From the Rhode Island State Crime Lab to its custom-built mobile crime lab, there are many opportunities for students to pursue forensic science jobs in the state. They can also seek educational opportunities there or head online to look for programs related to forensic science or crime scene investigation so that they can become one of the estimated 13,700 forensic science technicians expected to be employed in the country by 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
To be able to work in a crime lab and help analyze crime scene evidence, a bachelor’s degree is typically needed, according to the BLS. In an undergraduate degree program, students gain knowledge in the naturals sciences, including both biology and chemistry, which can help them to analyze the variety of evidence, ranging from fluids to materials, that they might encounter in a crime lab. A master’s degree in forensic science can be a particular advantage to obtaining a job in the forensic science technician field, however, reports the BLS.
Another option is to pursue a career as a crime scene investigator (CSI). This may be best done through admission to and completion of a law enforcement academy, but some individuals also are able to enter the field as a non-civilian using CSI education provided through an undergraduate program. According to the BLS, a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences or in forensic science may be helpful to entering this field, but students also may be able to find degrees specifically in crime scene investigation or crime scene technology to help procure a job.
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The mean annual wages for forensic science technicians nationwide were $58,610, as of May 2014, according to BLS data. The BLS does not provide wage information for forensic science technicians specifically working in Rhode Island, but there, as elsewhere, job opportunities could be best for those who have a master’s degree in forensic science, have expertise working with DNA or are knowledgeable about digital computer forensics, suggests the BLS. It also may be valuable to note that the mean annual wages of forensic science technicians nationwide exceeded those for all occupations combined in the U.S. – $47,230, according to May 2014 data.
Nationwide job demand for forensic science technicians is expected to be six percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS. This is job growth that is slower than average for all occupations, but that still could result in 700 new positions becoming available during that time. Job demand statistics are not specifically available for Rhode Island, but the BLS reports that nationwide job competition should remain strong because of the substantial interest in the forensic science field.
The BLS reports that a bachelor’s degree is important to obtaining entry-level work as a forensic science technician, but that those with a master’s degree in the field may find the most job advantages. Indeed, with more education, graduates can begin to seek very nuanced fields of forensic science; below we list a few of the degree options available to those interested in forensic science.
There also are elements outside of an education that are important to becoming a forensic science technician or forensic scientist. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) reports these as the ability to remain unbiased, having intellectual curiosity and possessing personal integrity. The BLS also indicates good communication skills, the ability to be detail oriented and strong critical-thinking capabilities are important on the job.
Crime scene investigation is also a career that typically needs a bachelor’s degree for entry, reports the BLS. Of course, many people enter the CSI occupation by completing a law enforcement academy, but others are able to obtain employment by completing a degree and seeking employment with a law enforcement agency as a civilian employee. Below are routes for obtaining a CSI education.
The Forensic Enterprises, Inc. website also reports that being able to lift and move weight up to 100 pounds is essential on the job. Other physical requirements include being able to kneel, stoop, reach and climb at crime scenes – since each will be unique and different. CSIs also need to understand significant deals about photography, such as how lighting, distortion and resolution can affect the ability to sufficiently document crime scenes, which is why an education can be important.
Providence is Rhode Island’s largest city with a population of more than 175,000 people, but Warwick and Cranston are also cities having significant populations each of more than 81,000 people. These cities could be prime places to look for jobs, but jobs could be available in other cities, too. For example, the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory is located in Kingston, R.I. (with a population of just over 6,000), and provides a range of scientific evidence services related to local, state or federal crimes. These include services related to firearms, trace evidence and latent prints, but the lab also hosts continuing education classes throughout the year. Other places to look for jobs in the state include the:
Keep in mind that nine out of 10 forensic science technicians are employed by local or state governments, according to the BLS. Agencies at these levels could provide some of the best job opportunities, although private institutions, either within Rhode Island or another state could be other sources for job leads.
When it comes to forensic science education in Rhode Island, there are just a few campus-based options. Science classes, in some form or another, will almost always be an important component to a forensic science education, although CSI programs may have fewer scientific courses as part of a degree program.
In addition to these options, students also can pursue undergraduate degrees at Rhode Island schools that focus either on biology or chemistry. Having a four-year degree in one of these fields could then enable them to go on and pursue a master’s degree in forensic science available either in another state or through suitable options online.
Online degrees in criminal justice can provide students with options in crime scene investigation or crime scene technology as can online bachelor’s or master’s degrees in forensic science. Below are a variety of options that can be found online and that may provide busy students with flexible options when it comes to their learning and instruction.
View a larger list of schools offering online forensics degree programs.
Programmatic accreditation through the AAFS, founded in 1948, can be important when it comes to seeking a job, but not all forensic science programs across the U.S. have accreditation through its Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, or FEPAC. This may be due to the rigor and commitment involved in becoming FEPAC accredited. As an example, accreditation approval requires, among many other facets, that 50 percent of full-time forensic science staff have a doctoral degree and that the program has at least one relationship with a forensic science lab. While none of the schools in Rhode Island have FEPAC accreditation, they may have regional accreditation through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE), which is another way of assuring students of a quality education when it comes to their learning.
Other ways to show proof of your forensic science skills are by seeking certification. Known as board certification at upper-education levels, this could be available through organizations, such as the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA) or the American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO). Graduates could also seek certification through the International Association for Identification (IAI) or the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA), both that offer numerous certifications particularly related to CSI. Students also may wish to become a member of a forensic science organization, which could provide opportunities to attend conferences, receive continuing education or network with others. Some of these include the:
Additionally, there may be a forensic science club or organization at the school that you attend, a forensic science honors society or even other opportunities to become involved in forensic science in your community, any of which could lead to networking and job leads when it comes time to look for employment.
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