How to Become a Forensic Scientist
Working as a forensic scientist is a challenging role suited to those with analytical and enquiring minds. If all things science and medical are intriguing to you, then you should consider becoming a forensic scientist. One of the best benefits of this career path is that is gives you the opportunity to contribute to law enforcement and make your community a safer place.
If you're interested in science, but a career in research or teaching doesn't excite you, forensic science is a good alternative. Work is often fast paced, as well as varied. Forensic scientists collect, identify, and analyze samples taken that are related to a crime. Fiber, hair, and tissue are often analyzed in the lab. Forensic scientists also test weapons, study blood splatter and gunshot residue.
Education Requirements to Become a Forensic Scientist
If you're still in high school, you can already start your path to become a forensic scientist. Take the opportunity to complete as much math and science as you can, and concentrate on working hard in these subjects, as you'll need to make good grades to be accepted into a forensic science major at college. If there are activities at your school that are science based, then you should definitely take part.
The minimum requirement to become a forensic scientist is a bachelors degree in forensic science, biology, or natural science. To work in some specialized roles or supervisory positions, you will need to go on and complete a higher degree. Physics, chemistry, biology, math, biochemistry, toxicology, and criminal justice make up a large part of the theoretical work studied in these kind of degrees. There is also a large amount of lab work involved.
Most colleges will require you to complete an internship as a part of your degree. Even if they don't, you should try and get as much work experience as possible.
When looking at different colleges, you might like to choose a course that is accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission. While you can still work in the field with a degree that is not accredited, employers do give preference to those that have completed one of these selected programs.
Postgraduate degree programs in forensic science are usually quite focused, and are suitable if you are looking at a niche area. Many people who work in this field complete their undergraduate degree then find full time work. They then go on to complete higher degrees part time while working. This also gives you more opportunity to work in the field, and discover what special areas interest you most.
Forensic Scientist Job Description
Working as a forensic scientist, your main task is the scientific examination of evidence. This could include a large variety of tests on evidence such as tissue, materials, fabric, or weaponry. While forensic scientists spend the majority of their time in the lab, they also work on crime scenes and other areas. Here are some of the tasks a forensic scientist may be responsible for:
- Collecting samples from a crime scene
- Analyzing blood splatter or gun residue at a crime scene
- Analyzing samples in a lab
- Preparing reports relating to a crime
- Communicating with law enforcement officers
- Communicating with coworkers
Forensic Scientist Salary and Career Path
Most forensic scientists start their careers in labs, under the supervision of a more experienced technician. With experience, they take on more responsibility. Some forensic scientists will go on to specialize in a particular area, for instance fingerprints, blood splatter, ballistics, handwriting, or crime scene investigation.
When you become a forensic scientist, most entry level candidates will earn about $40,000 a year, then with some experience increase to the median wage, which is around $50,000 a year. Top industry professionals can make over $80,000.
Forensic science is a rapidly growing sector, and employment prospects are strong. Most forensic scientists are employed by law enforcement agencies at state and federal level, some for private firms or security companies.
If you're looking for a role that is interesting then forensic science may be right for you. With an attractive salary and secure employment available, it certainly makes for a good career choice, particularly for those who are interested in science. Forensic science also gives an opportunity to make a contribution to law enforcement and your community.
*Salary Information provided by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics