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Forensic Science Career

Forensic science (often shortened to forensics) is the application of a broad spectrum of sciences to answer questions of interest to the legal system. This may be in relation to a crime or to a civil action. The use of the term "forensics" in place of "forensic science" could be considered incorrect; the term "forensic" is effectively a synonym for "legal" or "related to courts" (from Latin, it means "before the forum"). However, it is now so closely associated with the scientific field that many dictionaries include the meaning that equates the word "forensics" with "forensic science."

Criminalistics is the application of various sciences to answer questions relating to examination and comparison of biological evidence, trace evidence, impression evidence (such as fingerprints, footwear impressions, and tire tracks), controlled substances, firearms, and other evidence in criminal investigations. Typically, evidence is processed in a crime lab. This is the division of forensic science most often reported in the media and depicted in popular fiction.

Some of the other forensic science disciplines are: Forensic entomology deals with the examination of insects in, on, and around human remains to assist in determination of time or location of death. It is also possible to determine if the body was moved after death. Forensic geology deals with trace evidence in the form of soils, minerals and petroleums. Forensic odontology is the study of the uniqueness of dentition better known as the study of teeth. Forensic photography is the art of producing an accurate photographic reproduction of a crime scene for the benefit of a court. Forensic toxicology is the study of the effect of drugs and poisons on/in the human body. Forensic firearms examination is the science dealing with the investigation of use of firearms and ammunition. Questioned document examination is the study and interpretation of evidence that takes the form of a document, including handwriting and printmaking.

Eligibility For Forensic Science Career

A bachelors degree in forensic science, biology, chemistry, criminalistics or a related natural or physical science discipline is required for most positions. College courses should include physics, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, biochemistry and biology with laboratory time. Some labs are moving toward requiring a masters degree in forensic science or criminalistics. Graduate level work will payoff in the long run, opening up opportunities for advancement and higher pay. Entry-level positions generally require a bachelors and some laboratory experience, preferably in a forensic lab environment. Laboratory experience in college course labs or working for a professor in a lab during college can often suffice for the required lab experience. Interning in a forensic lab is the best option. There are no certification requirements for this profession, though certain related professional boards do offer certification programs that can be professionally and personally beneficial.

Job Prospects For Forensic Science Career

Medical Examiner: The highest pay but you have to be able to handle cutting up dead bodies, 7+ years of college and uncertain work hours. Although there are routine protocols, the ingenious ways people kill people create sufficient variety to combat boredom and provide a problem-solving challenge. The medical examiner usually requires a medical degree. Select a residency that provides a forensic emphasis. A chemistry or biology degree at the undergraduate level is a good major. If at FSU, you should take the crime detection & investigation course as one of your undergraduate electives as you will not have an opportunity for this course at medical school. The Orange County Medical Examiner's web site gives more information on the services of the medical examiner.

Crime Laboratory Analyst: Reasonably good pay and you generally work indoors with relatively stable work hours and relatively clean samples but the cases are often quite repetitive and routine. The micro analysis section probably provides the most variety but currently it is being phased out or scaled down in most crime laboratories. It will come back but look for slim pickings during the current "bottom-line" management fad. The crime laboratory usually requires a bachelor's degree in a natural science for any of the specialties. The best degree overall is chemistry

Forensic Engineer: You will deal with traffic accidents, fire investigations, and a variety of wrongful injury cases. The work is much like that of the crime scene examiner but with fewer bodies and better hours and generally much higher pay. You earn that pay by the degree you obtain. The forensic engineer requires an engineering degree. The usual specialties include electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, materials engineering and traffic engineering. The web site for a local company gives more information as well as the FSU/FAMU School of Engineering

Crime Scene Examiner: You will work whenever and wherever crime occurs, indoors or outdoors, day or night, and have to be able to deal with dead bodies and other messy situations but there certainly is a lot less routine. The pay is not great but few folk voluntarily leave a crime scene section for other duties. The intellectual challenge is still there and the scientific basis of the field is developing. Some tasks will become more routine and more sophisticated but overall it could be an exciting time for the next decade. The crime scene examiner should have a bachelor's degree either in a natural science with emphasis in law enforcement and crime scene processing or a criminal justice degree with emphasis in natural science. Currently some state agencies have such a requirement and I believe that most agencies soon will. Forensic archeology would be excellent preparation