It takes a lot of effort, commitment, and love for forensic science to become a forensic scientist. You must be prepared to work long hours and under pressure because it is a very competitive sector.
Before seeking employment, the majority of forensic scientists and forensic assistants complete college degrees in forensics, biology, molecular biology, chemistry, and other hard sciences. They also select specialized coursework in pathology, DNA, criminology, firearms, genetics, fingerprints, toxicology, trace evidence, and other pertinent areas.
Forensic assistant collect evidence (such as bodily fluids, clothing fibers, weapons, soil, and plastics), photograph or record findings (i.e., create “certificates of analyses”), analyze evidence using scientific techniques (such as scanning electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, liquid chromatography, and genetic fingerprinting), visit morgues to examine victims of crime, and keep up with methodological and technological advancements in the field. Create presentations for conferences, testify as expert witnesses in court, and collaborate with specialists in law, medicine, ballistics, metallurgy, handwriting, and other subjects. Compare the evidence with digital records.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) states that the federal government pays the highest wages, while local governments employ the most people in this profession. Finally, many forensic science practitioners decide to obtain national certification through organizations recognized by the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board before applying for positions in the discipline’s highest echelons (FSAB).
Forensic Scientist Career Outlook
There is good news for this profession’s future. Between 2020 and 2030, the BLS (2021) predicts a 16 percent increase in job vacancies for forensic scientists, which is twice the growth rate predicted for all occupations during that period (8 percent). Furthermore, the increase in opportunities in related professions like crime scene investigators (CSI), medico legal death experts, insurance investigators, biological technicians, chemical technicians, laboratory technologists, fire inspectors, and more is not included in the expected addition of 2,700 jobs.
The good news is that there are plenty of openings for skilled forensic science specialists who have the necessary training. The District of Columbia government, NMS Labs, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the Department of State Police, United States Drug Testing Laboratories, Inc., the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, and 499 other organizations in the United States had job openings for these specialists as of April 2022. In conclusion, this career is anticipated to experience strong growth in the years to come.
Education And Professional Licensure Requirements For Forensic Scientist
The term “forensic scientist” can refer to a variety of occupations, however, the focus of this section will be on General forensic scientists. Fresheres should have at least a bachelor’s degree to have the best chance of finding employment.
Forensic scientists are typically not required to be certified or licensed by law. The creation of a Crime Scene Certification Committee in Indiana, specifically for the certification of crime scene investigators, raises the possibility that other states will adopt similar standards for licensure.
Many forensic scientists choose to acquire certification in their chosen specialty in addition to legal certification to increase their career options. Certifications in areas like forensic toxicology, criminalistics, and document examination are accredited by the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB).
Steps To Becoming A Forensic Scientist
The road to a successful career in forensic science is varied. Here is one route you could use to enter this area of rapid expansion:
Step 1: Complete High School
Aspiring forensic scientists are urged to complete high school, ideally with good grades in subjects like biology, chemistry, physiology, statistics, and mathematics to position themselves for success. Additionally, some students decide to volunteer or intern in pertinent organizations like police, fire, hospitals, medical labs, or other institutions.
For instance, the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) offers secondary students a week-long summer internship in forensic science that includes practical instruction through forensic simulations, supervised laboratory work, and lectures from experts. Interested students are urged to get in touch with regional and international institutions to learn more about the opportunities available.
Step 2: Enroll in an associate’s program in forensic science (two years)
There are various associate degree programs available for aspiring entry-level forensic science technicians.
Two-year programs in this profession often require a high school diploma, a competitive GPA, a personal statement, and TOEFL test results for admission (for non-native speakers of English). These programs might offer lessons in criminal law, fire & arson investigation, and the physical sciences in addition to general education.
A crime scene technology associate’s degree from Miami Dade College (MDC) prepares students for work in the criminalistics industry with a focus on forensic science or crime scene investigation. Students who get an associate’s degree in forensic science are prepared for careers as forensic identification specialists.
The curriculum, which consists of 60 credits, offers classes in criminal justice, forensic science, crime scene technology, basic fingerprinting, biotechnology methods and applications, general chemistry, and qualitative analysis.
Graduates will be qualified for entry-level careers in forensic sciences, medical investigation, crime scene investigation, insurance investigation, and laboratory technology in local, state, and federal agencies.
Step 3: (Optional) Enroll in a bachelor’s degree program (four years)
But it might be wise for aspiring forensic scientists to finish a bachelor’s degree program in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, forensics, or a similar subject. A four-year degree can improve earning potential and employment chances while also opening possibilities to professions in adjacent sectors, notably in the laboratory.
The completion of specific coursework, such as high school level chemistry, biology, and mathematics, as well as a competitive GPA, national test results (SAT or ACT), a personal statement, recommendation letters, and TOEFL test results are common requirements for applications to scientific bachelor’s programs (again, for non-native speakers of English).
