Forensic science technicians often have an interest in science and, more specifically, how science ties into crime and the law. Whether they work in the lab or are involved in crime scene investigation, the career can be one that keeps them, in all manners of speaking, on their toes. Their knowledge must be varied and in-depth and they should be curious, detail-oriented and even relentless in their search for answers.
A four-year bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences follow by a master’s degree is typically needed to enter the field, although you can also find some undergraduate degrees in forensic science that could lead to job opportunities in the lab. Forensic science degrees provide students with an education in many of the sciences, usually including biology and chemistry, and may also give them a chance to explore specific branches of forensic science, such as criminalistics or jurisprudence.
Students can also consider a crime scene investigator (CSI) career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that a bachelor’s degree is usually needed to enter CSI, but in some cases individuals may be able to learn on the job or even gain foundational skills through an associate degree or certificate. One of the forensic science colleges in Indiana could help you to gain the knowledge to develop a career that can be exciting in many different ways.
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Many people know about forensic science through shows such as “Dexter” and “Cold Case Files,” but these do not provide much information about another aspect – whether the career is financially awarding. Details from the BLS suggest that it may be. In fact, May 2014 BLS data shows that forensic science technicians working across the country earned mean annual wages of $58,610. This beat out the mean wages the BLS reports for all occupations nationwide: $47,230. In Indiana, the BLS shows that forensic science technicians earned mean annual wages of $56,900, as of May 2014, but there may also be opportunities for advancement, allowing forensic science technicians to earn more.
Another question to ask is whether there will be jobs upon completion of a forensic science program. The BLS suggests that there will be, and that demand for forensic scientists will be grow by six percent across the country, potentially leading to 700 new positions from 2012 to 2022. In Indiana, job growth is expected to be four percent from 2012 to 2022, shows CareerOneStop. This suggests effort may be required to find a job in the state, but keep in mind there could be ways to increase your competitiveness. Those with specialized skills in DNA or computer forensics may have some of the best opportunities, for example, as well as those with a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences followed by a master’s degree in forensic science, according to the BLS.
The truth is that you can enter the forensic science field in several different ways, but education is nearly always a necessity, unless you are pursuing CSI and can learn on the job. This is because science is a significant part of the learning and you need to know how to apply scientific rules, understand chemical compositions and properties as well as the tissue and cellular make-up of plants and animals. Listed below are various degrees useful to the forensic science field.
It may be desirable to seek board certification for your skills following graduation and workplace experience, but this option is not available in all forensic science fields. The American Academy of Forensic Scientists (AAFS) outlines numerous details including those for obtaining board certification, if offered, for various forensic science disciplines. Some of the organizations offering certification, or in other cases membership opportunities, are listed further on in this article.
CSIs need to carry out many different tasks on the job. Not only do they need to be able to identify evidence, they also need to be able to handle it properly and then store in for future analysis. These are not skills readily available to learn unless you have the opportunity to work with another CSI, which is why an academic program may be necessary. You can pursue CSI through several different paths, listed below.
Certification can again be a valuable way to prove you have skills. The International Association for Identification (IAI) offers four different related certifications, including Crime Scene Reconstructionist and Crime Scene Analyst, while the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute (ACFEI) offers diplomate and fellow designations.
Indianapolis is a city of more than 800,000 people and Fort Wayne has more than 250,000 people. Large cities like these can be opportune locations to look for jobs, simply because the need for professionals can be greater and because there is often more crime committed in cities. The Indianapolis-Marion County Forensic Services Agency may be one of the places to look for employment. This full service forensic laboratory is accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors-Laboratory Accreditation Board and employs forensic scientists, crime scene specialists and other forensic support personnel. Other places to look could include:
You can also find jobs by looking to the AAFS job board, through various forensic science organizations or simply by networking. Many people in forensic science are employed by governmental organizations, reports the BLS, with about nine out of 10 working for state or local government, such as crime labs, in morgues or for police departments or law enforcement agencies.
There are several schools through which you can gain a forensic science education in Indiana. Available from the undergraduate to graduate level, these provide students with different opportunities to be engaged in forensic science in the state and to gain valuable skills to seek employment.
It is entirely possible that none of the schools listed above offer the kind of program you seek or is close in location to where you live. This is why online forensic science programs can be an important component in providing other options, a few of which we explore in the next section.
Many of the forensic science programs offered online are based in criminal justice and offer a forensic science concentration, particularly at the undergraduate level. In fact, you may be able to find more choices in education online when it comes to master’s degree level.
You can find other forensic science programs online, and the AAFS website can be a substantial help in its listing of undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs available through Internet-based learning. You can also find others through our school listings below.
Accreditation through FEPAC is valuable, but cannot always be expected since there are relatively few FEPAC-accredited programs in any given state. But, while not every student has the opportunity to graduate from a FEPAC-accredited forensic science program, accreditation can be helpful in obtaining a job and showing that you graduated from a respected, high-quality program. So when FEPAC accreditation is not available, you’ll want to be sure that your school has regional accreditation instead. In Indiana, regional accreditation is granted by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and this accreditation shows that the school as a whole has been found to provide a high level of education.
Another way to show that you gained high-level skills is by seeking board certification. Although this isn’t available in every field of forensic science, it is in some, such as forensic anthropology and crime scene investigation. You can also seek membership in various organizations that provide you with opportunities for networking, finding jobs, answering questions and accessing up-to-date research and articles. Some of the organizations offering certification or membership include:
The AAFS can also be a strong resource, and membership gives students and working professionals access to the Journal of Forensic Science, an online job board, conferences and webcasts. There are also statewide and regional associations, such as the Midwestern Association of Forensic Scientists (MAFS), that can be valuable to its members, including those located in Indiana.
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