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Forensics Science Colleges in Washington, D.C.

 

What kind of person makes a good forensic science technician? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it’s someone with an interest in the natural sciences who want to learn how the natural sciences apply to criminal justice and the law. So many people are interested in the career that nearly 13,000 individuals were employed as forensic science technicians, as of 2012. Successful forensic scientists also are good problem-solvers, able to think under pressure, and have a strong ability to notice the kinds of details that may be important to solving a crime, shows the BLS.

Forensic scientists that are interested in working in a crime lab typically need to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences follow by a master’s degree, according to the BLS. Another route may be to complete an undergraduate degree in the forensic sciences and then seek entry-level employment. Whatever path you take, you are likely to receive substantial training in biology and chemistry and even math and other sciences.

Another path to consider is a career as a crime scene investigator. The BLS reports that a bachelor’s degree is also needed to enter this field, but sometimes training can occur on the job or people can find entry-level jobs with lesser education, such as an associate degree. Whichever career option seems best for you, you can find forensic science programs available that provide theoretical and hands-on education.

Programs for Washington DC Students

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

Job Demand for Forensic Scientists

One important aspect to consider before deciding on a career is whether the educational investment it requires is worth the future potential income. Indeed, forensic scientists working across the nation had mean annual wages of $58,610, according to May 2014 BLS data. This is much higher than the $47,230 for all occupations combined across the country, according to the BLS, meaning that forensic science can lead to a financially rewarding career.

As a matter of fact, forensic scientists working in Washington D.C., had the second highest wages among all forensic scientists in the country — $78,090, as of May 2014 BLS data. This is more than $30,000 higher than the average for all occupations in the country. Across the country, jobs for forensic scientists are expected to grow by six percent from 2012 to 2012. Although this job growth is slower than average, it could still lead to 700 new positions opening up during this time. There is no job growth information available specific to Washington, D.C., but the BLS does report that job opportunities across the country should be best for those who have an undergraduate degree in the natural sciences followed by a master’s degree in forensic science.

How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Washington, D.C.

A college education is typically necessary to become a forensic science technician, simply because so much learning about the natural sciences, particularly biology and chemistry, is essential. Students also often learn about evidentiary, substantive and procedural law and how to analyze substances, such as blood, drugs, fibers, gunshot residue, and paint. Below are several ways to pursue a career in forensic science.

  • Undertake a bachelor’s degree. This four-year degree will focus on the sciences, but also include criminal justice components. Sometimes you may be allowed to choose a concentration, such as in biology or chemistry, or can even gain specific skills through an externship. Interesting, more than 30 percent of people in the U.S. working as forensic science technicians have a bachelor’s degree, according to CareerOneStop.
  • Extend your knowledge with a master’s. A master’s degree can help professionals to find some of the best job opportunities, and this may be because students can start to specialize at the master’s level, gain more leadership skills, and further advance their skills in the sciences. Most master’s degrees take two or more years to complete, but on a part-time basis, this can take much longer, even up to five years.
  • Complete a PhD. This option might be appropriate for someone who is very interested in research or in conducting experiments and sharing results with the scientific community. At this level, students may also be required to participate in an internship or practicum and may need to be engaged in study for multiple years.

Finally, if board certification is available you may wish to pursue it following completion of an academic program. Certification is not offered in all fields of forensic science, but is in some, such as forensic anthropology. The American Academy of Forensic Scientists (AAFS) provides numerous details on its website about how to enter specific forensic science fields and whether board certification is available in each niche area.

Pursuing CSI in the District of Columbia

From finding evidence at a crime scene to preserving it for analysis in a lab, CSIs need to be able to perform a wide variety of skills on the job. Completing a program in CSI can help provide you with skills to pursue entry-level work and to learn more about working on a crime scene. There are various ways for entering a CSI career, but the BLS reports that a bachelor’s degree is most often needed.

  • Complete a certificate or associate degree in CSI. Undergraduate training can include a certificate or an associate degree. These take one to two years to complete and cover basic fundamentals, such as how to sketch a crime scene and photograph and collect evidence found there.
  • Pursue a bachelor’s degree instead. These are often presented as a four-year programs in criminal justice with a specialization in crime scene work. Students might study Constitutional law, criminalistics, criminal law and criminal evidence. Hands-on learning or a capstone project may be required.
  • Gain CSI experience on the job. The BLS shows that many crime scene investigators are police officers who learned about CSI on the job. In rural areas, individuals interested in CSI may be trained by others who already have experience instead of needing to gain education through academic learning.

CSI certification may also prove worthwhile to individuals, both when it comes to seeking a job and looking for improved opportunities. The International Association for Identification (IAI) offers four specific certifications in CSI as well as others such as latent print certification and footwear certification while the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute (ACFEI) offers a certified criminal investigation (CCI) option as well as other forensic certification options, such as in nursing or accounting.