Courses in criminalistics, forensic biology, organic chemistry, and other topics are offered in forensic scientist bachelor’s degrees in addition to general education requirements. The primary accrediting body for forensic science programs in the nation, the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), assesses the standard of curricula, educational goals, student support services, faculty credentials, admissions procedures, and other pertinent factors in universities all across the nation.
Step 4: Obtain experience working in a crime lab, police agency, or another pertinent workplace (one to three years)
At this point, a lot of graduates from forensic science programs opt to gain some practical experience in hospitals, police departments, municipal and federal agencies, medical and diagnostic labs, and other settings. This not only addresses the gap between academic theory and practical application, but it may also enable these professionals to apply for national certification.
Step 5: take steps to become certified (timeline varies)
Even while it might not be necessary for employment, professional certification might improve a job candidate’s CV or income chances. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) has granted accreditation to several pertinent certification bodies, including:
- American Board of Criminalistics (ABC)
- American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (ABMDI)
- American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT)
- International Board of Forensic Engineering Sciences (IBFES)
- Crime Scene Certification Board, International Association for Identification (IAI)
- American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA)
While the prerequisites for these certificates can differ, they often include having at least a bachelor’s degree in a forensics-related discipline, demonstrating work experience, submitting recommendation letters, paying an application fee, and passing an exam. For instance, the American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT) requires official transcripts, a recent passport-style photo, three professional references, documentation of three years of experience, a $150 application fee, and passing a comprehensive exam for its five-year “specialist” certification. A “diplomatic” level of this certification is also available to persons with pertinent doctoral degrees and three or more years of work experience.
Comparatively, the International Association for Identification (IAI) offers more specialized certifications that reflect certain competencies, such as footwear identification, forensic art knowledge, analysis of bloodstain patterns, and ten-print fingerprint certification. Specific requirements should be confirmed with certifying bodies.
Step 6: (Optional) Enroll in a graduate program in forensic science (two to four years)
A master’s or doctoral degree is a tempting alternative for forensic scientists who are midway through their careers and want to improve their expertise and qualifications.
How To Become Forensic Scientist In India?
In India, you typically need to take the following stages in order to become a forensic scientist:
Education: A Bachelor’s degree in a pertinent subject, such as forensic science, chemistry, biology, physics, or any other related subject, is required.
Gain Experience: You must have appropriate work experience in the field of forensic science after receiving a degree. At forensic labs or crime investigation organisations, you can submit an application for internships, entry-level positions, or apprenticeships.
Specialisation: You might choose to specialise in forensic science fields such as DNA analysis, fingerprint analysis, ballistics, toxicology, or digital forensics.
Requirements: You must satisfy the requirements set out by the organisation to which you are applying. Typically, you must be an Indian citizen, between the ages of 21 and 30, and free of any criminal history.
Selection Process: After passing the competitive exam, you must go through the selection process, which includes written tests, interviews, and medical exams.
Continuous Education: If you want to develop in your job, you should always be learning new things and being current with forensic science trends. It’s a great idea to get a Master’s or Ph.D. in forensic science to further your profession.
Professional Skills of Forensic Scientist
To be efficient as a forensic science:
- Practitioner, a person must possess several abilities, such as: (quantitative reasoning and problem-solving).
- Making choices
- Proper laboratory procedures
- Observation and focus on the little print
- Computer literate
- Personality traits
- Speaking in public
- Written and verbal communication
- Management of time
- Task prioritization
There are organized techniques that can be used to evaluate skill or proficiency for some of these abilities before or after hiring.
Responsibilities of Forensic Scientist
Being a forensic scientist requires you to:
- Utilizing methods like gas and high-performance liquid chromatography, scanning electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy, and genetic fingerprinting, laboratories can analyze samples including hair, body fluids, glass, paint, and medicines.
- Sift and sort the evidence, which is frequently only in small amounts.
- Report findings and gather forensic evidence from crime or accident scenes.
- Visit and investigate crime scenes
- Communicate with groups and plan with other organizations, including the police
- Analyze and evaluate data from computers and results
- Review and control helpers’ work
- Research and create new forensic procedures. Justify conclusions under cross-examination in court
- Present the outcomes of your work in written or oral form.
Not all forensic scientists work at crime scenes or write about them. You could decide to remain in the lab.
- Forensic scientists typically earn starting salaries of about £20,000.
- This can rise to between £25,000 and £35,000 with expertise.
- Senior-level pay can approach £45,000 per year.
Note: The income statistics are simply meant to be a guide.
Hours of work
Even though you will usually work regular office hours, you can also have to work shifts or be on call. Because crimes can occur at any moment, you must be willing to work on the weekends and in the evenings.