The Equality State features a diverse topography to explore from mountain ranges to high plains. With six national parks, Wyoming (WY) is an ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts and future forensic science and cybersecurity students. Five of the colleges and universities in Wyoming offer associate and bachelor’s degrees in forensic studies and certificate programs in fields related to forensic science including criminal justice, cybersecurity, and pre-law.
Occupational data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) shows that openings for forensic science technicians are on the rise, growing at a rate of 14 percent nationally between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average for all U.S. professions (BLS 2019). Taking a closer look at state-specific data from Career One Stop, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Wyoming is projected to grow its current number of forensic scientists by 14 percent between 2016 and 2026, and currently employs between 50 and 60 forensic science techs—one of many positions related to forensic science.
The multidisciplinary forensic science profession comprises roles in various settings such as medical and diagnostic laboratories, state and government agencies, architectural and engineering firms, and the federal executive branch of government (Career One Stop, 2019). The average salary for a forensic science technician in the United States is $58,230 and most positions have a minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree (BLS, 2019).
Read on to learn more about how to become a forensic scientist or a certified cybersecurity professional in Wyoming.
As with most careers, aspiring forensic scientists have a variety of unique pathways to the profession. However, the majority of forensic scientists and technicians prepare for their careers by earning a four-year degree in natural science, chemistry, biology, or forensic science. Here is a step-by-step guide for students interested in pursuing a career in forensic science in Wyoming and the estimated timeline for each step.
Students wanting to pursue careers in forensic science should have a strong academic background in mathematics and physical science courses (in the case of forensic science technicians) and/or computer science (in the case of cybersecurity professionals).
Data from Payscale.com shows that a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for forensic scientists and some positions require a master’s degree. Most forensic scientists have academic backgrounds in biology, molecular biology, chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, or even computer science and information security for digital forensics roles.
Applicants with prior professional experience in a forensic laboratory stand out in a competitive job market. Specializations in specific subfields of forensic science such as fingerprinting, toxicology, controlled substances, firearms, trace evidence, DNA, information security, or digital evidence can provide valuable on-the-job training, as well. Some internships allow students to earn college credit or financial stipends while gaining valuable on-the-job experience.
Requirements for forensic licensing and certification vary by state and may or may not be necessary for employment. The Forensic Specialities Accreditation Board (FSAB) offers ten professional certifications including forensic anthropology, odontology, and toxicology. Data from Career One Stop shows 20 available licenses for forensic science technicians in Wyoming, including certified forensics claims consultant, bloodstain pattern examiner, and forensic photography and imaging certification.
Advanced degrees in forensic science and cybersecurity can allow professionals to specialize in a specific branch of forensics and increase their employability and future earning potential. Exposure to research opportunities, professional networking, and theoretical frameworks offered in advanced degree programs prepares professionals for leadership opportunities in forensics, as well as higher salaries.
When compared to forensic techs’ projected national growth rate of 14 percent (2018-28), Wyoming is on par. Career One Stop predicted that opportunities for forensic techs will swell 14 percent between 2016 and 2026. Please note that the multidisciplinary field of forensic science can lead people into a variety of related roles, including criminal investigator, medical scientist, special agent, and cybersecurity professional.
Five colleges and universities in Wyoming offer forensic science programs. While these programs are not accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), as of 2019, they are in good standing with their institutional and regional accrediting organizations.
Read on to learn more about the certificate and degree programs in forensic science and cybersecurity offered at these colleges and universities.
The University of Wyoming in Laramie offers a bachelor’s degree and a minor in criminal justice, a pre-law concentration for criminal justice majors, and a certificate program in cybersecurity.
With a broad liberal arts emphasis, the criminal justice program includes coursework in sociology, psychology, and political science to help prepare students for careers in local, state, and federal law enforcement, corrections, and other career pathways. It is also an option for students continuing on to law school. On-campus and online course formats are offered in collaboration with other educational institutions. Internships are encouraged, and students may take up to 12 hours of internship credits which can be applied to their chosen degree programs.
Casper College offers a variety of associate degrees and certificate programs in the disciplines of forensic science, cybersecurity, and fire science. Courses are available in face-to-face and online formats.
Students at Casper College can choose to pursue an associate of science degree (AS) in forensic science or earn a certificate or associate in applied science degree (AAS) in fire science. Certificate and associate’s degrees in cybersecurity are also available; the AS cybersecurity degree is designed as a transfer degree to a four-year college or university program whereas the AAS degree prepares students for the workforce and to sit for certification exams. The certificate in cybersecurity helps established cybersecurity professionals update their skills and training.
With four different campuses located throughout the state in the cities of Riverton, Jackson, Lander, and Dubois, Central Wyoming College offers an associate of arts (AA) degree in criminal justice. Students in this program receive a strong theoretical background in justice law, theories, and court systems and are trained to hone their critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. In addition to general education courses in writing, state and federal government, arts, and mathematics, students pursuing an associate of arts degree in criminal justice take courses in law enforcement, criminal law, corrections, and political and judicial processes.
Located in Cheyenne, Laramie County Community College offers three associate’s degree programs in three criminal justice tracks: corrections/pre-law, law enforcement, and cybersecurity. The corrections/pre-law associate of arts program is offered at the main campus and also online and features a transfer agreement for students who want to pursue a four-year degree after earning the two-year associate’s degree. The law enforcement associate of arts degree is offered at the main campus and also features a transfer agreement enabling students to easily pursue a bachelor’s degree in this area. The cybersecurity associate’s degree in applied science is available in an on-campus and online format. Credit diplomas in cybersecurity fundamentals are also available for established cybersecurity professionals wanting to pursue continuing education opportunities to keep their knowledge and practices current.
With two campuses in the cities of Sheridan and Gillette, Sheridan College offers three associate’s degree programs and a certificate program in criminal justice. Students in these programs are prepared for a variety of careers that fall under the criminal justice umbrella, including criminal investigator, private investigator, corrections officer, and park ranger. Courses are taught by expert professionals with extensive field experience and students are able to choose courses based on their area of interest including law enforcement, juvenile justice, firearms, domestic violence, crisis intervention, and sociological principles.
When considering whether or not to attend a college or university degree program, prospective students often inquire about the accreditation status of the institutions. Accreditation ensures that the highest standards of institutional and educational program quality are met and students applying for federal loans to finance tuition and fees are only eligible to attend schools which are accredited by regional, local, or national accrediting organizations. Accreditation can also be offered by a discipline-specific, regional, or national organization.
All of the schools featured in this article hold current regional accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), an independent corporation of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) awards accreditation to an exclusive number of forensic science programs at colleges and universities in the United States. Although currently none of the forensic science programs at Wyoming colleges and universities have earned FEPAC accreditation, its absence is not necessarily reflective of the standard of educational rigor and quality.
Forensic scientists in Wyoming who have earned academic and professional experience have a number of certifications and licenses available to them as proof of education and professional competency. Certifications and licenses vary by discipline and job position. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) features a list of ten organizations which confer professional certification to individuals in forensic science. The list of accredited specializations include:
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.