Students who might be considering a career in forensic science in South Carolina (SC) will want to know more about the current outlook for the profession in the state, as well as the steps to enter the profession. The demand for forensics specialists in the state (and especially nationally) is strong and growing, and while South Carolina hosts a limited number of forensic science programs, there are also online options available. Forensic science jobs in the state tend to be concentrated primarily in the larger population centers such as the cities of Charleston and Greenville.
People who are reviewing forensic science colleges in South Carolina should take some time to understand all the steps involved in becoming a forensic scientist in the state, and also what out-of-state educational options may be available, since as mentioned the in-state options are minimal. This may mean looking to a nearby state (see the list at bottom) or to online forensic science colleges. Learn more below about forensic scientist demand and educational options for SC residents.
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People come to the forensic science career from many different backgrounds, and while the following set of steps is the most common, it is certainly not the only option. Those who are looking to change careers, for instance, may have a more accelerated path they can take, especially if they have earned an undergraduate degree in a related scientific field.
Overall growth in the forensic science occupation is quite strong, with the US availability of jobs expected to grow by 17 percent from 2016 to 2026. Available data shows that the occupational growth in South Carolina is expected to be 25 percent (CareerOneStop.org). With just 110 employed forensic science technicians as of 2017, the Palmetto State does not have the widest array of employment opportunities in this particular field. Still, for the educated and qualified individual, there should be opportunities.
In terms of salary, South Carolina comes in somewhat lower than the U.S. overall. The salary ranges for forensic science technicians in South Carolina, as reported by Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2017, are:
Comparatively, the median annual wage (50th percentile) for the whole country is $57,850, putting South Carolina forensic science technician salary levels significantly below the national average (BLS 2017).
Salary can also vary based on the metropolitan area where a forensic science technician works. Following are the two most significant metro areas in South Carolina and their salary data according to the BLS:
Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC: 40 forensic science technicians employed
Columbia, SC: 30 forensic science technicians employed
Clearly salaries are significantly higher in the Greenville-Anderson-Maudlin area of the state, which also employs a few more forensic science technicians.
Students who are looking to attend one of the forensics colleges in South Carolina will find that they have a limited number of options. In fact, there are currently no programs in South Carolina that have been accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), although that accreditation does apply specifically to forensic science programs (as opposed to related ones), and relatively few schools nationally are FEPAC-accredited. In short, there are quality programs available that are not FEPAC-accredited, as evidenced below.
Trident Tech in Charleston offers a certificate program in crime scene investigation, which could be helpful for some students, particularly those who are already in law enforcement or who are planning to enter law enforcement. The school also provides a related associate degree to students who are interested in pursuing criminal justice.
Southern Wesleyan University offers a bachelor’s of science (BS) degree in forensic science. Students that go through the program will receive training in biology and biochemistry, human anatomy and physiology, DNA analysis, and much more. Students in this program will learn how to use microscopic techniques to analyze the likes of hair, fibers, tissues, glass and much more.
There are a variety of online options available for students in South Carolina who prefer to self-direct their education, although most are not based in the state. One exception is an online CSI certificate offered by Trident Tech.
One notable program outside the state is the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), which offers a bachelor’s degree in investigative forensics. The 120-credit program includes courses in criminalistics, cyber crime, and fingerprint analysis. The program is also available as a minor for those wishing to pursue a broader degree.
The University of Florida is another online option for SC students. UF offers an online master of science (MS) or graduate certificate in forensic science. This particular program has been the recipient of the Award of Excellence in Distance Education and does not require any campus visits to complete the degree. Rolling admissions means prospective students can apply to the UF program and start any semester, beginning their education as soon as possible.
Students choosing a forensic science program should consider both institutional and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation means that the schools as a whole have been evaluated for its standards and efficacy. Trident Tech, as well as Southern Wesleyan, have accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. FEPAC is the main accrediting body for forensic science programs. Unfortunately, none of the South Carolina schools have earned FEPAC accreditation at this juncture, but students should look for SC programs to expand in the coming years and demand increases.
In terms of professional certification, requirements differ for each specialty. For instance, someone who wants to apply for certification from the International Association for Identification (IAI) in Tenprint Fingerprint, must have at least 40 hours of Board-approved education but that does not necessarily have to be accredited.
For a certification such as Bloodstain Pattern Analysis, which is also from the IAI, there are education requirements but no accreditation standards. 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.