Willow Dawn Becker
If you like biology, chemistry, and other types of science, but are not quite sure what to do for a career, forensic science could be a great option for you. That’s because the field is so multidisciplinary in nature, incorporating not only the aforementioned sciences, but also anatomy, anthropology and physics. Students of forensic science colleges in Connecticut (CT) can blend coursework in the hard sciences with other classes in criminal justice, math and psychology in order to round out their education.
So, what’s it take to enter the forensic science field? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that a bachelor’s degree is typically necessary, but that some professionals do go on to obtain a master’s degree. Of course, there are various programs offered in-state and online offering everything from associate to master’s degrees, and you’ll have to do the research to find the one that most aligns with your learning objectives.
Another option could be to consider a career in crime scene investigation (CSI). This career does not necessarily require as much education as does forensic science, which typically enables you to work in a science laboratory. A CSI program in Connecticut should help you learn about collecting evidence at crime scenes, preserving that evidence so that it can be used in the lab and in a court of law, and also even how to testify in court. Sound exciting? We thought so, too! Read on to discover more about forensic science and CSI education in Connecticut.
But first, to the important details – do forensic scientists receive good pay? According to May 2017 data from the BLS, the mean annual wages for forensic science technicians working all across the U.S. were $62,220. This compares fairly well to the BLS mean annual pay for all combined occupations in the U.S.: that of $50,620 (BLS 2017). That’s more than $10,000 higher for forensic scientists, but what does pay look like in Connecticut? Even higher! The BLS shows that forensic scientists earned mean annual wages of $74,560, as of 2017 data. In fact, Connecticut is among the five highest-paying states in the country for forensic science technicians.
So what about job growth? Will there be a job when you finish school? There will be opportunities with demand for forensic science technicians expected to grow by 17 percent from 2016 to 2026. While that could result in some 2,600 new positions across the country, those who have a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences, such as biology or chemistry followed by a master’s degree in forensic science, could have some of the best opportunities, as could those who have specialized skills in DNA or in digital computer forensics, according to the BLS. Opportunities in Connecticut could be a bit more competitive, with Career One Stop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, showing that job growth for forensic scientists in Connecticut is predicted to be around 10 percent, from 2014 to 2024 (CareerOneStop.org 2018).
A forensic scientist needs to have a number of skills and deep understanding of the sciences to see how science relates to a crime. It could be that completing one of the forensic science programs in Connecticut could help you develop these powers of observation. So how do you become a forensic scientist? Below are various entry points.
When you are done, you will want to seek certification of your skills, if that option is indeed available for your niche field. On its website, the AAFS provides numerous details about entering 11 different disciplines of forensic science, including more information on the various steps, and certification, if it is available. Board certification is offered, for example, in forensic anthropology, but applicants should be prepared for a rigorous process.
Crime scene investigators may be involved in a wide variety of work. What they do is different from forensic scientists, as much of their work occurs at the scene whereas forensic science technicians are typically working in the lab. CSI workers may need to take photos, collect physical evidence and store it, and even testify in court about their findings. The education necessary to become a CSI is typically not as involved as preparing to become a forensic scientist since not as much extensive scientific training is required.
Again, certification can be a way to prove that you have solid CSI skills. The requirements for certification will vary depending on your specialty, but the International Association for Identification (IAI) is one of the most respected organizations offering CSI certification.
The largest cities in Connecticut include Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford. Together, they have a total population of more than 450,000 people. These cities could be prime locations to look for jobs because there are more businesses there, but also because crime can occur more frequently in urban areas. One place to look for a job could be with the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory that maintains responsibility for all forensic examinations within the state. The lab manages forensics related to criminalistics, such as forensic biology and trace evidence, as well as identification, including firearms/toolmarks and latent prints. Other places to seek potential employment include:
The AAFS also maintains a job board in which users can search by state for opportunities. Often, many of the jobs posted are with law enforcement agencies although jobs with medical examiners’ offices, state crime scene labs and private companies may also be posted.
There are a few different options as far as seeking a forensic science education in Connecticut. The programs listed directly below include details on what to expect from each school.
The University of New Haven offers a bachelor’s degree in forensic science through the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences. Students in the program learn about biology, chemistry and medicine and have the opportunity to choose upper-level electives or even on a double major in biology or chemistry. Students can also learn through the $14 million Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science that houses a forensic archive and working crime scene labs. Finally, the program is one of the few in the country accredited through the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), which is the accrediting branch of the AAFS.
The University of New Haven also has a FEPAC-accredited master’s degree program available in forensic science. In this program, students receive the practical and theoretical knowledge helpful to carrying out analysis in criminal investigations. In addition, the program is four semesters in length, offers flexible class times and offerings and is taught by faculty with professional expertise. Graduate certificates in forensic psychology and forensic computer investigation are also available at the school.
Manchester Community College offers an associate degree that is based in criminal justice, but that also offers two courses in forensic science, if desired. Travel may be required as part of these courses and students learn how forensic scientists work in close relationship with law enforcement.
As a matter of fact, if you cannot find the forensic science program that you desire at your school, you may want to consider a undergraduate degree in the natural sciences and then pursue a master’s degree in forensic sciences, of which many are available online. We’ll explore some of those more in the next section.
There are a number for forensic science degrees and programs online. Some of these may include forensic science as a specialization while others may provide education solely focused on forensic science. Below are just a few of the many CSI or forensic science-related programs offered online.
Students can also find a number of other programs that are available online and listed on the AAFS website, but you can begin your search by visiting our online forensic science programs page.
It is not always possible to graduate from a FEPAC-accredited program simply because they are not available in every state. In Connecticut, the forensic science programs offered at the University of New Haven do happen to have accreditation. Why seek an accredited program? First, it sets up national standards for learning in the forensic sciences. Further, these programs have been rigorously reviewed for quality education. of course, you can also find quality programs that have not received programmatic accreditation. The FEPAC website explains it this way: “Choosing an accredited program is added assurance that your education will assist you in establishing a career in forensic sciences by meeting the requirements of employers in the laboratory. Keep in mind there are many fine forensic science programs that have not yet applied for FEPAC accreditation.”
In addition to programmatic accreditation, it is important for prospective students to take into consideration institutional accreditation. In Connecticut, most institutions of higher learning earn accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
Certification is also a consideration. Although it is not available for all specializations in forensic science or crime scene investigation, when it is, it may help with career advancement and garnering more respect in the field. In addition to offering certification, there are many organizations offering memberships, which can be helpful in continuing education, networking or advocacy. Some of the more well-known organizations include the:
Finally, the AAFS also offers membership to students and working professionals, of which benefits can include access to its reference library, the Journal of Forensic Science, an online job board, and information about fellowships and internships.
School "total forensics grads" data provided by IPEDS (2018) for the 2016-2017 school year, and includes all certificates and degrees awarded for the following programs: Criminalistics and Criminal Science, Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Science and Technology, Forensic Psychology, Cyber/Computer Forensics, and Financial Forensics and Fraud Investigation.
Willow Dawn Becker
Willow is a blogger, parent, former educator and regular contributor to www.forensicscolleges.com. When she's not writing about forensic science, you'll find her blogging about education online, or enjoying the beauty of Oregon.