Yes, it’s true. Many students completing a degree in the forensic sciences, or in the natural sciences, may be required to complete an internship to obtain that degree. That doesn’t mean all boring work or just answering the phones in a crime lab — although that certainly could be a part. Below, we’ve compiled a list of 25 internships that may be of interest to those working on a forensic science or criminal justice degree. Many are available over the course of a semester, or, if not, offered through a summer opportunity. Typically, forensic science internships like these are found through the crime labs of state or regional police departments and law enforcement agencies. However, if there is not one listed for a particular state or region, don’t be afraid to call regional police departments and similar agencies to see what might be available. Just because it is not listed here, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist! Sometimes it just takes a phone call to get the ball rolling. Most importantly, no matter what kind of internship a forensic science student pursues, they should be able to work under the likes of a professional forensic scientist in the field and gain new skills and knowledge important in finding that post-college job.
1. Washington D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences
College juniors or seniors or graduate students can apply for the competitive internship positions available through the Department of Forensic Sciences in Washington D.C. Interns could help with administrative tasks or the streamlining of lab processes, as well as participate with research and writing. They should be studying in a field such as criminal justice, forensic science, law, public health, or similar. The department also offers research and joint-agency internships.
2. Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection
Connecticut’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection is looking for students who are studying in areas that include criminal justice, communications, information systems and more. Interns receive research and special assignments in these non-paid positions, but are given college credit upon completion of the program.
3. Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers
Three internship sessions of 12 weeks are available each year to students interested in federal law enforcement careers. At least 50 percent of the internship is spent in basic and advanced training while the other 50 percent is spent advancing the objectives of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers. Students must be majoring in a field such as criminal justice, criminology or the forensic sciences and need to be a senior in college or a graduate student.
4. National Homeland Security STEM
The National Homeland Security STEM Summer Internship Program is available to college juniors and seniors, enabling them to work with Homeland Security professionals and researchers during the summer for up to a 10-week period. Students are given a $500 stipend for each week, for up to $5,000 total, and will conduct research into the Department of Homeland Security mission-relevant areas. Positions vary across the U.S.
5. Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Department
The forensic science internship offered through the crime lab with the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Department is unpaid, but students work under the guidance of forensic scientists and may gain experience related to breath or blood alcohol analysis, presence of drugs in post-mortem blood and tissue samples, the location and identification of bodily fluids, and other forensic science techniques. Interns must be pursuing or have completed a degree in a field such as biochemistry, biology, forensic science, or similar, and must be able to put in 20 or more hours a week for two or more months.
6. Research Participation Program at the FBI
This program at the FBI facility in Quantico, Virginia, is available to graduates who have completed or will complete a degree in a field such as the forensic sciences, biology, chemistry, toxicology, etc., within five years of the starting date. Program appointments are for one year on a part-time or full-time basis with a monthly stipend based on academic-achievement level. Relocation expenses are covered depending on the current address as well as $5,000 per appointment year for professional development. Appointments can be renewed depending on funding availability.
7. Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Minnesota Department of Public Safety
This internship, offered through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, provides college students with the opportunity to observe forensic scientists at work and to become involved in a laboratory project. Students must be a senior in college or in a graduate program and studying in a field such as biology, criminalistics, forensic science, or similar. Internships are 10 to 16 weeks in length, non-paid, and available in St. Paul.
8. The Center for Forensic Science Research & Education
This ten-week internship is located just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the CFSRE. Designed for undergraduate and graduate students, candidates can apply for one of three separate sections, including forensic biology, forensic chemistry, and forensic toxicology. In addition to hands-on laboratory training, students also undertake independent mock casework; work under a chain of custody; perform validation studies and analyses; write reports; and undergo courtroom testimony training leading to a mock trial as part of the internship. A $1,500 bench fee is offered to all interns accepted to this program.
9. New York Division of State Police
This crime lab internship is available through the Division of State Police in New York and provides students pursuing a forensic science degree with real-world knowledge. Internship experiences could include job-shadowing forensic scientists, searching through databases, watching courtroom testimony, and similar experiences. At the end of their program, interns will write a report about their experiences. This internship program is unpaid and interns can expect to put in 30 or more hours of work per week.
10. Indiana State Police Laboratory Division
Students can apply for a summer internship with the laboratory division of the Indiana State Police. Interns undertake an assignment project and work closely with a forensic science supervisor. The internship is available at the Indianapolis Regional Laboratory, and students may be able to apply for internships based on their biology, chemistry, or trace analysis knowledge.
11. Naval Criminal Investigative Service
The NCIS, a federal law enforcement agency examining felony-level offenses related to the Navy and Marine Corps, provides two internships to qualified candidates. The NCIS Honors Intern Program is open to undergraduate (juniors and seniors) and graduate students interested in criminal intelligence and acquisitions, forensic science, and more. The internship is unpaid but it provides valuable hands-on experience. Placement can occur in NCIS field offices the world over, lasting 18 weeks or more on a part- or full-time basis. NCIS also offers the Wounded Warrior Internship for those who are part of the Department of Defense’s Operation Warfighter Program. These interns are either awaiting medical retirement or will return to active duty. This internship lasts at least three months and provides participants with employment-ready skills.
12. Miami-Dade Public Safety Training Institute
Students interested in this internship through the Miami-Dade Police Department will find an internship program of 14 to 15 weeks that introduces them to various aspects of police work including forensic services, homicide, robbery, special victims unit, uniform patrol, and much more. The internship is observation only, and is open to junior or seniors in college or graduate students who are majoring in criminal justice or a similar field.
