The state of Louisiana (LA) is nothing if not resilient. The state’s rich and diverse culture make it a mecca for tourists from around the world, despite hurricanes, flooding, and its fair share of crime. For those Louisiana residents who want to do their part in curbing crime, forensic science might just be the place to start.
Forensic scientists and technicians work alongside law enforcement officers, attorneys, and other criminal justice professionals to investigate and prosecute crime. The term ‘forensic scientist’ can be applied to people in many different disciplines who work in labs, in the field, and in the courtroom. Across the U.S., demand for forensic science technicians is expected to grow by 17 percent between 2016 and 2026; in Louisiana, that rate is expected to be 24 percent (CareerOneStop.org).
For most people, the first step towards a career in forensic science is obtaining the right education. Luckily, Louisiana residents have a few options, both for on-campus and online programs. Keep reading for more information on what the forensic science career path looks like in Bayou State.
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In real life, most people do not find that their career trajectories take a straight line. There are indeed a few different ways that forensic scientists can reach their career goals. Some technicians begin working in law enforcement, while others take a more academic approach and earn a degree in criminal justice or forensic science. Following is the most common approach to the career, but that does not make it the only option.
Louisiana has forensic science jobs for the right people, and the demand for those people is growing in the Pelican state. The majority of forensic science jobs in Louisiana are concentrated in the highest population areas. Specific data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that of 200 reported jobs in Louisiana, 90 of those are in Baton Rouge and another 50 are in New Orleans-Metairie.
In terms of salary, Louisiana is fairly competitive with the U.S. overall. The salary ranges for forensic science technicians in Louisiana, as reported by BLS in 2017 are:
The salary data for Baton Rouge shows that forensic science technicians employed in that area actually tend to make a bit more than the average of the state overall with the median annual wage for forensic science technicians in Baton Rouge reported at $46,230 while wages are somewhat lower in New Orleans, with the median annual salary coming in at $39,130.
Comparatively, the mean annual wage (50th percentile) for the whole country is $61,220, making Louisiana below the national average. However, the cost of living in Louisiana also comes in below the national average, which is worth considering.
Students who are looking for on-campus forensic science programs in Louisiana will find three good options, which are outlined below. Online and online/on-campus hybrid options will be discussed further down on the page.
One forensic college in Louisiana is Loyola University in New Orleans. Undergraduates are able to enroll in the bachelor’s of science degree in forensic chemistry. This specialized track has been available at the university since 1999 and equips students with the analytical techniques that are used in the lab and in the field. Although many students of this program have gone on to obtain jobs in forensic laboratories, a significant number have also continued on into graduate education — some graduates of the program even go on to enroll in medical school.
Louisiana State University in Eunice is one of the forensic science colleges in Louisiana that students may wish to consider. Although the school does not offer a specific forensic science degree, there are programs that are highly relevant to the career, including an associate of arts (AA) degree in criminal justice. Students could also consider taking foundational science courses in biology or chemistry at LSUE before transferring to another program to complete a forensic science degree.
In addition to on-campus forensic science programs in Louisiana, students have the option to choose online and hybrid schools. Online programs give students the opportunity to advance their education without having to commute to campus and commit to a regular course schedule, making it an attractive option for those that need to continue work, parents, and people who live far from campus.
LSUE offers distance-learning courses in criminal justice and science, mostly at the introductory level. Choosing these courses may be a good option for those who think they want to pursue forensic science but who are not ready to commit to a four-year degree.
Students willing to look beyond campus-based forensic science colleges in Louisiana can find numerous opportunities through online programs based out of national institutions or schools with campuses in other states. For example, Liberty University provides an online bachelor’s of science degree in criminal justice with an emphasis in forensics. As part of this distance-learning program, students are taught analytical and scientific skills related to forensics and the law.
Saint Leo University is another school that could be of interest to forensic science students. The university’s master’s of science (MS) degree in criminal justice with a forensic science specialization provides students with the skills to analyze physical evidence and to understand procedures relevant to crime scene investigation.
Students evaluating forensic science programs 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, Louisiana State University Eunice holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, as does Our Lady of the Lake College.
The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) provides 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. Unfortunately, none of the Louisiana-based schools have earned FEPAC accreditation as of 2018.
Requirements for professional certification differ for each specialty. For instance, someone who wants to apply for certification from the American Board of Criminalistics must have a degree from an accredited university, but the science or criminal justice program itself does not need to have programmatic FEPAC accreditation. For a certification such as Forensic Photography & Imaging Certification, from the International Association for Identification, applicants must only possess a high school diploma, along with requisite experience, and there are no 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 "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.