There are several options for financial aid for students who are interested in pursuing careers within the field of forensic science. Most of these options, however, can be found for students who are enlisted in programs that result in degrees (associate, bachelor, master and doctoral degrees), although some of these options apply for students involved in certification programs, as well. The three most popular forms of financial aid include scholarships, grants and student loans. Student loans typically come from federal or state sources. Student loans involve sources giving students money that is to be applied to help offset the cost of their education, supplies and other pertinent factors related to education such as housing or food expenses. Such loans typically require applicants to apply for them each year and credit the payment directly to the institution that a student is attending. Loans must be paid back, however. Government and state loans typically give students a grace period once they’ve finished their schooling – which is usually no more than three years – before they will have to begin paying them back. Interest is usually applied to these loans, which are usually financed in monthly payments. Some loans that may be of interest to students attempting to procure an education related to forensic science include Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans and Fannie Mae.
There are many types of organizations that provide scholarships, some of them a little unlikely. For example, the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners awards a $2,000 scholarship to a qualified student who can submit an excellent personal statement detailing why he or she is interested in a career in forensic science. (Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners)
Forensic science students have many opportunities to get free funding for their education. The best place to look for forensic science scholarships is through the program that the student is enrolled in, as these programs usually have a few scholarships designated every year in varying quantities. However, there are plenty of national or regional scholarship options available to students who do not get scholarship money from their own institution.
There are many other scholarships offered through third party organizations, such as the FBI Common Knowledge Scholarship, the Grace M. Walsh Forensics Scholarships, the Ellis R. Kerley Forensics Foundation Scholarships, and the Accredited Criminal Justice Forensics Scholarship. All of these scholarships differ in their application requirements, some requesting proof of prior experience in forensic science, others asking for a personal statement that explains a student's interest in the field and career goals. Most scholarships are around $1,000, though there are scholarship opportunities in forensic science offering $2,500 or more. (BXScience)
There are quite a few scholarships aimed specifically at forensic science students. Below is a short list of potential options:
In most cases, a student who earns a scholarship that is designated as a "criminal justice" scholarship may apply it to an undergraduate or graduate forensics program, though there will likely be some exceptions to this rule. Students should ask the scholarship board about their guidelines before applying.
The vast majority of scholarships that students apply for and receive are not designated for any one specific academic program. The awarding committee may stipulate that students use the award for either community college, undergraduate, or graduate sudy, but they will usually not make any demands on students to use them for only, say, a bachelor's degree in nursing. Most scholarships are general, and students will find, with a little research, many scholarship opportunities available to them that are based on academic merit from high school or college, on extracurricular and volunteer experience, and on minority or gender status.
There are many online search engines available to students at no charge that can help them find scholarship opportunities. Students should also look for opportunities through their high school or the college that they are already enrolled in. There are many opportunities available through community organizations and businesses, as well.
Grants may also be procured by federal and state authorities, although many times, grants can come from private sources as well. Similar to loans, grants are a monetary sum that is awarded to individuals pursuing formal education. These funds can only be used for costs associated with one's education. However, unlike loans, grants do not have to be paid back. Scholarships are similar to grants in that they do not have to be repaid either. Options for grants for students studying forensic science include the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program. This program awards funds to individual units of governments or to specific states that are to be used to help finance the formal educational training of lab personnel within this field. Students should contact this program to see which states and governmental units are eligible to access these funds. Additionally, students should be aware that in certain instances, employers will actually help pay for an employee to continue his or her education. This can include pursing graduate or undergraduate level education, as well as professional certification.