Forensic Scientist Career Path in the USA | How to Become a Criminal Forensic Scientist
As criminals become smarter and law enforcement agencies continue to be understaffed, the forensic scientist career path in the USA has gained traction in recent years. In order to understand the circumstances surrounding a crime, forensic scientist employs a variety of techniques, ranging from simple biochemical tests to complex mathematical formulas.
Forensic scientist assists law enforcement officers in completing their tasks more quickly. The undeniable evidence gathered during the process aids courts in delivering swift justice. As a result, forensic scientist jobs remain a prestigious option in the USA.
Studying forensic science guarantees a never-ending career because it is directly related to the crime rate, not just in the USA but globally. Its application ranges from the government to private establishments, laboratories to detective agencies, and banks, hospitals, and law firms to institutes.
The abundance of this field and its application in forensics has created a plethora of highest-paying job and research opportunities for today’s youth. This article will teach you about the forensic scientist career path in the United States and how to become a forensic scientist.
What is a forensic scientist?
Forensic science is the application of science in a legal setting, both criminal and civil. You could be applying your scientific knowledge to examine evidence from crime scenes or testifying as a key witness during a trial.
Although the majority of your work will be done in a lab, the results of your work will have a significant impact on our society. One day, you could be analyzing blood samples from a murder scene, and the next, you could be verifying the authenticity of a key document.
More experienced forensic scientists will be called upon to examine crime scenes, making them an important part of a criminal case.
What do forensic scientists do?
A Forensic Scientist’s job is to analyze the clues collected from a crime scene and provide data that will be used to resolve cases. It entails gathering relevant evidence from a crime scene, gathering all possible clues, and converting them into evidence. Physical evidence includes blood, saliva, hair, and impressions on objects such as glass, shoes, fingerprints, footprints, and so on, which can be produced in order to reach a decision on the crime.
Forensic Scientists work both on-site and in the office. It necessitates both teamwork and independent work. Because this is a criminology-related field, forensic science practitioners must be sharp, alert, intelligent, and decisive.
Typically, forensic scientists are appointed by government intelligence systems. Several private agencies have also been known to hire Forensic technicians to provide data and evidence for their investigative work. Criminals are becoming smarter as technology advances.
This increases both the challenge and the demand for smart and intelligent researchers in this field.
Forensic scientist career path in the USA
The field of forensic science is vast. You can find work in a variety of government and private sectors. Your skills and knowledge will improve as a result of the study. After earning your degree, you will be able to open your own forensic practice and forensic service offices. You can also work in forensic laboratories, detective offices, banks, and other government and private organizations.
From the crime scene to the laboratory, forensic science employs a variety of disciplines to aid in the investigation of crimes. To be a successful forensic scientist, you must combine your legal knowledge with knowledge of biology, chemistry, and computer programming. Forensic science students can pursue degrees in forensic science, criminal justice, and legal studies.
There are numerous opportunities in this field because there are numerous crimes occurring throughout the world. As a result, forensic science job opportunities are virtually limitless. You can find work anywhere in USA or abroad.
To pursue a career in forensic science after 12th in the USA, one must enroll in a three-year bachelor’s program in Forensic Science. This can be followed by a two-year postgraduate course or a Masters in Forensic Science, but it is not required. If one wishes to gain expertise in the field, there is also the option of pursuing a Ph. D. or an M. Phil in Forensic Science.
How to become a forensic scientist in the USA?
Here’s a step-by-step guide to becoming a forensic scientist in the United States:
- Graduate from high school
- Enroll in a forensic science associate degree program.
- Enroll in a bachelor’s program
- Garner’s previous work experience in a police department, a crime laboratory, or another relevant setting
- Obtain professional certification
Graduate from high school
Aspiring forensic scientists are advised to graduate from high school, preferably with high marks in classes such as biology, chemistry, physiology, statistics, and mathematics. Furthermore, some students choose to volunteer or intern in relevant organizations such as police departments, fire departments, medical laboratories, hospitals, and other organizations.
Enroll in a forensic science associate degree program
Some associate degree programs are available for aspiring entry-level forensic science technicians. A high school diploma, a competitive GPA, a personal statement, and TOEFL test scores are typically required for admission to two-year programs in this field (for non-native speakers of English). Also, these programs may include classes in criminal law, fire and arson investigation, and physical sciences in addition to general education.
