Forensic Science Professions Video: Educational Requirements for a Career in Forensics

Forensic Science Professions Video: Educational Requirements for a Career in Forensics Transcript

Once an under-appreciated field, forensic science is today the stuff of primetime television dramas. Perhaps due to this recent exposure, crime scene investigation and crime lab technician positions are growing in prevalence and popularity. Recent high school graduates are drawn to these and other law enforcement careers by the opportunity to prevent and prosecute criminal activity. Increased demand for forensic science programs has ensured that degree options are available at post-secondary institutions throughout the nation.

Introduction

Police officers play a crucial, high-profile role on the front lines of public safety. What isn't fully realized by many, however, are the vast number of law enforcement professionals who work behind the scenes to prevent and prosecute crime. Forensic science technicians are vital members of law enforcement teams across the country. These professionals investigate crime through analysis of evidence found at scenes where crimes have been committed.

Their work entails the consideration of many factors, often dictated by the nature and location of a crime. In the case of shootings, for example, forensic scientists may try to match bullets or shell casings with a particular weapon in order to convict an offender. In other cases, examination of hair, skin tissue and bodily fluids may lead to the identification and capture of a suspect. Incredible advances in DNA analysis have led to huge improvements in law enforcement's ability to accurately identify and convict criminals in these cases. In addition to on-scene investigations and lab work, forensics personnel must also document their methods and findings in reports. These reports are provided to investigators working on cases and may be referenced during criminal trials.

Typical Coursework

Most forensics positions require at least an associate degree in the applied sciences. Capitalizing on high demand for forensic science programs, many colleges and community colleges are now offering two-year degree programs. Significantly fewer four-year universities offer specific degree options for forensic science. Generally speaking, however, those with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, biology, chemistry or another related area are generally well situated for work in the field. In all of these programs, one can expect to encounter many lab-intensive courses. Among these are studies in chemical analysis, ballistics, criminalistics and chemical and DNA analysis. Central to many of these classes is establishing familiarity with laboratory processes and equipment. Additionally, they may also learn information on trial procedures, testifying as an expert witness and other relevant aspects of the legal system. Most forensic science programs combine studies with hands-on training to prepare graduates for real-world settings.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for forensic science technicians are excellent. This is in part due to the increased visibility of these professions, a fact reflected in increased funding for positions at local, state and national levels. Another factor: The rapid development of increasingly sophisticated equipment for the analysis of DNA, tissue, fiber and other forms of evidence. As the forensics field expands and incorporates new processes and technologies, there will be a need for professionals who have experience with newest methods of lab analysis. One potential hurdle for graduates is that competition within the field may rise given rapidly growing interest in forensic science. Internships or work experience can help graduates gain an advantage in landing positions.

Conclusion

Forensic science degree programs are becoming increasingly popular among recent high school graduates. Many are drawn to these careers by an interest in crime prevention and the opportunity to help others. Given the increasing demand for criminal justice professionals, degree programs are becoming available at post-secondary institutions throughout the nation. Students in these programs can expect to enter a vital job market upon graduation.

Sources

www.bls.gov/oco

www.aafs.org

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