If you want a career in forensic science, collecting and analyzing evidence from crime scenes or wrongful injury situations, there is plenty of opportunity. Advances in technology for evidence processing create a growing need for qualified forensic scientists at all levels of law enforcement. And this demand should continue to grow for several years.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the demand for forensic science technicians to grow by 19 percent through 2020. The bureau credits this growth in demand to swift technological advances and an increasing awareness among jurors about the importance of forensic evidence. Competition for jobs, however, may be stiff. Popular television shows portraying the glamorous side of crime scene investigation generate substantial interest in forensic science and crime scene investigation as a career.
Education and Training
Though educational requirements for crime scene investigators vary according to agency, forensic science technicians must have a bachelor’s degree -- usually in forensic science or a natural science such as biology or chemistry -- to work in crime labs. Specialty fields within forensic science may require advanced degrees. Technicians typically receive extensive on-the-job training. Most DNA analysis training programs last six to 12 months, though firearms analysis training can last up to three years.
What Makes a Good Forensic Scientist
Forensic science can be gruesome work. Those interested in the field must be able to stomach sometimes horrifying scenes and remain composed and professional. Forensic scientists also need deft critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. They must be thorough and detail-oriented, too. Evidence may be scant or fragile, and even one tiny mistake can lose a case. In most cases, having a criminal record will disqualify you from getting a job as a forensic scientist.
Types of Forensic Scientists
Careers in forensic science come in five general categories. Medical examiners, who are practicing MDs, investigate and autopsy bodies. Forensic odontologists, who are licensed dentists, often work as on-call consultants to identify dental records of a crime victim. Crime lab analysts study evidence recovered from crime scenes; evidence ranges from weapons that hold blatant fingerprints to tiny droplets of DNA-containing bodily fluids. Forensic engineers investigate traffic accidents, fires and wrongful injury cases. Crime scene investigators work directly at crime scenes, recovering, labeling and categorizing evidence.