Forensic Scientists are responsible for collecting and analyzing evidence that can be helpful in criminal investigations. They typically take photographs of the evidence or make quick sketches for detailed analyses at later stages. In addition to that, they collect evidence such as weapons, bodily fluids and fingerprints from the crime scene to take back to their labs for assessments.
If you are interested in this kind of work, the following guide on the requirements to become a forensic scientist would be of great use to you. It provides details about the educational and training requirements, along with a detailed look at the salary outlook for forensic scientists.
Specialization Options for Forensic Scientists
Forensic Scientists may be generalists, who perform nearly all the duties associated with this profession, or they can be specialists in certain areas of this field. Following is a list of the potential specialization options available to forensic scientists.
Forensic Computer Examiners
Digital Forensics Analysts
Requirements to Become a Forensic Scientist
Once you have selected the specific field of forensics that you want to work in, you can move on to the actual process of becoming a forensic scientist. Read on to learn more about the educational, training and certification requirements for this occupation.
Educational Requirements to Become a Forensic Scientist
Forensic scientists usually need a bachelor’s degree for entry level jobs in this field. It is preferable that this degree be in a natural science, such as biology, chemistry or forensic science. Universities that offer specific programs in forensic science may also have the option for specializations in areas such as toxicology, DNA or pathology. Students who are not enrolled in a forensic science program are advised to take up courses in the subject. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences provides a comprehensive list of schools that offer programs in forensic science across the US.
Many forensic scientists with bachelor’s degrees opt for a master’s degree in forensic science as well, to enhance their chances of employment and get better salary packages.
In addition to that, many forensic scientists who work in crime labs for police departments need to be sworn police officers. For this, they will need to meet all the educational requirements for getting into a police academy.
Training Requirements to Become a Forensic Scientist
A lot of employers have in-house training programs designed for new recruits, to give them an idea of the organization’s work, before they can begin to work on cases on their own. Newly recruited crime scene investigators would typically start off by working under the supervision of an experienced investigator. This would help them learn about the proper procedures for collecting and recording evidence.
Forensic scientists who work primarily in labs are also given training on the job. The length of this training would be according to the specialty. However, most training sessions are wrapped up in less than a year. Lab technicians may be required to pass a proficiency exam or get approval from a laboratory before they can begin working on independent cases.
Besides the above, forensic scientists need to continue the learning and training process throughout their careers. This is mainly owing to the fact that forensic science is a rapidly evolving field, with newer technologies making their way into the market all the time. To stay on top of matters, continuous learning is integral.
Licensing Requirements to Become a Forensic Scientist
Certifications and licensure are not required for forensic scientists for most entry level positions. However, they are highly recommended for professional development, better job opportunities and higher salary packages. A range of certifications and licenses is available through various organizations in the US.
How Much Does a Forensic Scientist Make in the US?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Forensic Science Technicians made an annual median income of $59,150 in 2019. The annual mean wage was $63,170 for the same time period.
The amount of salary earned varied according to the industry or the state of employment. The top paying industry for Forensic Science Technicians was the Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation), which paid an annual mean wage of $111,180. This was followed by the Scientific Research and Development Services, which paid $79,970 in 2019.
The top paying state for Forensic Science Technicians was California, with an annual mean wage of $87,200, followed by Illinois, which paid $82,130 and Massachusetts, which paid $76,950 in 2019.