13. Department of Energy
The Department of Homeland Security is looking for summer interns to take on opportunities available at national laboratories countrywide. Undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in areas related to cybersecurity are eligible to apply for this program. The Secretary’s Honors Program Cyber Student Intern Program provides students learning opportunities in digital forensics, network diagnostics, and incident response. Interns in this program are mentored by DHS senior leadership and participate in professional development opportunities.
14. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD)
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is offering summer internships to undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in a college or university program. Students are expected to work 40 hours a week during this eight-week program and are paid $15 per hour. During the internship program, students become sworn law enforcement officers with CMPD and can choose to work with investigative, support services, and/or field services groups to experience the duties and responsibilities of law enforcement professionals.
15. Department of Maryland State Police
Students working on a degree in a life or physical science with a minor in forensic science can look for internship opportunities available through the Forensic Science Division of the Department of Maryland State Police. Applicants must have completed at least their sophomore year of college to be eligible to apply, and students above this level, including graduate students, can also submit applications. Summer and semester internships, all unpaid, are available to interested students.
16. Maine State Police Crime Lab
Internships with the Maine State Police Crime Lab become available when projects in need of completion match with internship applicants’ skills. Past projects have included updating the firearms journal library and validating new chemicals used to enhance latent fingerprints. Generally, students should be juniors or seniors in college, have at least a 3.0 GPA, and show a record of community service to meet eligibility requirements. All internships are unpaid.
17. Georgia Bureau of Investigation
Students interested in interning for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation should be pursuing a degree in criminal justice or a similar field. Students must be junior or seniors in college or first-year graduate students to be eligible to apply. All applicants must pass a GBI polygraph examination to be accepted into the program, and need to be available to work a minimum of 30 hours a week for at least eight weeks.
18. Montgomery County Crime Lab
The Miami Valley Regional Crime Laboratory in Ohio has internship opportunities available to students who are juniors or seniors in college and majoring in the forensic sciences or a natural science. The internship is unpaid, but students will gain knowledge about the various laboratory disciplines and also spend time completing a research project.
19. City of Philadelphia Toxicology Lab
Juniors and seniors in college who have taken courses such as analytical and organic chemistry can look for internships available through the toxicology lab with the City of Philadelphia. Interns should be available to invest at least 18 hours a week at the lab. Students receive an orientation and may learn about how case assignments are made and about the final steps in preparing a toxicology report. If time permits, students may be able to work on a special project providing them with hands-on experience.
20. U.S. Department of Justice
A computer forensics internship is available through the U.S. Department of Justice’s High Technology Investigative Unit. Responsibilities will vary, but could include restoring a Linux server one day and analyzing files from a digital wiretap on another. Long-term assignments will be based on areas of expertise and determined by a supervisor. The internships are open to undergraduate and graduate level students.
21. Mesa Police Department
A variety of internships are available through the Mesa Police Department, in Arizona, including in the department’s forensic science section. Accepted interns will have various responsibilities including assisting forensic science analysts, organizing reference materials, doing fingerprinting and similar tasks. All applicants should be completing their last year of a four-year degree program in biology, chemistry, forensic science or a natural science.
22. Westchester County Forensic Lab
The Westchester County Forensic Lab in New York provides opportunities to students pursuing a forensic science program that requires an internship for degree completion. Students in fields similar to forensic science may also be accepted. Students needing an internship for a degree must complete at least 160 hours at the forensic lab. Internships are available during the spring, summer, and fall semesters as well as during the winter intersession.
23. North Carolina Department of Justice
The State Bureau of Investigation in North Carolina provides interns with the opportunity to learn how a state investigative bureau functions. A number of opportunities are available, including in the crime lab, and additional fields. For the crime lab internship, students must be majoring in or have a minor in biology, chemistry, forensic science, or the natural sciences. Students must have completed at least their sophomore year to be eligible to apply.
24. Washington DC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
For those interested in working close to the heart of the federal government, the DC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner offers several internships for qualified applicants. The OCME provides opportunities for students of forensic anthropology, forensic photography, death investigations, toxicology, digital imaging, epidemiology, and other areas. Once a candidate has been accepted, a student’s college must establish an interagency agreement with the OCME before the intern’s start-date.
25. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
The CIA offers a wealth of internships for aspiring forensics professionals. Among its paid undergraduate offerings (also referred to as “co-op programs”) are positions in intelligence analysis, cyber exploitation investigations, cybersecurity, digital forensics, and other fields related to forensics. Not surprisingly, admission is very competitive. For example, the undergraduate cybersecurity officer internship requires applicants to have an undergraduate degree in cybersecurity (or a related field), at least a 3.0 GPA, proof of foundational coursework in computer science or cyber-defense, and a thorough background check (including a polygraph interview and medical exams). Working with the CIA can prove an invaluable professional experience and boost one’s resume. All positions require relocation to the DC metropolitan area.
The following criteria were used in compiling this list of 25 cool forensic science internships. Not all criteria applied to all internships, but many met the following guidelines:
1. Broad availability: Although some preference may be given to students living in an area, most of the internships on this list are available to applicants statewide and nationwide.
2. Interesting: Many internships offer a real-world based experience, giving interns the opportunity to observe forensic experts at work or to work directly under the supervision of a forensic scientist.
3. Advancing knowledge: The bulk of these internships sought to expand the knowledge of students in the forensic science field through direct observation and/or research skills. Some, but not all internships, additionally require the completion of an intern project.
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Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. Rachel writes about meditation, yoga, coaching, and more on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).