States may talk about the value of being free, but New Hampshire (NH) takes the concept seriously. The state’s official motto “Live Free or Die” echoes the words of Revolutionary War general and local hero John Stark, although it wasn’t officially adopted until the 1940s.
Of course, New Hampshire’s 1.3 million residents embrace the concept of living free; by illustration, it was the first U.S. state to create its own constitution, and there’s no sales tax or income tax. There’s also an abundance of wilderness, hiking trails and many uncrowded, quaint towns. Also, crime is generally low; as of 2011, the state had the third lowest violent crime rate in the country with 188 per 100,000 people falling victim, right behind neighbors Vermont and Maine. It also ranks 49th in murders at 1.3 per 100,000, slightly above Hawaii.
Some consider the Granite State “gun-friendly” not because of its high crime, but rather because of the few restrictions on gun ownership combined with easy access to the outdoors. This means plenty of opportunities for hunting and related activities, plus a strong recreational ethic and general appreciation of firearms and firearm safety. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, of the 156 murders committed in the state between 2000 and 2011, 61 of them (39 percent) were committed with firearms, compared to a national average of 67 percent of the 168,595 committed nationwide in that same time period.
Even with a low crime rate, New Hampshire offers a variety of educational and career opportunities in forensics and criminology, including with New Hampshire’s Medical and Forensic Services Division, which focuses on meeting the physical and behavioral needs of people incarcerated statewide. Municipal law enforcement departments also can benefit from trained individuals in the areas of investigation and analysis.
For instance, the largest cities like Manchester and Nashua have the highest reports of violent crime in the state. Although murders are infrequent anywhere, larger cities see a traditional range of felonies such as robberies, property crime, arson, and rape, all of which require forensics services for proper evidence collection and analysis.
This guide explores forensics programs in New Hampshire, including three outstanding professors, expected coursework at different degree levels, and the outlook for careers in this field.
The current coordinator of COLA’s justice studies program specializes in social psychology with an emphasis on legal socialization, race, justice, and jury deliberation. Dr. Cohn is also an instructor in the school’s justice studies and psychology programs, as well as the forensics minor. Her courses include psychology of crime and justice, social psychology, and the psychology of law. She also heads the school’s Legal Socialization Lab, which researches topics such as bullying, racism in legal systems, and unwanted sexual experiences among college students.
As a senior lecturer in COLA’s justice studies and psychology programs, Dr. Eckstein specializes in psychology and counseling psychology topics. He teaches several mental health courses, including personality and counseling. Dr. Eckstein also heads the school’s Innovations Research Center, which worked with the White House to explore sexual violence on college campuses, seeking to understand if prevention programs increase or decrease incidence reporting.
Dr. Allen brings his experience in the military judicial system to his teaching, including his years supervising military police and being a military prosecutor. As a civilian, he’s also worked in law enforcement. His teaching specialties include basic criminal justice, police work, and investigations. Notably, he’s one of the school’s most popular advisors for his engaging storytelling, motivational style, and ability to strike a balance between making classes challenging and enjoyable.
Part of the value of formal training in forensics is that students receive a foundation in a variety of subjects. Rather than simply drilling deep into one scientific discipline, university-level justice and forensics programs provide more breadth in inquiry, discussing topics such as sociology, philosophy, political science, and psychology. This interdisciplinary insight can make a job candidate more marketable and easier to adapt their skills into different career areas. The same is to an extent true of forensic psychology programs in New Hampshire, although curricula for those programs tends to be cover the psychological aspects of criminal behavior and forensic investigation in greater detail.
Forensics programs in New Hampshire are generally accredited by the regional New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the country’s oldest accrediting association. It includes more than 2,000 public and independent schools, colleges, and universities. Some forensics programs nationwide are accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), including on-campus programs in nearby Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. As of June 2017, there were no FEPAC-accredited programs in NH.
The private and public sectors in New Hampshire can benefit from people with training and credentials in forensic sciences or related subjects. Local law enforcement agencies and the state government are both good starting places. While smaller law enforcement agencies may not have the resources for full-time laboratory staff, they still may appreciate someone trained in modern investigative and evidence-gathering methods.
The New Hampshire State Police also operates a certified Forensic Laboratory which analyzes evidence from 220 city, state, county, and federal law enforcement and fire agencies. The lab can process DNA, fingerprinting, ballistics, controlled substances, and other submitted evidence, all of which require specially trained forensics personnel.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2016), positions such as forensic technicians are going to be in demand into the future and pay relatively generous salaries. As of 2016, there were 14,800 FS techs nationwide in state and local governments, scientific research, and medical areas, who earned the following salary percentiles:
United States (14,800 forensic science techs): $60,690 average annual salary
Interestingly, there was a smaller range of salaries for FS techs within NH, but they generally commanded better salaries than the national figures, boasting higher average and median salaries:
New Hampshire (30 forensic science techs): $71,690 average annual salary
Notably, Projections Central (2017) reported that there would be a 26.6 increase nationally in positions for forensic science techs between 2014 and 2024, amounting to approximately 3,800 new positions. Within NH, there was an expected 25.6 percent increase in positions in this field.
In sum, forensic science technology represents only one career open to those with training in forensics; there’s expected to be growth across other related occupations in crime scene investigation, laboratory technology, law enforcement, and other areas.