Enroll in a bachelor’s program
It’s advisable for prospective forensic scientists should pursue a bachelor’s degree program in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, forensics, or a related field. A four-year degree can not only improve employment prospects and earnings potential but can also lead to careers in related fields, particularly laboratory work.
Completion of specific coursework (e.g., high school level chemistry, biology, and mathematics); a competitive GPA; national test scores (SAT or ACT); a personal statement; letter(s) of recommendation; and TOEFL test scores are typical requirements for admission to scientific bachelor’s programs (again, for non-native speakers of English).
In addition to general education, bachelor’s degree programs for forensic scientists include criminalistics, forensic biology, organic chemistry, and other courses. The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) evaluates the quality of curricula, educational objectives, student support services, faculty credentials, admissions processes, and other relevant factors in schools across the country.
Garner’s previous work experience in a police department, a crime laboratory, or another relevant setting
Many forensic science graduates choose to gain professional experience in medical and diagnostic laboratories, police departments, local governments, federal agencies, hospitals, and other settings at this stage. This not only addresses the gap between didactic coursework and real-world applications but also positions these professionals to pursue national certification.
Obtain professional certification
Professional certification is not required for employment, but it can improve a job candidate’s resume or salary prospects. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board has accredited several relevant certification boards, including:
- American Board of Criminalistics
- American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators
- International Board of Forensic Engineering Sciences
- American Board of Forensic Toxicology
- Crime Scene Certification Board, International Association for Identification
- American Board of Forensic Anthropology
While the requirements for these certifications vary, they typically include at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, proof of job experience, letter(s) of recommendation, payment of an application fee, and successful completion of a test.
For example, the American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT) requires official transcripts, a recent passport-style photograph, three professional references, proof of three years of experience, a $150 application fee, and passing a comprehensive exam for a five-year “specialist” certification. This certification is also available to those with relevant doctoral degrees and at least three years of experience at the “diplomatic” level.
Forensic scientist jobs
Here are the top careers in forensic science that you can pursue:
- Forensic Medical Examiner
- Forensic Engineer
- Crime Scene Investigator
- Forensic Accountant
- Crime Laboratory Analyst
- Private investigator
- Analytical chemist
- Teaching laboratory technician
Forensic Medical Examiner
A forensic medical examiner is one of the highest-paying jobs in the field of forensic science. This occupation has a much longer career path than most others in the field. As a result, the pay scale is significantly higher than others. To work as one, you must first complete a four-year bachelor’s degree, then a four-year medical degree, followed by residencies and passing your state’s requirements.
To be successful in this role, medical examiners must be trained as physicians and forensic pathologists. When a seemingly healthy person dies unexpectedly, examiners assist in determining the cause of death.
If you want to make a good living in forensics, consider becoming a forensic mechanical engineer or a forensic architectural engineer. When selecting an engineering program, ensure that it is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
Crime Scene Investigator
If you want to work right at the crime scene and help piece together criminal acts, this could be the role for you. Crime scene investigators assist in the examination of crime scenes, using both testimony and physical evidence.
They may be held responsible for gathering various types of evidence, such as impressions, forensics, trace evidence, weapons, and interviews with victims and witnesses.
I’m sure you picture an accountant rushing to finish people’s taxes at the last minute, or working in a corporate or business environment. However, many crimes involve money and complex transactions designed to conceal illegal activity. This is where forensic accountants enter the picture.
Forensic accountants can work in a variety of fields, including breach of contract, post-acquisition disputes, bankruptcy, securities fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, assisting businesses with valuation, and investigating computer and information technology crimes.
Crime Laboratory Analyst
If you enjoy science and want to work in criminal justice, consider becoming a crime laboratory analyst. You would use your knowledge and skills from biochemistry and molecular biology in this role to analyze evidence such as firearms, blood, DNA, and other bodily fluids.
There are numerous degree programs available that allow students to work in internship positions while completing their bachelor’s degrees. To be considered for this position, you should research degree programs in forensic science, microbiology, and biochemistry.
