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Forensic Science Training & Job Overview

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Forensic scientists study the details of a crime and report their findings to a court of law. To do this, forensic scientists perform physical and chemical analyses on criminal evidence submitted by the police or other law enforcement agencies. The physical evidence may be found at the scene of a crime, on a victim, or both. Regardless, forensic scientists use a variety of problem-solving methods, mathematical principles, complex instruments, and microscopic examining techniques to explain the intricacies of each piece of evidence from a case. Some forensic scientists work in laboratories, while others conduct their analysis at the scene of the crime.

After analyzing the physical evidence, forensic scientists draw links between the suspect, the victim, and the crime scene. For example, they may use physical evidence to determine the make, model, year, and even the identity of the owner of a car associated with a crime. Then, they explain the results of their analysis and describe the methods they used to reach their conclusion in a report, which they will cite while providing testimony in court. Throughout this process, forensic scientists ensure that their examination of physical evidence is complete, tests are administered correctly, the data interpretation is accurate, their report is clear and concise, and their testimony is truthful.

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Career Specializations

Forensic toxicology. These specialists concentrate their work to the discipline of toxicology, or the study of the effects, treatment, and detection of various poisons, as it relates to the search for forensic evidence.

Drug chemistry. This specialty emphasizes pharmacology and chemistry, using these fields to help gather, process, and interpret evidence as it arrives from a crime scene.

Forensic DNA. These professsionals exclusively focus on DNA research, demanding additional knowledge of such subjects as genetics, molecular biology, and blood spatter analysis.

Degree Levels Available for Forensic Science / Crime Scene Investigation

  • Associate's Degree in Forensics, two years.
  • Bachelor's Degree in Forensics, four years.
  • Master's Degree in Forensics, two years.
  • Doctorate of Philosophy in Forensics, five to seven years. 

Education & Certification Requirements

Those who are pursuing an associate's degree in forensic science or crime scene investigation should know that their degree will only be suitable for the attainment of entry level and assistant job positions. At least a bachelor's diploma is required for job applicants to successfully arrive at any employment of note in the industry. Most of these undergraduate degrees are earned in such relevant fields as biology, chemistry, or biochemistry, subjects sufficient enough to prepare a student for the crime laboratory. Those looking to specialize in DNA should definitely consider a concentration in genetics if at all possible. A forensic science degree is naturally an excellent choice, as is the decision to take on quality internships and jobs that involve a good deal of lab work and exposure. 

To specifically work in crime scene investigation, it is recommended that aspirants take up police training, or even become an officer of the law, after having attained an appropriate college degree. Understanding criminal justice is also a valuable asset for this regard; majoring in the field exclusively may not translate into employment of a highly scientific nature, but minoring in the subject, or studying it in a double major, would be a wise decision. Celebrity and Hollywood portrayals of crime scene work mislead the public, in that their depiction of crime scene staff can show them dabbling in multiple areas of forensics; most forensics and crime scene professionals are relegated to one area exclusively, either the gathering of evidence or the processing of it in the lab. 

Those looking to teach in this field are highly advised to firstly gain great on-the-job experience and, secondly, to earn their Ph.D. in the field. There is no requirement for any certification of forensics workers at this time. Such a fact essentially dictates that the best jobs, then, are reserved for those candidates with the best devised education, as well as a great deal of quality experience.

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