Working in forensic science can be a fascinating and rewarding experience. Forensic science technicians get the opportunity to work closely with law enforcement officials and other criminal justice professionals to solve a wide range of crimes. In order to become a forensic scientist, students should expect to build a strong educational foundation in the sciences, and in the specifics of forensic analysis.
Those who are looking for an opportunity to learn more about forensic science and wanting to work in the Illinois area will find that they have a few options for both online and on-campus programs. Forensic science professionals working in the state, many of whom work in the Chicago metropolitan area, may be employed with crime labs, police departments, or in private investigations. Students who are considering a career in the field can learn more about resources, potential jobs and fellowships through the website of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS).
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People come to the forensic science profession from many different walks of life and at many different points in their careers. However, for the students that know they want to pursue a forensic science career, it is important to start preparing as early as possible to stay competitive in the job market in Illinois and beyond. The following steps are the most common for new forensic science technicians who do not attend the police academy first.
In the U.S. as a whole, the demand for forensic science technicians is expected to grow by 27% from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. Unfortunately, no growth predictions are available that are specific to Illinois, but the current prospects are good. The most dense employment opportunities are available in the following regions:
Additionally, Illinois is actually one of the highest paying states for the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2015). The salary ranges for forensic science technicians in Illinois, as reported by BLS in 2015 are:
The median salary for the entire U.S. is $60,090, making forensic scientists in IL better paid, relatively speaking. The city where a technician decides to work can have an impact on how much they can make. The breakdown of the median salary data for cities in IL, as collected by the BLS, is as follows:
Although there are only 50 forensic technicians employed in Springfield, they are clearly very well compensated so competition for jobs in that region is likely to be tough.
Students looking for forensic science schools in Illinois will find a number of options and degree programs. Some of these programs are specifically focused on forensic science, while other schools offer training in related fields such as criminal justice or in niche areas, such as forensic nursing.
Lewis University, in Romeoville, offers a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Forensic Criminal Investigation that provides students with the training to work on-site as a field investigator. The school also offers a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Forensic Chemistry for those particularly interested in a career in a lab. In this program, students take courses such as Advanced Forensic Chemistry, Advanced Toxicology, and Trace Analysis.
The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is another of the Illinois school providing options to students interested in forensic science. Specifically, this university offers a program geared toward the forensic nursing field, and culminates in an advanced practice forensic certificate in forensic nursing for those interested in helping victims and their families deal with the many impacts of violent crime at various levels.
As part of its Biopharmaceutical Sciences program at the College of Pharmacy, the University of Illinois at Chicago also offers a Master of Science in Forensic Science with an “emphasis on the integration of analytical and interpretative skills.”
Students interested in online learning in the state can look to Illinois Central College for many online programs, including an online Associate of Arts degree in Criminal Justice. The online program includes courses such as Criminal Law and Introduction to Investigation.
Lewis University offers a Master’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice entirely online. The program includes a wide rage of training in crime analysis and could be an interesting pathway to a forensic science technician career.
Other national online schools also provide online forensics and CSI programs that may be of interest to students seeking similar programs in Illinois.
The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) is the main accrediting body for forensic science programs. Currently, there is only one program in Illinois that has been accredited by FEPAC and that is the MS program at UIC.
Beyond programmatic accreditation, schools can earn accreditation for their school as a whole from organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission. Lewis University, for example, has earned accreditation from the HLC.
Both HLC and FEPAC accreditation indicate that the school has been evaluated for its resources and commitment to the education of its students.
As mentioned above, there are no national or state level requirements for forensic science certification. Instead, certification requirements depend on which specialty a technician wants to pursue. Perhaps because there are so few programs that have been approved by the FEPAC, most certifications as approved by the FSAB do not have requirements that applicants must have earned degrees from an accredited program. Instead, those who specialize should be prepared to demonstrate their professional aptitude through testing, transcripts, and experience. Full details on each of the specialty certifications are available from the individual organizations’ websites.
|School Name||City||Website||Degrees Awarded||Certificates Awarded||Total Forensics Grads|
|The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Chicago||Chicago||https://www.thechicagoschool.edu/||127||20||147|
|Loyola University Chicago||Chicago||www.luc.edu||12||0||12|
|Shawnee Community College||Ullin||www.shawneecc.edu||7||0||7|
|University of Illinois at Chicago||Chicago||https://pharmacy.uic.edu/departments/biopharmaceutical-sciences/graduate-programs-bps/ms-in-forensic-sciences||4||0||4|
|Illinois Valley Community College||Oglesby||www.ivcc.edu||1||1||2|
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
Barry is Managing Editor of ForensicsColleges.com, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, which he co-founded. Barry was previously VP for a financial software company, and currently sits on the board of a K-8 school and lives with his wife and daughters in the San Francisco Bay Area.