A private investigator is a forensic scientist that conducts investigations on behalf of his clients. Clients frequently include law firms that require investigators to uncover evidence to present in court. However, it is not uncommon for private investigators to work with members of the general public.
Analytical chemists study the chemical properties of substances. They try to identify and understand different substances and how they behave in different conditions through research and experiments. Also, they analyze samples to determine the concentration of compounds present.
Teaching laboratory technician
Teaching laboratory technicians function in universities and secondary schools. They assist science teachers and lecturers in creating a positive experience in the lab, whether for university or high school students. They are primarily responsible for providing technical support, such as equipment management and material supply.
Toxicologists conduct experiments to learn more about the effects of toxic materials on humans and the environment. Forensic toxicologists examine victim samples to determine whether they were poisoned or to better understand the circumstances of the situation.
They typically work in laboratories, planning and carrying out various experiments while also analyzing and evaluating data. They are also in charge of producing reports that must be communicated in simple language and/or police jargon to assist investigators.
Detectives are trained to conduct investigations into a wide range of crimes such as drugs, domestic violence, homicide, and even counter-terrorism. To do so, they evaluate information and evidence in order to gain a complete understanding of the situation and then evaluate it using their expertise.
How much do forensic scientists make in the USA?
Because the majority of forensic science jobs are in the government sector, salaries are determined solely by the structure and pay scale. Agencies in the private sector pay well for experienced candidates. In the United States, forensic scientists earn an average of $65,174 per year.
Forensic scientist salary by states in the USA
The following table breaks down the average forensic scientist’s salary by state:
- Alabama: $65,566 per year
- Alaska: $70,369 per year
- **Arizona: $71,457 per year
- Arkansas: $64,674 per year
- California: $75,654 per year
- Colorado: $70,181 per year
- Connecticut: $72,268 per year
Georgia: $69,789 per year
- Hawaii: $67,572 per year
- Idaho: $62,433 per year
- Illinois: $71,098 per year
- Indiana: $50,525 per year
- Iowa: $66,149 per year
- Kansas: $61,357 per year
- Kentucky: $64,345 per year
- Louisiana: $65,854 per year
- Maine: $65,363 per year
- Maryland: $66,573 per year
- Massachusetts: $74,722 per year
- Michigan: $67,444 per year
- Minnesota: $55,925 per year
- Mississippi: $62,081 per year
- Missouri: $68,170 per year
- Montana:$62,594 per year
- Nebraska: $58,834 per year
- Nevada: $95,589 per year
- New Hampshire: $67,028 per year
- New Jersey: $72,483 per year
- New Mexico: $61,199 per year
- New York: $80,625 per year
- North Carolina: $67,823 per year
- North Dakota: $67,154 per year
- Ohio: $67,283 per year
- Oklahoma: $64,626 per year
- Oregon: $69,567 per year
- Pennsylvania: $69,212 per year
- Rhode Island: $68,297 per year
- South Carolina: $65,660 per year
- South Dakota: $64,068 per year
- Tennessee: $57,147 per year
- Texas: $69,684 per year
- Utah: $65,176 per year
- Vermont: $65,893 per year
- Virginia: $70,273 per year
- Washington: $73,530 per year
- West Virginia: $62,918 per year
- Wisconsin: $67,211 per year
- Wyoming: $64,925 per year
FAQs about Forensic scientist career path in the USA
Forensic scientists are expected to grow 16 percent between 2020 and 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. On average, 2,500 openings for forensic science technicians are expected each year over the next decade.
One of the benefits of a career in forensic science is having access to cutting-edge equipment, tools, and methods. Some also contribute to the field by publishing their research and findings in peer-reviewed journals or at industry conferences.
Forensic scientists work in laboratories and at crime scenes. Forensic science technicians typically perform the following tasks at crime scenes: Analyze crime scenes to determine what evidence should be collected and how it should be collected. Take pictures of the crime scene and the evidence.
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Forensic science is the ideal combination of law and science. You could use your scientific mind and keen eye for detail to help make the world a better place. Forensic science technicians earn well in the United States. The average annual salary (annual mean wage) for forensic science technicians in the United States is $66,850, which is significantly higher than the average yearly salary for all occupations in the United States, which is $58,260.
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