For those who are interested in a career that is related to law enforcement but who do not want to become law enforcement officers or attorneys, a career in forensic science may be just the answer. Forensic scientists in Minnesota help law enforcement and those in the private sector, like defense attorneys, to retrieve and analyze evidence related to many different types of crimes. In order to pursue this career, students should start by studying biology and chemistry, and potentially earning a degree from a forensic science program specifically.
There are a few options for studying forensic science in Minnesota today, and more options will likely become available in the near future as demand for forensic professionals grows. Nationwide, job opportunities for forensic science technicians are expected to grow by 27 percent from 2014 to 2024, which means occupational demand is stronger than the average for all careers (7%), and this occupational demand can help to fuel program development.
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As with any career, there are different paths that one can take in order to become a forensic scientist. The following steps are certainly not universal, but are most common for aspiring forensic scientists in Minnesota:
Step 1: Graduate High School (Duration: 4 Years)
A high school degree is a prerequisite for nearly every job in forensic science. According to CareerOneStop, a site that sources its data from the U.S. Department of Labor, just 2.1% of forensic science technicians have less than a high school degree. High school students who want to pursue this career should be sure to focus on their science and mathematics courses, particularly chemistry and biology.
Step 2: Pursue an Undergraduate Degree (Duration: 2 to 4 Years)
While a bachelor’s degree is not strictly required for all forensic science careers, CareerOneStop indicates that more than 32% of forensic science technicians have at least a bachelor’s degree, with an additional 11% having Associate’s degrees. There are some forensic-specific options for students in Minnesota, but students may also consider degrees in related fields, including biology, chemistry, or even criminal justice.
Step 3: Consider Professional Certification (Duration: Varies)
Professional forensic certification is ideal for those who want to advance from entry level forensic science positions. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has approved 17 different organizations to issue professional certifications. Some of the certifications offered include forensic document examination, forensic engineering, and forensic photography.
Step 4: Assess Graduate Study Options (Duration: Varies)
More than 15% of forensic scientists have an advanced degree, at either the Master’s or Doctorate level. Online forensic science programs can be ideal for graduate studies, so that forensic professionals can continue to work while earning another degree to further their careers.
Minnesota is not one of the most populous states in the country, but it still employs 50 forensic science technicians, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2016). Of those employed, 40 work in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI area. This area is the most populated in the state and the only for which BLS tracks employment data in Minnesota.
From 2012 to 2022, the demand for forensic scientists in Minnesota is expected to grow by 3%. This rate is a bit slow compared to the demand for the profession in the country overall, which is expected to be 24% from 2014 to 2024 (BLS, 2014).
Of course, anyone studying to be a forensic science technician will want to know how much they can expect to make working in Minnesota. The salary ranges in the Land of 10,000 Lakes are as follows:
Because data is only tracked for one metropolitan area in Minnesota, we can only compare data for all of the state versus that of the Minneapolis area. In Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI, the salary data is as follows:
Since job growth in Minnesota is expected to be rather slow, it is important for prospective forensic science technicians to differentiate themselves from the competition — and great education can be the best way to do just that. Keep reading for details on the opportunities available in Minnesota.
Students looking for forensic science colleges in Minnesota will find that Hamline University is the main option. While other schools offer educational programs in specific areas of forensics — such as in computer forensics — Hamline is the only school to offer an on-campus program that can provide a foundational education in forensic science.
Hamline University, located in St. Paul, offers several options in forensic science as part of its Department of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science. The offerings including a certificate and minor in forensic science, and a post-baccalaureate forensic science certificate. The minor requires students to take seven courses, four of which are required, including:
One chemistry course rounds out the requirements for the minor.
The forensic science certificate, at either the undergraduate or post-baccalaureate level, is meant to prepare science major students for work in a forensics science crime lab or medical examiner’s office.
American Intercontinental University offers a bachelor’s of science degree in criminal justice with a specialization in forensic science. The program can be completed in three years, and includes courses such as Aspects of Forensic Psychology, Criminalistics, and Forensic Biology. Besides AIU, there are several online colleges offering forensic science and crime scene investigation programs, in most cases nationally. Some other schools that Minnesota students can consider are the University of Florida or Oklahoma State University.
The primary accreditation body for forensic science programs is the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). As of 2016, there are no programs in Minnesota accredited by FEPAC. Hamline University, for example, is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Associations of Colleges and Schools, which offers general accreditation for the overall institution although not the forensic science program in particular.
Forensic science professionals who want to further their career can apply for certification in a chosen specialty. As mentioned above, the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has approved 17 organizations to grant certification in various forensic specialties. Some of the specialty boards approved by FSAB include:
Visit the FSAB website for a full list of approved organizations. The certification process for each organization will be different and may include exams, transcript reviews, or proof of professional experience.
|School Name||City||Website||Degrees Awarded||Certificates Awarded||Total Forensics Grads|
|Century College||White Bear Lake||https://www.century.edu||0||3||3|
|Hamline University||Saint Paul||www.hamline.edu||0||2||2|
|Minnesota School of Business-Shakopee||Shakopee||www.msbcollege.edu||1||0||1|
|Minnesota School of Business-Blaine||Blaine||www.msbcollege.edu||1||0||1|
|Hennepin Technical College||Brooklyn Park||https://www.hennepintech.edu||0||1||1|
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.