For many U.S. school children, their knowledge of Mississippi (MS) does not extend beyond the sing-songy way that they learn to spell the Ojibwe word “Mississippi”. However, the Magnolia State has been an important part of the United States since it joined the union in 1817. As the site of important civil right battles and rich antebellum history, Mississippi is the heart of the American South.
Mississippians interested in exploring a new career may want to consider the possibility of forensic science. Although the absolute number of forensic science technician jobs in Mississippi is somewhat low, with just 100 currently employed technicians according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are opportunities for those looking to enter the field (BLS 2017). Education is essential for aspiring forensic technicians. Mississippi offers a few schools with both online and on-campus programs.
Keep reading to find out more about schools and employment opportunities in the forensic science field for Mississippi.
Every career path has its own twists and turns. It is a good idea to get as clear a picture as possible of what it means to pursue a certain career before jumping in head first. Following are the most common steps that successful forensic science technicians take on their way to employment.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 100 forensic science technicians are employed in Mississippi as of 2017. The state is expected to see 18 percent growth in the field through 2024, which is about on pace for expected national growth rate of 17 percent through 2026 and much faster that the average expected growth for all careers (7 percent).
Most jobs are concentrated in the state capital of Jackson and the surrounding metropolitan area, where 80 forensic science technicians were employed as of 2017, according to BLS data.
Salary is always a concern when it comes to choosing a career, and the salary ranges for forensic science technicians in Mississippi, as reported by BLS in 2017 are:
Comparatively, the median annual wage (50th percentile) for forensic science technicians throughout the country is $56,750, making Mississippi a lower-paying state. However, the cost of living in Mississippi is among the lowest in the country. Indeed, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) ranks Mississippi as the state with the lowest cost of living in the U.S., meaning that the median forensic science technician’s salary will go much further there than anywhere else in the nation (MERIC 2017).
Those who are working in the field find employment in a number of different areas, including with law enforcement and at crime labs throughout the state. The majority of the jobs are going to be in the areas that have higher populations, such as Jackson, Gulf Coast, and Biloxi. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety offers information about careers, and much more, on their site.
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As of 2018 there are three Mississippi schools that offer programs focused on forensic science, including one that has earned programmatic accreditation from the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).
The only Mississippi program accredited by FEPAC is at the University of Mississippi (also known as Ole Miss). The chemistry department at Ole Miss offers a bachelor of science (BS) degree in forensic chemistry. The program requires between 46 and 50 credit hours of chemistry courses in addition to a summer internship at a local, state, or federal crime laboratory. Because of its accreditation and internship opportunities, the Ole Miss program is likely to be quite competitive and provide a strong background for future employment.
The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg offers a variety of choices for students, including a bachelor’s of science degree in forensic science with an emphasis in criminal justice. This program is open to freshmen students as well as those transferring in. Further, students can choose an emphasis for their forensic science degree from the following options:
Mississippi State University (MSU) offers a bachelor of science degree in bichemistry with a concentration in forensic science. The MSU program represents an opportunity for students to gain significant hands on experience in the types of work they will do in a forensic science lab, specifically in the area of DNA analysis. However, the program also includes diverse forensics courses that cover topics such as forensic psychology, computer forensics, and correctional systems.
For students that are unable to participate in an on-campus program, due to other commitments or because they are simply too far away from campus, online learning is an option. Prospective students can look for online forensic science programs both inside and outside of the state but should be sure to verify an institutions accreditation before applying. More details on accreditation are available in a later section.
Students can find an assortment of programs available on a national scale and through schools with campuses based in other states.
The University of Maryland University College offers an online bachelor of science degree in forensic investigations. This 120-credit degree program educates students in the realms of investigative, scientific and lab-based forensic science studies.
In addition, the University of Florida offers a master’s of science (MS) degree in forensic science that is available entirely through e-learning. Other options available entirely online and that may catch the interest of students interested in forensic science colleges in Mississippi or elsewhere, include master’s degrees in forensic DNA and serology, forensic toxicology, or forensic drug chemistry. A variety of graduate-level forensic science certificates are also available through the university through entirely online learning.
Students evaluating forensic science programs in Mississippi and beyond should look for both institutional and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation means that the school as a whole has been evaluated for its standards and efficacy. For instance, Mississippi State University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
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. The University of Mississippi is currently the only program in the state with FEPAC accreditation for their Forensic Chemistry program. It is important to note that FEPAC accredits only a small number of programs (less than 50 as of 2018) and as such, a program’s lack of accreditation is not necessarily an indicator of a program’s validity. Applicants to programs that have not earned FEPAC accreditation can evaluate that school’s institutional accreditation as an indicator of its efficacy.
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 Latent Print Certification through the International Association of Identification (IAI) must have at least two years experience in the field.
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 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