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Forensic 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 (like ours), 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 in 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 chemistry.


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.

Education 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.

Education and Training in Forensic Science: A Guide for Forensic Science Laboratories, Educational Institutions, and Students.

 
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CSI: 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 what forensic scientists actually do; it’s not exactly what it’s portrayed in the shows!

M. M. Houck "CSI Reality" Scientific American, July 2006, 86-89

 
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The Status of Forensic Science Degree Programs in the US (2009)
Dr. Jackson (former program director) published this article in the inaugural edition of the Journal "Forensic Science Policy 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.

G. P. Jackson "The Status of Forensic Science Degree Programs in the US" Forensic Science Policy and Management, 2009, 1, 2-9

 
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A 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.

K. L. Tregar and G. Proni "A Review of Forensic Science Higher Education Programs in the United States: Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees" J. Forens. Sci. 2010, 55(6), 1488-1493

 
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Strengthening 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.

NAS "Strengthening Forensic Science" A Path Forward" National Academies Press, 2009

 
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Forensic 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. preferred.

Hall Dillon "Forensic Scientists: A Career in the Crime Lab", Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Fall 1999, 2-7

 
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Clues at the Scene of the Crime (2008)
Forensic 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 crimes.

Mitch Jacoby "Clues at the Scene of the Crime" Chemical and Engineering News, March 24 2008, 86(12) 59-60

 
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Chemistry's 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.

Bethany Halford "Chemistry's Crime Fighters" Chemical and Engineering News, April 25 2005, 83(17), 30-32


 
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Perspectives on:  A 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.

Sara Goudarzi "Perspectives on: A Forensic Lab" Lab Manager Magazine, 2009,


 
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Think 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.

Kate Lorenz "Think You Want to be a CSI?" CareerBuilder.com


 
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Judging 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?!).

William G. Schulz "Judging Forensic Science" Chemical and Engineering News, Feb 27 2006, 84(9) 36-39


 
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FAQs 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.

W. Dean "FAQ About the Crime Laboratory" published on-line


 
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Forensic Chemistry Education (2005)
José Almirall (Professor at FIU) discusses the status of forensic science degree programs and FEPAC accreditation.

J. R. Almirall "Forensic Chemistry Education" Analytical Chemistry, Feb1 2005, 77(3), 69A-72A


 
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*Opinion Pieces Related to Forensic Science

*Note that many of these articles are written by journalists or lawyers


CSI 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.

Brad Reagan "CSI Myths: The Shaky Science Behind Forensics" Popular Mechanics, August 2009


 
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Science 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.

Science in Court, Nature, March 18, 2010, 464

Peter Neufeld & Barry Scheck "Making Forensic Science More Scientific" Nature, March 18 2010, 464, 351


 
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