Science Career Information: The
documents below are to
help prospective and current undergraduate students learn about the
real-life expectations and
opportunities for a career in forensic science. Remember, with
a degree in a bona fide science like
chemistry, especially one with an emphasis in analytical chemistry
your employment prospects will be much broader than forensic science.
Even in this economy, the unemployment
rate for job-seekers with a
degree in chemistry
is extremely low (<4 %).
Upon graduating and
applying for a forensic science-related position,
you will very likely have to undergo a rigorous background check to
ensure that you do not have a criminal record or history of drug use. Both
factors raise questions about your character and make you
less employable. You will be expected to testify in court quite often
your role as a forensic chemist, so a history of unethical/questionable
behavior would make your testimony highly questionable.
Check out the video below for some career information about forensic
The American Chemical Society (ACS.org) has put together a short
description of what to expect from a career as a forensic chemist. A
link to this description is here.
and Training in Forensic
Science (2004) A
report published by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) as a guide
for forensic science laboratories, educational institutions and
students. The report was developed and approved by the Technical
Working Group (~47 contributors) for Education and Training in Forensic
Science (TWGED). This is probably the most comprehensive description of
education and training status and needs.
Reality (2006) Max
M. Houck, Director of the Forensic
Science Initiative at West Virginia University discusses the pros and
cons of the CSI effect. The major
CSI effect is the misleading view of
forensic scientists actually do; it’s not exactly what
portrayed in the shows!
Status of Forensic Science
Degree Programs in the US (2009) Dr.
Jackson (former program director) published this article in the
edition of the Journal "Forensic
and Management". The article
discusses the status of FEPAC accreditation and national enrollment and
graduation data in the forensic sciences. Institutional data from
OHIO's forensic chemistry program is also discussed.
Review of Forensic Science Higher
Education Programs in the United States: Bachelor’s and
Master’s Degrees (2010) Kristen
L. Tregar M.S. and Gloria Proni Ph.D of John Jay College of Criminal
Justice conducted a survey of forensic science programs in the US. In
this article, they discuss the results, such as tehe significant
variation in required and elective courses between institutions.
Forensic Science in
the US: A Path Forward (2009) In
2005 the Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies
Appropriations Act of 2006 became law. According to this law, The
National Academies of Science established a Forensic Science Committee
in the fall of 2006 to complete the study on forensic science for the
Senate report. Two years later, the Committee released an
executive summary and a full length report of their findings. Both
documents are provided below.
Scientist: A Career in the
Crime Lab (from 1999) This
article describes what forensic scientists actually do.
Forensic scientist can be general or specialized in areas such as
biology, chemistry, toxicology, firearms, and fingerprints.
They work in crime labs run by the city, county, government, or private
sectors. They work on analyzing evidence and writing reports to sum up
their results. Salaries range from $20,000-$100,000 depending
on experience. Forensic scientists must work well
independently, have good oral and written communication skills, have
lab experience, and must have a minimum of a bachelors degree
in a natural science (e.g. chemistry or biology) with an MS or Ph.D.
at the Scene of the Crime
chemists aren't exactly the same as their television
portrayers. However, with new advances happening all the
time, the methods for analyzing forensic evidence are becoming faster,
just not as quick as the three minute commercial breaks! This
article goes into the newest advances for analyzing fibers to have the
ability to discriminate between different fibers and link suspects to
Crime Fighters (2005) Science
is playing a bigger role in criminal investigation now more than
ever. To make it in the field of forensics, it is critical to
understand the instruments used to analyze the
evidence. The instruments
have gone from being big and bulky
to pocket sized--ideal for first responders.
Forensic Lab (2009) The
New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory (NHSPFL) is discussed at
length. This article describes what to expect in a career as
a laboratory-based forensic scientist.
you want to be a CSI? (2005?) This
article was once published on CareerBuilder.com. I can't find
a link to the original article, but there is a short description of
various branches of forensic science.
Science (2006) In
this article, the fact that judges control what scientific evidence is
allowed in court rooms is scrutinized. The main topic is the
Daubert analysis and whether it is a good way for judges to better
understand the scientific evidence and merge that evidence with the law
in all cases. Many specific cases are discussed and the
Daubert analysis is debated. The main conclusion is that
judges need to be more
educated in the sciences (don't we all?!).
About Hamilton County Crime
Laboratory (2005) Bill
Dean (Director Hamilton County Coroner's Office) provides answers to
some FAQs about employment in a coroner's office. In many
jurisdictions, coroners' offices perform forensic testing of evidence
submitted by police officers.
that many of these articles are written by journalists or lawyers
Myths: The Shaky Science Behind
Forensic Science (2009) A man
was found guilty of second degree murder due to forensic odontology
evidence and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Fifteen years later the man who actually committed the crime was
matched due to DNA evidence and the first convicted was set free. This
article is similar to articles promulgated by those related to the
innocents project, which have quite rightly demanded more scientific
rigor in the "police" or "comparison" sciences.
in Court (2010) In
this series of articles, Nature Magazine examines different aspects of
forensic science. In one article, Co-founders of the Innocents Project
Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck support the NAS recommendations
in the report Strengthening
Forensic Science: A Path Forward (See link above).
The authors support the establishment of an office of forensic
science improvement and support (OFSIS), which would be responsible for
the standards for all forensic sciences. There is a minority
who opposed this idea saying that it would cost too much and would
reopen too many old cases.