Forensic science can be a terrific career for those interested in different fields of science and even other disciplines. That’s because so much unique knowledge is needed to work as a technician, and why programs generally provide instruction in anatomy, anthropology, biochemistry, biology and chemistry as part of a bachelor’s degree. The learning doesn’t usually stop there, though. Programs are so interdisciplinary in approach that they also may include clinical laboratory sciences, criminal justice, math, molecular biology, physics, and psychology.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that a bachelor’s degree is typically needed to enter the forensic science field. Colleges in North Dakota can help lay the foundation in the natural sciences or in forensic science for you. Associate-degree programs are typically offered and even those at the graduate-level, too, but because forensic science programs are fairly limited in North Dakota, you may wish to see what is available online.
The curriculum available through forensic science schools typically prepares you to work in a forensics lab, but this could be for a police department, a private facility of even a crime laboratory, such as with the North Dakota Attorney General’s office. Some programs focus more on crime scene investigation (CSI), which helps you learn how to collect evidence at a crime scene and to properly handle and store it. Learning how to testify in court may also be part of any available CSI programs in North Dakota.
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According to May 2014 data from the BLS, the mean annual wages for forensic science technicians working in the U.S. were $58,610. This compares fairly well to the BLS mean annual wage of $47,230 for all occupations in the U.S. combined. The BLS does not offer salary information specific to North Dakota for forensic science technicians, but does indicate that some of the highest-paying state for the occupation included Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Kansas and Connecticut.
From 2012 to 2022, the demand for forensic science technicians across the U.S. is expected to grow by 6 percent, resulting in some 700 new positions becoming available – good news to a recent graduate from one of the colleges in North Dakota. The best job opportunities could be available to those who specialize in DNA or digital computer forensics or have a bachelor’s degree in a natural science and a master’s degree in forensic science. Don’t worry — there are plenty of graduate-level programs available online if you wish to continue in your forensic science education.
In a forensic science lab, a technician performs biological, chemical or physical analysis of evidence that comes from a crime scene, according to the BLS. This is why a bachelor’s degree is so important to entering the field. Here we offer a few paths that could be used to make a start in forensic science.
Natural science skills are not the only essential ones to becoming a forensic science technician. Knowledge about criminal justice, courtroom procedures, the law, as well as communication, can be important. In fact, the BLS says that communication skills are so essential because forensic science technicians need to be able to communicate with a variety of people, present information in courts and compile reports.
Crime scene investigators, who do different work than forensic science technicians, may be involved in taking photos, making sketches of a crime scene, collecting fingerprints and bodily fluids, as well as preserving evidence so that it can be taken to a crime lab, according to the BLS. These are skills that can be obtained through a CSI program. Often, the education necessary is not as in-depth as that for forensic science. Potential paths include:
In North Dakota, the biggest cities are Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks, which together having a combined population of more than 200,000 people. Cities may be the best place to look for jobs related to forensic science and CSI, but, of course, some rural jurisdictions may be in need of employees, too. As mentioned earlier, the North Dakota Attorney’s General’s Office could be one place that needs trained professionals. Its crime laboratory provides evidentiary support to the criminal justice system in the state by analyzing, identify and comparing physical evidence used in criminal offense cases. Given that North Dakota is a small population by state, you may have to look harder for opportunities. Below is a list of sites that could offer leads:
The BLS reports that nine out of every 10 forensic scientists work for local or state government, and that they are most often employed in crime laboratories, morgues, coroner’s offices or police departments. However, job availability may also be dependent on the budgets and funding available in these governmental agencies.
Featured Forensic Science Colleges in North Dakota
Because there appears to be just one forensic science program available in North Dakota, students may want to look for programs in criminal justice or the natural sciences instead. In fact, no forensic science programs offered in North Dakota are accredited through the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), which is the accrediting branch of AAFS, but FEPAC-accreditation may not be necessary to seek employment. Students interested in forensic science programs in North Dakota may wish to consider any of the following:
Because there are so few forensic science programs in North Dakota, it may be better to look for undergraduate degrees in the natural sciences. Biology and chemistry could be the most common ones and then you could look for a graduate-level program, even one that is available online, to help you gain more forensic science-specific knowledge. This may be an optimal path, as the BLS reports that many people entering the field of forensic science often have a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences followed by a master’s degree in forensic science.
Students seeking forensic science programs online will find numerous options. Just be aware that some, but not all of these, are based around a degree in criminal justice with a specialization in forensic science or crime scene investigation. A few of the available online forensic science programs include:
There are many other online programs available to students in North Dakota and which are listed on the AAFS website. Information on undergraduate and graduate degree programs as well as certificate programs can be found there. Information is also available about the Young Forensic Scientists Forum (YFSF) and CSI camps available around the country for teenagers.
While graduating from a FEPAC-accredited program in not always possible, it certainly may be advantageous. Keep in mind that FEPAC-accreditation is not something that occurs overnight or even in a year, however. In fact, the University of North Dakota formed an accrediting body as far back as 2004, but is still not ready to apply for FEPAC accreditation.
In this case, regional accreditation of a university is important. This means that the school has been accredited in entirety by an accrediting agency. There are six of these institutions across the U.S., and in North Dakota accreditation is done through the Higher Learning Commission. HLC Reaccreditation of the University of North Dakota last occurred in 2013 and the next reaffirmation of accreditation is expected in 2023-24.
FEPAC accreditation may also be important to seeking certification, although each certifying organization has its own regulations and standards. Certification may not even be available, and individuals may want to seek out membership instead. As an example, the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA) offers active membership to currently employed or recently retired personnel with a law enforcement agency. Below are a handful of organizations offering board certification or membership:
Do keep in mind that not all branches of forensic science offer board certification. To help in determining this, the AAFS has 11 different sections of forensic science listed on its website and has the education and career details, including the certification details if available, specific to each. Students or working professionals can also become members of the AAFS, which has information on career opportunities, provides access to the Journal of Forensic Science, and offers an annual meeting and educational conferences and more.
|School Name||City||Website||Degrees Awarded||Certificates Awarded||Total Forensics Grads|
|University of North Dakota||Grand Forks||und.edu||42||0||42|
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