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 (MN) 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.
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, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics job opportunities for forensic science technicians are expected to grow by 17 percent from 2016 to 2026, which means occupational demand is stronger than the average for all careers (7 percent), and this occupational demand can help to fuel program development (BLS 2017).
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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 Career One Stop, a site that sources its data from the U.S. Department of Labor, just 3 percent 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, Career One Stop indicates that more than 32 percent of forensic science technicians have a bachelor’s degree, with an additional 14 percent 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 10 different organizations to issue professional certifications. Some of the certifications offered include forensic document examination, forensic engineering, and forensic odontology.
Step 4: Assess Graduate Study Options (Duration: Varies)
16 percent 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 (2017). 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 2014 to 2024, the demand for forensic scientists in Minnesota is expected to grow by 23 percent, which is significantly faster than the rate for all forensic science positions across the country, making Minnesota an attractive place to start a career in this field (CareerOneStop.org).
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.
For prospective forensics students who are unable to commit to a fully on-campus experience, there are still options. Both online programs and hybrid online/in-person forensic science programs are available. By taking advantage of a virtual classroom, students are able to complete their degrees more effectively without giving up other important aspects of their lives. Following are just a few options for Minnesota residents:
Century College, located in White Bear Lake, MN offers a couple of programs that may be of interest to prospective forensic science students, including a digital forensics analysis and techniques certificate and an associate of applied science (AAS) degree in cybersecurity, virtualization and forensics. Both of these programs focus specifically on applying forensic techniques to computers in order to combat cybercrime and are available at least partially online.
American Intercontinental University offers a bachelor’s of science (BS) 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 2018, there are no programs in Minnesota accredited by FEPAC. However, it is important to note that a lack of accreditation does not indicate a forensic science program is subpar. FEPAC has accredited very few programs overall and many have yet to seek accreditation.
To evaluate a forensic science school that does not have programmatic accreditation, students can look for institutional accreditation. 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 10 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 "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.