Forensic scientists conduct physical and chemical analyses on all the items classified as evidence at the crime scene. They also analyze the details of the crime and submit their findings to the police or the law enforcement agency involved. They are often asked to provide their professional testimony in court, but before they get to this point, they have to earn a degree and get their certification.
Forensic scientist education requirements
Individuals who want to qualify for an entry-level position as a forensic scientist, one needs a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or in a related field of chemistry, biology, or physics. Courses in the program usually include the basic sciences, statistics, pharmacology, biochemistry, computer modeling, and criminal justice. It would be better for the students to take English classes as well, as recommended by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), to improve their oral and written communication skills. These will be necessary in writing reports and testifying in court.
Read more about How to become a forensic scientist.
Forensic scientists who are not content with doing general work in the field always have the option to enroll in a graduate program. A master’s degree program allows the students to choose from forensic engineering, ballistics, digital and multimedia sciences, or toxicology. It also includes laboratory work, which improves the students’ practical skills. Master’s programs are worth investing in for forensic scientists who want to get promoted to supervisor or lab manager.
Even a doctorate degree is available for forensic scientists who want to specialize in one area of practice. Forensic dentists specialize in odontology and have to earn a Doctor of Dental Science degree. Forensic jurisprudence specialists have to earn a law degree and be a member of at least one bar. Forensic anthropology specialists must have at least a PhD. In anthropology as they dig, study, and identify human remains. Forensic pathologists and psychiatrists must have a medical degree. Forensic scientists with a PhD are already qualified to work as a college teacher or a forensic lab director.
Online Forensic Science Programs
For aspiring forensic scientists who are eyeing online programs to get a certificate, associate, or bachelor’s degree, they should pick a program accredited by the AAFS. Many of the top schools offering criminal justice programs offer classes for future forensic scientists to reach out to stay-at-home and working students. These online programs are usually developed to cater to working professionals who already have field and lab training. They might even allow students to complete their cases fully online. However, there are also hybrid classes consisting of classroom lectures and on-campus training for hands-on demos in lab procedures.
Some of the schools offering online forensic science programs in the US are the Oklahoma State University, American Intercontinental University, Saint Leo University, and Ashworth College, among others.
Forensic scientist Training
On top of their academic requirements, forensic scientists have to complete further training before they can start working in the field. They usually receive on-the-job training about biochemistry or molecular biology. They may be required to complete workshops on analyzing and handling evidence and giving courtroom testimonies. Specialists have to complete continuing education classes to keep up with the latest developments and technology in forensic science.
Forensic scientist certification
Forensic scientists can work even without certification, although some areas of specialization do require one. For instance, forensic odontologists must have a license and certification. Forensic computer examiners need certification to keep an edge over the competition. Employers also consider a certification an advantage in all types of forensic scientists.
Despite the struggle to finish school and get a certification as a forensic scientist, it will all be worth it once they start earning between $36,800 and $83,875 as of 2015, according to PayScale.