As you travel west across the U.S., states get bigger and mountains get taller. In Utah (UT), you will find the 31st most populous state with the 10th lowest population density. Utah covers nearly 85,000 square miles and includes some of the most beautiful areas of the country, including Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks.
Most people in the U.S. know that Utah is home to a large concentration of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also known as Mormons), although certainly not every Utahan is a member of the church. The population of the Beehive State lives peacefully with fairly low crime rates and an affordable cost of living.
For those individuals considering a move to Utah or Utahans who are looking for a new career, forensic science is one to consider. In Utah, the demand for forensic science technicians is growing at a tremendous rate, with Career One Stop reporting an expected growth of 36 percent between 2014 and 2024. A strong educational background is the best path to success as a forensic science technician, so prospective students should investigate the opportunities available to them in the state. Keep reading for more details on how to become a forensic science technician in Utah and what types of higher education is available.
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Becoming a forensic scientist in Utah depends on developing a foundation in science and the analytical behavior necessary to assess scientific findings. Some forensic science technicians will take a winding path towards their final career, but the following are the most common steps.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 120 forensic science technicians are employed in Utah as of 2015, with 120 of those being employed in the greater Salt Lake City area (BLS 2017).
In terms of salary, forensic technicians in Utah can expect to earn a bit less than the national average. As reported by the BLS, salary ranges are as follows:
The average salary for technicians working in Salt Lake City is a bit higher, with the median salary coming in at $50,070. The median annual wage (50th percentile) for forensic science technicians throughout the country is $57,850. Although the difference in salaries is significant, it is also worth noting that the cost of living in Utah is well below average, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (2017) with utilities and housing being particularly affordable.
Students will be able to find a number of forensic science programs in Utah with courses offered on campus. On-campus programs are typically available to both residential students and commuters and can foster a greater sense of discipline and community for some students. Generally, students will want to look for a program that is focused on forensic science rather than criminal justice, because doing so will provide a stronger foundation in the hard sciences. However, forensic science concentrations and tracks are sometimes offered through broader criminal justice degree programs.
Utah Valley University offers at least two options when it comes to pursuing an education in forensic science. UVU offerings include a bachelor of science (BS) degree in forensic science as well as a minor option in forensic science. The BS program requires 121 credits and includes coursework that ranges from criminalistics to organic chemistry. Students take 23 elective credits as part of this program.The minor degree is 24 credits overall and requires classes such as tire imprint evidence and fingerprint examination. Students take 12 elective credits as part of this minor degree in forensic science.
Weber State University in Ogden is another forensic science option in Utah. The university offers a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice that allows students to pursue a concentration in forensic science. The forensic science concentration will introduce students to areas such as drug chemistry, fingerprint analysis, and serology. Another concentration is offered through this degree program which is focused on crime scene investigation.
Southern Utah University in Cedar City offers a bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of science degree in criminal justice with a forensic science emphasis. Both degree programs include coursework in forensic science such as advanced criminalistics and laws of evidence as well as crime scene investigation courses such as criminal investigation.
Many who are looking for online programs are doing so because they cannot commute to the traditional school, or because they do not have the time in their schedule. National institutions or schools providing online programs but having campuses based in other states could provide additional options beyond those available only through forensic science colleges in Utah.
As an example, Liberty University offers an online bachelor of science degree in criminal justice – forensics that provides students with the analytical and scientific practices germane to forensics and law.
p>Students evaluating forensic science programs in Utah 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, Utah Valley University holds accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
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. As of 2018, no program in Utah holds FEPAC accreditation. Utah students should keep in mind that FEPAC accredits very few programs overall, meaning that plenty of reputable forensic science, criminal justice, and crime scene investigation programs have not earned FEPAC accreditation. When applying to programs that have not earned FEPAC accreditation, institutional accreditation should carry more weight.
Requirements for professional certification differ for each specialty. For instance, to earn certification from the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, there are no specific educational requirements, only a knowledge of local, state, and federal laws. On the other hand, to become certified by the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists, applicants must complete at least 72 hours of relevant training in the field. Those interested in pursuing certification should be sure to learn the requirements for their certification of choice before pursuing a degree.
School "total forensics grads" data provided by IPEDS (2018) for the 2016-2017 school year, and includes all certificates and degrees awarded for the following programs: Criminalistics and Criminal Science, Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Science and Technology, Forensic Psychology, Cyber/Computer Forensics, and Financial Forensics and Fraud Investigation.