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In popular culture and the collective imagination, few American states have gotten as much attention for their forensic science—real or imagined—as New York (NY). From Batman’s Gotham City to NYPD Blue and CSI: NY, the Empire State is renowned for its morbidly creative crimes and potential for investigating juicy mysteries.
Luckily for aspiring crime-solvers in New York, there are several quality forensic science programs in the state—both on-campus and distance-based—as well as a healthy employment landscape for these trained professionals.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014), forensic science technicians—one of many career options for program graduates—make an average of $63,000 annually in NY, 7.5% more than the national average for this occupation ($58,610). Another option, becoming a detective or criminal investigator, can be even more lucrative. These specialists make an average annual salary of $88,280 in NY (BLS 2014), 9.6% more than the national average ($80,540).
Read on below to discover how to become a forensic scientist in NY; what the job outlook is in the state; the availability of quality traditional or distance-based programs; and what prospective students should know about program accreditation and professional certifications.
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For prospective forensic scientists and technicians in New York, there are a variety of educational and experiential paths, although these professionals typically pursue at least four-year degree in natural sciences prior to employment. In fact, Career One Stop (2015)—a job-planning tool sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor—reports that 46% of forensic science technicians have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 12% with associate degrees and 25% with some college education.
Here is one path to becoming a forensic scientist or technician in NY:
For graduates of forensic science colleges in New York, the employment prospects look bright, especially in relation to the rest of the country.
First, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014), forensic science technicians—one possible career path for these graduates—make significantly more money annually in NY than national averages (except at the very highest range which tends to be skewed by outlying high-earners):
New York state:
By contrast, here are the national averages for this occupation:
Therefore, in New York, forensic science technicians make 28.8% more annually in the lower salary range and 12.2% more in the mid-range.
So what are the major employers in NY of graduates in forensic sciences? It’s no surprise that the metropolitan region around the Big Apple is one of the top-paying and top-employing regions for forensic science technicians in the state, especially among public law enforcement agencies and their affiliates. According to the New York’s Office of Forensic Services (OFS)—a subbranch of the NY Division of Criminal Justice Services—there are 19 accredited public forensic laboratories (e.g., NYC Police Department Police Laboratory, Monroe County Public Safety Laboratory, Onondaga County Center for Forensic Sciences). The OFS is tasked with the administrative oversight of the NY State DNA databank, as well as upholding the standards of lab accreditation in each of its precincts.
There are currently 600 of forensic science technicians employed in the state of New York. The BLS (2014) expects this figure to swell 6% between 2012 and 2022, somewhat slower than the average growth projected for all occupations. The availability of openings is driven in part by advancements in technology and instrumentation. Therefore, pioneering techniques in chemistry, biology, and other sciences can continue to shape the employment landscape and help resolve the backlogs of cases in forensic labs, especially with respect to DNA analyses.
Degrees in forensic sciences can be versatile and these graduates in New York may go into a variety of careers such as:
Please note that the education, training, and experiential requirements may vary for these professions. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) provides a career resource list with organizations, professional associations, and networking opportunities across the range of disciplines in forensic science.
Finally, the ForensicsColleges blog offers a number of in-depth career articles for graduates in forensic science in its How to Become series, with step-by-step instructions to becoming a profiler, crime scene technician, forensic psychologist, forensic accountant, detective and more.
There is an abundance of forensic science colleges in New York State, including two programs accredited by the prestigious Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). This organization weighs factors such as faculty achievements, curriculum content, student outcomes, and production of quality research. While graduating from one of these accredited programs is not a requirement to join most careers in forensic science, it can indicate a student’s merit to prospective employers due to FEPAC’s scrupulous evaluation standards.
The FEPAC-accredited programs in NY are:
Buffalo State SUNY offers a bachelor of science (B.S.) in forensic chemistry. Developed in 1971, this rigorous program combines didactic coursework with renowned faculty and hands-on internships working with experienced crime scene investigators. Graduates of Buffalo State have gone into a number of careers in local and state forensic science labs, as well as into graduate studies or professional schools in toxicology, food science, and pharmaceuticals, to name a few.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC provides a number of degrees for aspiring forensic science professionals, including its FEPAC-accredited master of science (M.S.) in forensic science. This program is ideal for administrators, directors, and other leadership in crime solving facilities. It boasts three distinct specializations: criminalistics, molecular biology, and forensic toxicology. Additionally, John Jay has two online master’s programs: security management (for those interested in computer forensics) and public administration.
