The craggy coastline of Maine is 3,500 miles long and home to the highest point on the east coast, Cadillac Mountain, located in the state’s crown jewel, Acadia National Park. Blessed with abundant natural beauty and more moose than any other state in the lower 48, Mainers also have a rich tradition of beekeeping, and of course, lobster.
Portland is the largest city with a population of 66,000—double that of its second largest city, Lewiston. Although Maine has one of the smallest populations and lowest rates of violent crime in the country, drug addiction and related crimes are growing in the pine tree state. In 2017, murder and rape offenses increased by 17 percent and over 11,000 individuals were arrested for drug and alcohol violations.
The application of science to the law is the basis of the field of forensics. Forensic science professionals use a variety of methods to analyze physical evidence related to crime investigations. Such evidence may include biological fluids, hair, fibers, paint, glass, and gunshot residue. Other responsibilities that may lie within the role of a forensic scientist are serving as an expert witness in court proceedings; conducting research on new techniques, technology, and equipment; and writing reports on forensic investigations. Forensic scientists may work in federal, state, and local government agencies in settings such as police departments, crime laboratories, courts, and morgues.
The Maine State Police Crime Laboratory opened in 1926 and is divided into four departments: forensic biology, forensic chemistry, latent prints, and firearms/toolmarks. Some of the forensic services provided are DNA analysis, trace evidence identification/comparison, gunshot residue and distance determination, body fluid identification, and others.
The regional forensics laboratory, opened in 2009, provides forensic services in partnership with communities in Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Cumberland County, South Portland, Westbrook, and Falmouth in a cost-effective and efficient manner by sharing technology, equipment, and costs.
Read on to learn more about how to become a forensic scientist in Maine, including curriculum, featured programs and schools, and accreditation.
Prior to entering a forensics degree program, applicants should seek the support of an advisor to discuss the curriculum. Students should be aware of prerequisite courses before applying for the major to be sure that the program is a good fit academically, as well as to confirm the sequence of classes necessary for admission and completion. Students may be expected to complete math, science, and computer science prerequisites, as well as to have obtained basic laboratory and computer skills prior to admission to the major.
A bachelor of science (BS) in forensic science typically entails about 130 credits of coursework. Students first complete liberal arts and general education courses required of all undergraduate students. Upon completion of those core classes, forensics programs may include the following:
Criminal Justice & CSI
Maine State Police Crime Laboratory personnel hold bachelor’s degrees in forensic science, clinical laboratory science, chemistry, and biology as well as master’s degrees in a variety of related disciplines.
As is the case in other fields, work and internship experiences make for strong candidates for employment in forensics. The Maine State Police Crime Laboratory offers internships to candidates with the skills and aptitudes needed to complete projects with clearly articulated goals. Internship applicants must be in their junior or senior year of an undergraduate science degree program.
Husson University in Bangor offers a bachelor’s of science (BS) degree in forensics. The program is designed to provide science and criminal justice majors the qualifications needed for entry-level forensic positions in crime labs, police departments, and areas of the medical field.
The curriculum includes the study of chemistry, biology, and forensic science, in addition to evidentiary and procedural law. Specific competencies targeted in the program include crime scene processing, systematic and holistic approaches to evidence examination, testing of forensic samples, and judicial and courtroom procedures, among others.
Central Maine Community College in Auburn offers an associate of science (AS) degree in forensics that emphasizes the science of crime scene management and investigative techniques. Graduates of this degree program are prepared for careers as crime scene technicians and photographers, criminal investigators, deputy sheriffs, and detectives.
In addition to learning fundamental chemistry and biology concepts and scientific processes related to forensic investigations of crime scenes, students gain specialized skills such as the collection of trace, blood, and fiber evidence; casting of shoe print impressions; and identification of the deceased.
Students with an associate or bachelor’s degree and an interest in forensics might want to check out the University of Maine at Augusta. Their 18-credit forensic science certificate program has an investigative focus and is housed in the college of professional studies. UMA also offers related programs such as an online certificate in information security, as well as undergraduate degrees in justice studies and cybersecurity. The latter is housed within a department recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.
Saint Joseph’s College in Standish has a bachelor of arts in criminal justice that focuses on justice and the theory and practice of crime within the U.S. criminal justice system. The program includes field trips and volunteer opportunities as well as a year-long internship.
St. Joseph’s online bachelor of science in interdisciplinary studies offers a minor in criminal justice for students planning to work in law enforcement, with courses compatible with the on-campus criminal justice program. SJCME also offers on-campus degrees in chemistry and biology which lay the groundwork for careers in forensics as well as advanced study in the field of forensics.
Related online programs are also offered at the University of Maine, Fort Kent, in information security (AS) and cybersecurity (BS). The 60-credit IS program includes coursework in computer forensics and investigations and cryptography. An IS certificate is also available. The cybersecurity program has been recognized as a “National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense” by the NSA and Department of Homeland Security.
Buffalo State SUNY has offered a BS in forensic chemistry since 1971. The program provides students with a strong foundation in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics. In addition to academic training, the program aims to prepare students with the critical thinking skills, ethics, and adaptability needed to meet the demands of the forensic analysis, research, and legal aspects of the field. Hands-on learning experiences are highly encouraged for forensic chemistry students and available in the form of internships, volunteer opportunities, and research programs. All students receive training in a local forensic lab in conjunction with the FOR412 course.
BS and MS degrees are available in forensic science at the University of New Haven in connection with the Henry C. Lee Institute for Forensic Science, named for the world-famous investigator and UNH faculty member of nearly 40 years. Other forensics faculty members include experts with field experience with the FBI, CIA, and United Nations.
In addition to courses in advanced criminalistics and physical and DNA analysis, master’s-level students choose among courses in capillary electrophoresis; advanced crime scene investigation; wildlife forensics; drug chemistry and identification; forensic anthropology, microscopy, or toxicology; and medicolegal investigation and identification.
Additional learning opportunities are open to forensic science students in organizations such as the Center for Wildlife Forensic Research, the Institute of Social Justice, the Office of International Criminal Justice and Security, and the Center for Forensic Investigations of Trafficking in Persons.
The MS in biomedical forensic sciences at Boston University School of Medicine is one of only a few such programs in the nation housed within a medical center. Located in Boston’s biggest biomedical research park, the program focuses on the topics of DNA analysis, human biological evidence, death investigation, bloodstain pattern analysis, pathology, and toxicology. Students participate in laboratory courses and independent research projects that equip them with the instrumentation and analytical experience required of professionals in the field. Data from the past two years (2017-18) indicated that 95 percent of graduates had become employed in forensic labs, law enforcement, or biomedical or forensic-related scientific fields, or were pursuing further graduate work.
The Maine State Police Crime Lab is an accredited crime laboratory that abides by international standards. The main accrediting body in forensics education is the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Though only about 50 universities in the United States have FEPAC accreditation, there are still many programs that offer a high quality of educational preparation in the field. Applicants should check to see what other recognized accreditations their programs of choice have earned before applying for admission.
Certification in an area of forensic specialization can be highly beneficial. Certification gives credence to a candidate’s knowledge base, area of professional expertise, and dedication to the field and excellence in practice.
The National Commission on Forensic Science recommends that all forensic science practitioners become certified in their area of expertise within one year of eligibility. The following list of certification organizations follows along with their corresponding areas of specialization:
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.