunities, according to the BLS. It is also needed for some people want to work toward very advanced forensic science fields, such as in forensic anthropology, but the master’s degree, which typically takes two to five years to complete, is only a transitional step for this very specific forensic science field.
  • A PhD or other doctoral degree. According to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), an advanced degree is necessary for some fields including forensic anthropology, forensic psychology and pathology. A PhD degree can take between three to seven years to complete, depending on if a student is enrolled full or part-time, and this advanced degree can include research and even completion of a dissertation.

There are also certain qualities that are important to entering the forensic science field, as well, according to the AAFS. These include good speaking, note-taking and observation skills as well as the ability to be able to write scientific reports, remain unbiased, be intellectually curious and have personal integrity, reports the AAFS.

Becoming a CSI in the Cornhusker State

CSI is another field of forensic science that can have you out of the lab and actually working at the scene of a crime. Knowing how to collect and preserve evidence is important, but so is the ability to sketch a crime scene, take photos or videos of evidence, and keep fibers and fluids from being contaminated by outside sources. Some of the training in the field is available through a:

  • Certificate or associate degree. A certificate takes about a year to complete, and an associate degree about two, but both can lay the groundwork for many fundamentals in CSI. Because the BLS indicates that a four-year degree is typically needed to enter the field, this undergraduate training may best be used to complete a bachelor’s degree or to try and obtain a job and then work toward completing that four-year education.
  • A bachelor’s degree. The BLS shows that this four-year degree is typically necessary for a civilian, i.e., a non-uniformed officer to enter the CSI field. Often, these bachelor’s degrees are available in the field of criminal justice with the specific CSI skills coming through a specialization offered as part of the criminal justice degree.
  • A police academy. Many professionals gain the CSI education they need by completing a police academy and then going to work in a law enforcement field. They may then find special opportunities to train or work in CSI or become involved in collecting and preserving evidence at crime scenes.

Of interest, the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA) reports that many CSIs are actually uniformed officers, but that CSIs can also be hired without training through a law enforcement agency. However, it does note there are differences related to economic and arrest powers when it comes to civilians versus trained officers. “Police officers are generally paid at a higher level then the civilian counter parts, they usually have better benefits and have an available career ladder. Civilian CSIs have little career opportunities, less benefits and work in the same dangerous environment as their sworn counterparts,” the ICSIA website reports.

Job Opportunities in Nebraska

Omaha and Lincoln are the two largest cities in Nebraska, together being home to more than 700,000 people. Either could be a good place to look for a job simply because there may be more governmental, academic or private entities there, but also because more crime could be committed there as well. However, many additional opportunities could be found in the state either through county or other cities that have law enforcement agencies.

The Nebraska State Patrol Crime Lab, in Grand Island could be one entity hiring graduates of forensic science programs. It conducts analysis of evidence in criminal cases for federal, military, state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies within Nebraska. Its services are performed free of charge in areas like drugs, DNA/serology, questioned documents and toxicology. Other agencies having job opportunities could include the:

You may have noticed that many job opportunities are available through governmental agencies. In fact, the BLS reports that nine out of 10 forensic science technicians work for local or state government. Other forensic scientists, however, do go on to work as experts in their own right – just think of Michael Baden or Henry Lee, so working as a consultant or privately could be another option down the road.

Featured Forensic Science Colleges in Nebraska

Students can find several on-campus forensic science training programs available in Nebraska. These begin to build at the associate degree level and can be pursued all the way up to the graduate degree. Some of these choices include:

  • Southeast Community College, in Lincoln, offers an associate degree in criminal justice in which students take courses in criminal law, criminal procedures and criminalists. Two criminal investigation classes that are included look closely at how to collect, organize and preserve evidence, examine primary sources of information as well as do report writing and understand the legal limitations of investigations.
  • Chadron State College, in Chadron, has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice available with five different focuses including one in forensic science. The chosen focus area requires that six of the overall 57 credit hours in criminal justice be completed in that specific area. For the forensic science focus this includes options such as Fundamentals of Criminal Investigation, Forensic Studies I, Forensic Studies II and Topics in Forensic Science.
  • The University of Nebraska, at Lincoln, provides a bachelor’s degree in forensic science with two different track options: either forensic biochemistry or crime scene investigation. Internship opportunities as well as the option to work on a capstone project during their senior year may also be available. A pre-law option also allows students to receive their bachelor’s in forensic science and their Juris Doctorate in six years rather than a combined told of seven. A forensic science club is also available at the school.

Keep in mind that students are not just limited to forensic science programs at the undergraduate degree level in Nebraska. Students may alternatively want to complete a bachelor’s degree in biology or chemistry and learn more about the forensic science field at the graduate level.

Hybrid & Online Programs

Numerous programs in forensic science can also be found online. Online education can eliminate the time spent on commuting to a campus-based program and provide more flexibility to busy working adults. Some of these online options include:

  • Ashworth College offers a diploma program in forensics that helps students to learn the processes used to identify, collect and analyze forensic evidence as it relates to solving crimes. The program can be completed at a student’s own pace and in as quickly as four months.
  • Point Park University Online features a bachelor’s of science degree in criminal justice that also comprises forensic science learning. In fact, students take both Forensic Evidence I and Forensic Evidence II as part of their 120-credit program.
  • Colorado Technical University offers a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in Forensic Investigations. Students learn how to carry out a variety of skills, such as fingerprint identification and forensic photography, and to understand how bugs, bones and teeth play an important part in human remains.
  • National University provides a master’s of forensic science degree that is available online and that focuses on how scientific methods are applied to solve legal matters. Students learn about basic human anatomy, death investigation and the techniques used in identifying disease or trauma, as well as how to interact with other forensic investigators, such as forensic pathologists.

Students can also turn to the AAFS to find a full listing of undergraduate, graduate degrees and certificate programs that are available online. Many of these provide a general education in criminal justice or a tighter focus, such as in cyber security or forensic psychology.

Program Accreditation & Certification

Graduating from a FEPAC-accredited program can be valuable in obtaining a job or looking for advancement. Not all employers may require it, however, simply because this accreditation is rigorous, and relatively rare, so not all schools have it. Another way to prove to a potential employer that you graduated from a quality-level program is to enroll in one that has regional accreditation. In Nebraska, this accreditation is available through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which reports that “[r]ecognition by CHEA affirms that the standards and processes of the accrediting organization are consistent with the academic quality, improvement and accountability expectations that CHEA has established, including the eligibility standard that the majority of institutions or programs each accredits are degree-granting.”

Another way to prove that you have quality-level skills is to seek certification or to join a forensic science organization as a member. Organizations such as the International Association for Identification (IAI) and the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA) offer numerous forensic science certifications, including in forensic art and latent print certification. Membership in an organization can also be valuable in providing networking opportunities, advocacy and even job boards and continuing education. Entities offering certification or membership include the:

Finally, graduates might also look to joining the AAFS, which offers several levels of membership, including potential promotion to Fellow. An application process is required and new members must be voted on for acceptance by the AAFS Board of Directors during its annual meeting.

School NameCityWebsiteDegrees AwardedCertificates AwardedTotal Forensics Grads
University of Nebraska-LincolnLincoln30030
Nebraska Wesleyan UniversityLincoln10010

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

ne