Occupational Demand in Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital is home to more than 600,000 people, which means there can be plenty of opportunities for jobs, as well as plenty of opportunities for crime. In fact, the city is ranked the 29th most dangerous in the country by a website called Neighborhood Scout, which ranked the worst 100 U.S. cities for violent crime. The Consolidated Forensic Lab could be one place to look for employment. It just opened in 2012, but unfortunately just faced auditing issues because of incompetence by analysts, according to the Washington Post. Of course, this could just mean that they need skilled workers who can perform on the job. Other places to look for work could include:

The AAFS also provides a job board through which jobs can be sorted by state and by title, but opportunities can also be found through college programs, internships or networking with professionals. Since state and local governmental agencies employ about nine out of 10 forensic science technicians, shows the BLS, these agencies could be a good starting point to begin looking for jobs.

Featured Forensic Science Colleges in Washington, D.C.

Forensic science training is fairly limited strictly within Washington, D.C. unless students are seeking training at the graduate level. Given that, there are several master’s degree options that can be found within the nation’s capitol.

  • George Washington University (GWU) offers a number of forensic science options at the graduate level including a master’s degree that is accredited through the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), an important distinction (see further below). In fact, a master’s in forensic science in three fields, forensic chemistry, forensic molecular biology and forensic toxicology, is offered, as is a master’s of science in crime scene investigation and a master’s of science in high technology crime investigation.
  • GWU also offers a graduate certificate in forensic investigation comprising four required courses and one elective. Upon successful completion, the certificate can later be applied to the school’s master of science in crime scene investigation.
  • Although not a forensic science school in the general sense, the Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers a master’s of science degree in forensic psychology. This program helps professionals to understand the connection between psychology and the criminal justice system and enables them to explore criminal behavior in greater depth, the public view of criminals and even the correctional system. The program also requires 700 hours of fieldwork experience.
  • Given the need by some to obtain undergraduate education, students may want to attend an undergraduate program nearby, including right across the Washington, D.C. border. In Largo, Md., they can work on an associate degree in forensic science at Prince George’s Community College. In fact, this forensic science program is designed to articulate into others offered at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the University of Maryland University College. The associate degree program has a heavy focus on the sciences and incorporates hands-on experiences.
  • Although further away from Washington D.C., the University of Baltimore provides a bachelor’s degree in forensic studies. This program is delivered in partnership with the Baltimore Police Department, providing plenty of opportunity for hands-on study. Students have the option of choosing a forensic science or police science concentration.

You can also choose to complete an undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry and then find a program – potentially online – at the master’s degree level in forensic science. In the next section, we take a look at some of the programs offered online, many of which offer increased flexibility and unique scheduling for your learning.

Hybrid & Online Programs

Several different forensic science college programs are available online at the undergraduate and graduate level. However, at the lower level, many of these are focused on criminal justice and may offer forensic science as a concentration, while at the upper level they may have more of a strict focus in forensic science.

  • A diploma program in forensic science is available through Ashworth College that includes lessons called the Crime Scene, the Mind of the Investigator, Physical Evidence, Glass and Soil and a multitude of other topics. The program is 14 lessons in all and closes with a lesson called Forensic Science Today and Tomorrow.
  • American InterContinental University provides a bachelor’s degree online with a concentration in forensic science that can be completed in as little as three years. Courses include Arson Investigation, Cybercrime, Forensic Biology and others.
  • The University of Maryland University College offers a bachelor’s degree online in investigative forensics, which allows students to gain an understanding in both the practice and theory of police work and the forensic disciplines. A 15-credit minor also is available online.
  • National University offers a master’s of forensic science (MFS) that is geared toward professionals including attorneys, investigators, law enforcement, laboratory workers and others. Eight classes are required as core requisites and then another four in a chosen specialization of either criminalistics or investigation.

There are also online programs that are listed on the AAFS website. Although these options are fairly limited, they are still broken down by undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs. In fact, many are more focused on criminal justice than strictly forensic science, but they may still be highly relevant to those interested working in corrections, law enforcement, federal agencies and social services.

Program Accreditation & Certification

Graduating from a FEPAC-accredited program can be valuable when it comes time to seeking a job, simply because it shows that you have received a quality-level education. FEPAC awarded its first accreditation in 2004 and while the number of schools with accreditation has since grown, the overall count is still quite small. In fact, some programs have lost their accreditation because the standards are difficult to maintain. Why look for FEPAC-accredited programs? “On the surface forensic science programs may appear to be similar, but what FEPAC does is dive deep into those programs, separating out those that definitely will prepare and provide graduates with the theoretical knowledge and hands on experiences desired by employers from those that may or will not,” says University of New Haven instructor Peter Massey in Forensic Magazine.

 

Since only about 40 programs in forensic science are accredited at the undergraduate and graduate level combined, making sure your school has regional accreditation may be an important alternative consideration. In Washington, D.C., college programs typically receive regional accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Another option may be to seek certification or membership through a specific forensic organization. While certification is not available in every field of forensic science, it is in some including forensic anthropology and crime scene investigation. Membership also often offers opportunities, such as advocacy, continuing education, networking and a job board. Some forensic science organizations that could be of value include the:

Joining the AAFS is another option, as its membership gives students and working professionals access to newsletters, the Journal of Forensic Sciences, its website and a range of resources. The organization, founded in 1948, also provides an annual scientific conference.

School NameCityWebsiteDegrees AwardedCertificates AwardedTotal Forensics Grads
George Washington UniversityWashington53760
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Washington DCWashington808

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

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