Become A Forensic Science Technician
The role of a forensic science technician is now a highly sought position in the job market. Made popular by TV shows, a forensic science technician, also known as a criminalist , is a professional who specializes in collecting and analyzing evidence related to crimes using natural sciences.
So, what does it take to become a criminalist? In addition, what are the career options that are available once you do become one? These questions and more are answered below.
What Can I Expect From Forensic Science Colleges?
As your parents have surely told you, it is a good idea to plan what you want to be early on. This cannot be truer for a career in forensic science. You will need to decide early in college if you wish to get into forensics. Plenty of college-level math and science courses will need to be done and you will need to decide of which side you wish to be a part - investigative or laboratory.
While both sides are very similar, they require taking different educational paths depending on the side you choose.
No matter what your choice may be, you will have to be comfortable with looking at and handling bodies, tissues and bodily fluids. If you choose the investigative stream, you have to collect data and evidence at crime scenes, meaning you will have to be able to stomach violent scenes and corpses.
Those who choose the laboratory stream will work on analyzing evidence from the safety and comfort of a familiar environment. Both streams are closely related and offer the same level of work.
You will need formal qualification and training to be able to work in the field. A bachelor's degree from four-year forensic science colleges is required. If the school offers a major in criminalistics then you are set. Make sure that the forensic science colleges are accredited by FEPAC.
However, majors in chemistry, biology or physics are good substitutes as well. Degrees in science are necessary and some crime labs require a master's degree in forensic science or criminalistics. Many subfields require even further specialization.
Two examples would be biological technicians and computer forensics - the former requires a deep understanding of biology while the latter requires deep knowledge of computers and advanced computer skills. Look into forensic science technician jobs.
Top Forensic Science Colleges and Universities
Some of the best colleges for forensic science degree programs include:
1. University of Mississippi in Oxford
203 Sorority Row Oxford, MS 38655 (662) 236-7662 olemiss.edu
Bachelor of Science Degree in Forensic Chemistry
2. Florida International University in Miami
University Park Miami, Florida 33199 (305) 348-6211 fiu.edu
Undergraduate Certificate in Forensic Science
Master of Science in Forensic Science Program
PhD Program in Forensic Science
3. Pennsylvania State University, in University Park
201 Shields Building Box 3000 University Park, PA 16802-3000fopre 814-863-7590
Bachelor of Science Degree in Forensic Science
Master of Professional Studies in Forensic Science
4. University of California, Davis
1 Shields Avenue Davis, CA 95616 (530) 752-1011
Master of Science Degree in Forensic Science
5. The George Washington University
2100 Foxhall Road, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20007 (202) 242-5758 gwu.edu
5-year BS/MS Forensic Chemistry Program
Forensic Science specialty options: forensic molecular biology, crime scene investigations, high technology crime investigation, forensic toxicology
What Do I Get to Do as a Forensic Science Technician?
Are those television shows accurate in depicting the job of a real life forensic science technician? Is it in keeping with the forensic science technician job description? While certain things are exaggerated and dramatized, the core of the job is accurately portrayed: they examine and identify physical evidence relating to crime scenes.
As stated before, there are two categories. The investigator or crime scene technician scan the crime scene for clues - they can be a weapon, pieces of clothing, drugs, scratches, etc. Once evidence is collected, it is sent to the laboratory to be examined further.
At the crime lab, technicians examine tissue samples, chemical substances and any other evidence using testing equipment. These findings are interpreted and are collated with various databases such as ballistics, fingerprints, medical, chemical and electronics, among other things.
Once a relationship is found between items, a forensic technician prepares a report of their findings to help with the investigation. Sometimes a forensic science technician is called on as expert witnesses to testify or to present evidence in court.
What Do I Need to Have to Become an Expert?
Skills in the sciences are essential, as is a keen eye for details and eagerness for research. Information gathering and organization are the two most important skills in this job, alongside problem identification and use of critical thinking.
Not only do they help identify the nature of the problems, they also enable you to use logic and analysis to determine the best ways of reaching solutions. Information ordering is an essential skill that is highly helpful when it comes to understanding the nature of a case combined with an eye for detail, technicians figure out patterns and can reach logical conclusions even quicker.
While social skills are not the top priority, clear communication skills are highly regarded. Not only do they help a forensic science technician to express their ideas clearly, they also speed up the process of understanding and reaching out to other departments.
A forensic science technician is expected to be proficient at language and have high standards of reading comprehension. Finally, knowledge of chemistry, physics and biology are extremely important.
Where Can I Work?
A forensic science technician usually works with federal law agencies, but are also often employed by private companies who are hired by small police departments for forensic investigations.
This career option has grown in the past few decades with the forensic science technician salary increasing by time. Employment is said to rise with time as expanding tech and increasing pay entice many to choose this career option.
Median annual salary for a forensic technician was $51,480 in 2009; hourly wages go up to $25. This figure comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which also notes that the job outlook is good for the decade 2008-18. No licensing or certification requirements are needed for forensic science technicians.
Work environment is good, though a forensic technician is expected to work in a variety of conditions. Most work is carried out indoors in laboratories where forensic science technicians maintain 8-hour shifts.
Extensive use of computers and other advanced machinery is required, so technicians are expected to know how to handle sophisticated laboratory equipment. A forensic technician may also be exposed to various hazards such as toxic chemicals and dangerous machinery.
However, working conditions pose little risk and proper safety measures are taken at all times. It should be noted that collecting evidence from crime scenes may be distressing.
As it stands, being a forensic science technician is an exciting career prospect. Job outlook is good in the coming years, the pay is good and the work is challenging.
Those with interest in the sciences are better suited for this career; an eye for detail, computer and clear communication skills are added bonuses. If you think critically and want to help your community by aiding to solve crimes then becoming a forensic science technician might be your calling. Ready to get a degree from forensic science colleges?