Other featured options for forensic science degrees in New York include:
Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) in Troy has two programs for entry-level aspiring forensic scientists: an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degree in criminal justice, as well as an associate of science (A.S.) in forensic science, the latter of which has sent many graduates to work with the NY State Police Forensics Investigation Center. With coursework fundamentals in organic chemistry, biology, and criminal investigation, this program transfers seamlessly to the FEPAC-accredited John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Pace University in the Big Apple offers both bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees in forensic science. With the support of the chemistry and biology departments, these programs have access to an innovative DNA sequencing lab and specialized equipment for crime scene construction, document analysis, and forensic microscopy. In combination with the state-of-the-art facilities, Pace employs a number of real forensics experts as faculty who cut their teeth on crime-solving in NYC.
Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences hosts an advanced certificate program in medicolegal death investigation, a program designed for mid-career professionals (e.g., first responders, coroners, funeral directors). This 12-credit hour curricula is continually evolving with new developments in research and consequent recommendations set forth by three organizations: the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, the National Association of Medical Examiners, and the Scientific Working Group on MDI.
In addition to these university-based programs, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in NYC provides a broad-based forensic sciences training program which is sponsored by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) for eligible participants. Facilities include the largest DNA lab in the U.S. and groundbreaking equipment for all hazards training and disaster response. Boasting an experienced staff, the program has three sets of training modules: medicolegal death investigation, forensic specialties, and basic bloodstain pattern analysis.
In addition to ForensicColleges’ national listing of online CSI and forensics programs, there are a number of distance-learning opportunities based in New York as well:
Utica College offers an online bachelor of science (B.S.) in cybersecurity degree developed in conjunction with the university’s reputable Center for Identity Management and Information Protection. Students in this program learn a variety of techniques curated from the latest innovations by the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and other global-caliber organizations. There are five unique specializations available: network forensics and intrusion investigation, information assurance, cybercrime and fraud investigation, homeland security and emergency management, and cyber operations.
SUNY Canton in northern NY state hosts an online bachelor of technology degree in criminal investigation. In addition to coursework in subjects such as forensic photography, investigation of death, and investigative interviews, as part of the curriculum, students can choose between an internship in Washington D.C. with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives or travel across the U.S. to work in a medical examiner’s office.
Prospective forensic scientists in New York are encouraged to check the accreditation status of their institution prior before enrolling in a program. While institutional accreditation may not be a prerequisite to employment or further education, it may serve as an indicator of program quality.
In addition to the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC, mentioned above), there are a number of regional and institution-based accreditation agencies, including:
The U.S. Department of Education has a searchable database of all accredited locations and programs.
In addition, professional certification may be advisable to individuals prior to seeking employment. The process of licensure will vary by field, but it typically involves baseline standards of education and experience, as well as an exam or other proof of competence. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) currently accredits 17 certification organizations:
|School Name||City||Website||Degrees Awarded||Certificates Awarded||Total Forensics Grads|
|CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice||New York||www.jjay.cuny.edu||532||1||533|
|Farmingdale State College||Farmingdale||www.farmingdale.edu||42||0||42|
|Pace University-New York||New York||www.pace.edu||35||0||35|
|Herkimer County Community College||Herkimer||www.herkimer.edu||14||0||14|
|CUNY Graduate School and University Center||New York||http://www.gc.cuny.edu/Home||12||0||12|
|SUNY College of Technology at Alfred||Alfred||www.alfredstate.edu||10||0||10|
|SUNY Broome Community College||Binghamton||www.sunybroome.edu||10||0||10|
|CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College||New York||www.bmcc.cuny.edu||9||0||9|
|Tompkins Cortland Community College||Dryden||www.tc3.edu||7||0||7|
|The College of Saint Rose||Albany||www.strose.edu||6||1||7|
|Buffalo State SUNY||Buffalo||suny.buffalostate.edu||7||0||7|
|SUNY at Binghamton||Vestal||http://www.binghamton.edu/||0||6||6|
|Hudson Valley Community College||Troy||http://www.hvcc.edu/||4||0||4|
|Erie Community College||Buffalo||https://www.ecc.edu||0||4||4|
|CUNY Queensborough Community College||Bayside||www.qcc.cuny.edu||4||0||4|
|CUNY Hostos Community College||Bronx||www.hostos.cuny.edu||1||0||1|
|CUNY Bronx Community College||Bronx||www.bcc.cuny.edu||1||0||1|
|Columbia-Greene Community College||Hudson||www.sunycgcc.edu||1||0||1|
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