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How To Become A Forensic Scientist: Frequently Asked Questions

How to Become a Forensic Scientist
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This article is a guide for students interested in Forensic Science. We answer frequently asked questions. These include what Forensic Science is, what Forensic Science jobs are available, and degree questions regarding becoming a Forensic Scientist.

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How to Become a Forensic Scientist: Frequently Asked Questions

Forensic Science

What is Forensic Science?

Forensic Science uses science to aid law enforcement. Forensic Science provides unbiased and impartial scientific evidence for understanding crime. Law enforcement can and do use this evidence in court prosecutions and in criminal investigations. Forensic Science analyzes data and evidence from many subjects and disciplines. These include chemistry, physics, biology, psychology, information technology, geology, and the social sciences.

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What does a Forensic Scientist do?

Forensic scientists collect and analyze evidence to aid in law enforcement. Forensic scientists work to provide evidence that law enforcement can use in court procedures and criminal investigations. Forensic Scientists may use skills gained from many fields and disciplines. These fields include chemistry, physics, biology, psychology, information technology, geology, as well as the social sciences.

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What are some Forensic Science Careers?

Crime Laboratory Analysts use their scientific knowledge to assess crime scene evidence. Digital Forensic Examiners are involved in searching a suspect’s hard drive or cell phone for crime evidence. They often perform this work in close collaboration with Law Enforcement. Forensic Pathologists are doctors who do autopsies on victims to assess the cause(s) of death. Forensic Science Technicians work in crime labs analyzing the evidence collected from crime scenes. Forensic Toxicologists look at the chemistry of people who have passed away to assess the use of chemicals, drugs, or poisons. DNA Analysts help to connect potential DNA evidence to crime suspects.

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What are some Specialized Forensic Science careers outside of crime laboratories?

Specialized Forensic Science careers outside of the laboratory include: Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Engineering, Forensic Entomology, Forensic Odontology, and Forensic Pathology and Forensic Psychology.

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What can you do with a Forensic Science degree?

Many forensic scientists work in forensic science (crime) laboratories. The United States, has over 4000 crime laboratories administered by federal, state, or local governments or private industry. Many crime laboratories employ scientists in the areas of forensic chemistry, forensic biology and criminalistics. Undergraduates can seek entry-level positions as crime lab technicians or in other positions.

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What fields do Forensic Scientists work in?

Forensic Scientists work in many fields within the scope of their duties. These include Ballistics, Chemical Trace Evidence, Computer Forensic Examination, Criminalistics, Criminal Investigation, Digital & Multimedia Sciences, DNA Profiling, Drug Analysis, Facial Identification, Fingerprints, Firearms/Toolmarks, Fire Debris & Explosives Analysis, Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Biology, Forensic Engineering, Forensic Photography and Electronic Digital Imaging, Handwriting, Information Security, Jurisprudence, Microscopy, Mobile Phone Forensic Examination, Paternity Testing, Questioned Documents, and Toxicology.

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What are some jobs in Forensic Science?

Jobs in Forensic Science include: Biometrics Examiner, Bloodstain Pattern Analyst, Crime Laboratory Analyst, Crime Scene Analyst, Crime Scene Investigator, Crime Scene Technician, Criminalist, Drug Unit Forensic Scientist, Evidence Technician, Firearms and Toolmarks Examiner, Forensic Anthropologist, Forensic Ballistics Expert, Forensic Biostatistician, Forensic DNA Analyst, Forensic Drug Analyst, Forensic Pathologist, Forensic Quality Assurance Specialist, Forensic Science Examiner, Forensic Science Technician, Forensic Scientist, Forensic Specialist, General Laboratory Technician, Laboratory Director, Latent Fingerprint Examiner, Latent Print Examiner, Toxicologist, and Trace Evidence Analyst.

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What are some of the Federal Government agencies which may hire Forensic Science graduates?

Forensic Science graduates have many potential options available for working in the federal government. These include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, U.S. Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Secret Service, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Headquarters.

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What are some State Government agencies which may hire graduates of a Forensic degree program?

State agencies that hire Forensic Scientists include: State Crime Labs/State Police Departments, Coroner Offices, Medical Examiner Offices, and Law Enforcement Offices.

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What are private industries that hire Forensic Scientists?

Private industries that hire Forensic Scientists are numerous and varied. They include Insurance agencies, private lab facilities, investigation and security services, and crime scene units.

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How do you become a Forensic Scientist?

Forensic Scientists typically need a bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science or a science-related degree field. These may include chemistry, biology, and physics. Students may also take courses in math, statistics, biostatistics, genetics, and general and organic chemistry. Courses in criminal justice may provide some useful career knowledge. Forensic technicians need laboratory experience. Some Forensic Scientist jobs require an advanced degree. Examples include Forensic psychologists, pathologist or anthropologist. A Master’s degree in forensic science may help graduates land a leadership position as a forensic scientist or criminologist.

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What services do crime laboratories provide?

A crime laboratory typically includes units such as a Physical Science unit, a Biology unit, a Firearms unit, a Document unit, and a Photographic unit. A crime laboratory may provide additional services such as fingerprint analysis, voiceprint analysis, toxicology, and evidence collection.

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What careers are available with a bachelor’s in Forensic Science?

Undergraduates can seek employment in federal, state, county, city or private crime laboratories. Graduates may work in public or private forensic toxicology or other forensic sciences. Grads can also seek jobs in laboratories with insurance companies, scientific supply companies, intelligence or homeland security agencies.

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Do law enforcement officers or federal agents need to have a Forensic Science degree?

Typically law enforcement and federal agencies do not need Forensic Degrees. Most law enforcement agencies at the local, state, or federal levels require a four-year degree of some type. But these agencies typically do not require a Forensic Science degree. There are exceptions, however. If the position is specifically in a Forensic Science field, then the agencies may require a Forensic Science undergraduate degree.

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Forensic Science Certifications

Professional Organizations

Students interested in degrees and careers in subjects related to forensic toxicology may apply for membership as Student Affiliate members. Students seeking advanced degrees and engaged in forensic toxicology need to apply as Full or Associate Members.

The International Association of Identification is the oldest and largest forensic association in the world. The Association represents a diverse, experienced and knowledgeable membership which educates, shares, critiques and publishes methods, research, and techniques in the physical forensic science disciplines. The Association provides student membership to full-time college students at an accredited college with a major in a forensic science related field or law enforcement.

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