Advances in scientific technology in examining crimes scenes have turned forensic science into a high demand and rapidly growing career field. Adding to the popularity of forensic science jobs are TV shows like CSI – Crime Scene Investigators. This article will serve as an overview for a career in forensic science that includes many subcategories like forensic science consultants, fingerprint technicians, fingerprint examiners, forensic investigators and evidence technicians.
Forensic Scientist Job Description
Forensic scientists investigate crimes by collecting crime scene evidence and using the natural sciences to analyze the data they recover. They generally work 40 hours each week in a forensic science laboratory. Forensic science technicians are often required to go to the crime scene and collect the physical evidence that can be found. They work closely with government officials and police detectives in order to help solve crimes.
Additional tasks forensic scientists have include:
Reconstructing crime scenes
Collecting and analyzing DNA samples
Reporting investigative findings
Examining firearms and bullets
Analyzing textual evidence
Interpreting laboratory findings
Keeping logs and records
Operating all laboratory equipment
Most forensic scientists specialize in certain types of evidence such as DNA analysis, firearm research and weapons testing, examining fiber, hair, tissue, or body fluid substances. They often work with chemicals, fluid samples and firearms that demand safety precautions. However, the risk of harm or contamination within these working conditions is minimal.
Salary Ranges / Job Outlook for a Forensic Scientist
Of all science technicians, forensic scientists currently earn the second highest annual salary. In 2002 the average pay rate for a forensic scientist was $19.73 per hour, or approximately $41,000. The low ten percent of this scale earned around $12.06 per hour - $25,100 yearly. The highest ten percent earned around $31.49 per hour - $65,500 yearly. However, the pay range depends upon factors like type of specialty, years of experience, type of employment and location.
In the United States, the employment rate for forensic scientists is expected to grow steadily over the next decade. Current Nationwide trends estimate that job openings for forensic scientists will rise approximately 19 percent by 2012. These numbers indicate more than 360 job positions opening up each year. In 2002, forensic scientists held approximately 8,400 job positions. These scientists work mainly for State and local governments, but keep close professional relationships with police investigators and other crime experts.
Employment rates are dependent upon field development, government spending abilities, local population growth and the locality’s crime rate. Job growth for forensic scientists can be attributed to rapid scientific and technological advances. Researchers are developing and perfecting new experimental methods every day. This will cause forensic science departments to fill the technician positions this research will create. Currently, the number of skilled, experienced applicants is low. These low numbers mean that forensic scientists working for State and government departments are highly likely to receive positive employment prospects and benefits.
Education / Getting Started
Although organizations seek applicants with bachelor’s degrees, many employers will hire candidates who have completed specific training programs, obtained certification or possess an associate’s degree. Training and certification programs generally take only two years to complete and will earn graduates the opportunity for a career in forensic science. Programs with a focus in criminal investigations and criminal justice can help prospective applicants specialize as forensic consultants, fingerprint technicians, forensic investigators, laboratory technicians and fingerprint examiners.
There are various courses that must be taken to qualify as a forensic science technician. Some important courses include chemistry, computers and electronics, law and government, public safety, mathematics, writing and communications. Prospective scientists must have good decision making skills as well as written and oral expression. Additional skills include inductive reasoning, information ordering, critical thinking and the ability to identify patterns and details. Because forensic scientists work in crime scenes that may be stressful and emotionally draining, they must be able to control their emotions and handle situations that can be distressful.
Employers usually look for people with previous forensic experience. Many forensic science technicians begin in entry level trainee positions that help them gain job experience. Another good way to get experience is through internship programs that are offered by numerous schools. Forensic scientists also start out as forensic laboratory technicians and after developing those skills, advance to crime scene technicians.
Advancements in science and technology continue to improve the accuracy and importance of crime scene evidence in prosecuting criminals and defending the accused. Training to be a forensic scientist will put you on the front line of this interesting and necessary analysis.
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