Forensic science is on a fast growing profession with more than 13,000 forensic scientists in the United States. In addition, job openings for forensic scientists are expected to increase more rapidly as the vacancies in this field exceed the number of graduates. Furthermore, a career in forensic science provides job stability and financial security as the average salary of a forensic scientist is approximately $55,000 annually.
Individuals in the Forensic Science field collect, identify and analyze physical evidence in crime investigations. They test and investigate substances, fibers, hairs, and tissues found in a crime scene. They may also specialize in ballistics, fingerprinting, handwriting or biochemistry. Forensic scientists work in the local government, state government, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and federal executive branch.
To be able to analyze evidences in the lab, forensic scientists must have an undergraduate degree in chemistry, biology, pre-med, microbiology or other degrees that are related to natural sciences. Another undergraduate option for individuals interested in becoming a forensic scientist is to obtain a degree in chemistry or biology from a four year university. Courses such as analytical and instrumental chemistry focus on drugs and trace evidence. Likewise, degrees in molecular biology and genetics focus on the study of the DNA.
There are some courses that must be taken in order to become a forensic scientist. Employers are usually looking for individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology or forensic science. A bachelor’s degree in forensic science has the elements of chemistry, biology and criminal justice mixed together. The forensic science program will also ensure that the student has all the skills, experience, and knowledge to apply for an entry-level job in crime labs. The program will also be a way for students to participate in forensic science research and obtain an internship in a forensic lab.
Some forensic science jobs will also require specific coursework for particular jobs. For example, the DNA Advisory Board requires all employees involved in DNA work to have successfully completed courses in molecular biology, genetics and statistics. After obtaining an undergraduate B.S. degree, students have an option of attending a two year Masters of Science in Forensic Science program (MSFS). There are many advantages of obtaining a MSFS degree. Individuals with an MSFS degree have a competitive edge over those who graduated with only a B.S. degree. In addition, students who attended an MSFS graduate program are qualified to take on supervisory positions.
Some employers also look for applicants who spent two years in specialized training or have obtained an associate’s degree in applied science. It is advisable to take physics and calculus in college. To prepare thoroughly for this field, most applicants go through a two year formal training programs that have a combination of classroom instruction and on-the-job training. It is also ideal that potential forensic scientists take a communication course. It is important that they have good communication skills because they are expected to work with others.