To most of the world, Kentucky may be best known for its gastronomical contributions (vis a vis fried chicken) but the state has contributed much more than its blend of herbs and spices. The Bluegrass state was the 15th state admitted to the union and continues to be well known for its historical place in music history as well as important American cultural indicators such as bourbon and horse racing.
For aspiring forensic scientists, Kentucky may not be the most populous, or have the most educational opportunities, but it is possible to build a career in the state with the right amount of dedication and some luck. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 60 forensic science technicians employed in Kentucky (BLS, 2014). WIth overall job growth in the field expected to hit 27% between 2014 and 2024, there could be many more positions in the coming years (CareerOneStop, 2014).
If you are interested in pursuing a career in forensic science, you should expect a job that allows you to hone your observational skills and attention to detail while working alongside law enforcement and other officials in investigating criminal activity. The forensic science career can go many different ways, from work in a laboratory to detailed evidence collection, but no matter where you start and what specific path you choose, the job is sure to be interesting and challenging.
A strong educational foundation is key to pursuing this career, and many forensics programs are designed specifically for working adults looking to balance a busy schedule with a program that allows them to attend class nearby or online. Kentucky offers a number of such programs. Keep reading to learn more about these programs, and about becoming a forensic science technician or crime scene investigator in Kentucky.
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When you are starting on the path to any career, it is understandable to want a clear vision of where to go and what steps to take. Although not all forensic scientists have precisely the same background, titles, degrees, or experience, you can assess the following common steps for a good overview.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 60 forensic science technicians are employed in Kentucky as of 2015 (BLS, 2015). Judging from the growth expected across the country, that number should rise by more than 20% in the coming years. Unfortunately, there is no specific growth estimation for Kentucky itself, nor is there data available for specific geographic areas within Kentucky.
In terms of salary, Kentucky pays forensic science technicians significantly less than the national average. The salary ranges as reported by the BLS for forensic science technicians in Kentucky are as follows:
Comparatively, the median annual wage (50th percentile) for the whole country is $56,320. The cost of living in Kentucky also comes in below the national average, which is worth considering and will influence how far these salaries could go.
An on-campus learning experience can be ideal for many students. The camaraderie with classmates as well as closer relationships with professors can provide the structure and encouragement that many forensic science students needs. In Kentucky, there are two programs in particular that represent solid options for students.
Thomas More College in Crestview Hills offers two different types of forensic science degrees. Students can pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Forensic Biology or a Bachelor of Science degree in Forensic Chemistry. Because these two programs require similar coursework, students do not have to choose a specialty until reaching their sophomore year. The biology program helps students to learn to identify botanical materials, bodily fluids, and DNA while the chemistry program enables them to identify drug residues, explosive materials and unknown substances.
Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond may interest students seeking a forensic science college in Kentucky. EKU established its forensic science program in 1974 making it among the oldest in the country and among only 18 undergraduate programs that have earned Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) accreditation. Like Thomas More College, EKU students can choose between a BS in Forensic Biology or Forensic Chemistry. Courses include such topics as DNA profiling, Forensic Trace Evidence, and Expert Witness Testimony.
Further, the university allows students to combine degree programs and complete that bachelor’s degree as well as a Master’s of Science degree in Chemistry through a 3+2 program. This accelerated program saves students a full year of school work.
Students that have difficulty making it to campus for regular courses due to other commitments or distance may want to explore online or hybrid learning options. Online learning allows students to take entire courses online with no campus visits while hybrid courses have some online work and some in-person requirements. In Kentucky and online there are some good options for students who want this kind of flexibility.
Eastern Kentucky University also has an online component that can help to make learning faster and easier. For forensic programs in particular, it is possible to take the university’s arson investigation courses online as well as other course offerings.
Students willing to look beyond campus-based forensic science schools in Kentucky can find additional options online, including Champlain College, which offers an online Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Forensics and Digital Investigations. For students interested in the computer science component of forensics science, this program could be a top choice, as SC Magazine named it the Best Cyber Security Higher Education Program in 2013. Many more master’s degrees are available online, and provide students interested in choices beyond campus-based forensic science schools in Kentucky. For example, the University of Florida provides students with the ability to pursue a Master’s of Science degree in Forensic Science as well as three other related forensic science degrees through programs that are offered entirely online.
Students evaluating forensic science programs in Kentucky and beyond should look for both institutional and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation means that the schools as a whole has been evaluated for its standards and efficacy. For instance, Eastern Kentucky University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, as does Thomas More College.
The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) offers accreditation that is specific to forensic science programs. Although this accreditation is not necessary for most entry level jobs or certifications, it can be an important indicator of a program’s history in higher education. Eastern Kentucky University it currently the only program in the state with FEPAC accreditation for their Forensic Chemistry program. The EKU Forensic Biology program is working towards accreditation.
Requirements for professional certification differ for each specialty. For instance, in order to become a Certified Forensic Anthropologist, applicants must a doctoral degree in forensic anthropology, although there are no accreditation requirements. On the other hand, applicants for a Footwear Identification Certification through the International Association of Identification (IAI) must have some combination of education and experience, ranging from a high school diploma with eight years experience to a Bachelor of Science degree with three years experience. The footwear certification also does not have any accreditation requirements.
Ultimately, students should investigate their chosen specialty thoroughly to ensure that they are earning an education that will be applicable to their future career goals.
|School Name||City||Website||Degrees Awarded||Certificates Awarded||Total Forensics Grads|
|Eastern Kentucky University||Richmond||www.eku.edu||17||0||17|
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