If you have a four year degree and want to get into the exciting field of forensic science, just like those great characters on TV and because it is such an interesting career, then finding one of the top forensic science schools is crucial. There are many specialized areas to choice from and many chances to help solve crimes and keep people safer. A few of the areas you can specialize in are medical examination, analysis in a crime lab, CSI, profiling, composite art done on the computer, and others. A forensic scientist helps with crime investigation by using tools like lab tests and special equipment to analyze evidence. There have been some less than stellar methods used in the past to try and solve crimes but today's high tech ones have proven extremely valid and helpful in investigations. Lead in bullets was compared to others and used by the FBI for 40 years, starting with JFK's assassination. This was thought to be useful because of the distinct chemical makeup of ammunition. You would learn at one of top forensic science colleges that this method was proven unreliable, and dropped from test schedules. Bite mark evidence has also been used in the past. False identifications were found to run around 63% and this method was also dropped. Way back in the past, investigations and trials (when they had them) relied on coerced confessions and witnesses. Archimedes, when he used the term "Eureka (I found it)", wrote about using entomology and medicine to solve criminal cases. Sickles were gathered and flies attracted to blood, indicated the guilty party. The murderer confessed. A book written later in China also spoke about how to tell if someone drowned, or was strangled. They could also tell if a victim was murdered, of if their death was a suicide or an accident. The first use of fingerprints as evidence was in Argentina, when a door with bloody fingerprints was used to solve a case.
If you study at one of the top forensic science colleges, you will learn the history, present and future of forensic science. It is one of the most fascinating scientific "arts" that can be learned. CSI people are always in demand and will continue to be far into the future. Even hands-on forensic evidence was used to correctly identify a criminal, in the Sci-Fi movie The Minority Report. Their "hasn't happened yet but a psychic can predict it" approach was relegated into the pile of failed forensic methods. This field is so important and saves lives all of the time. When a criminal is incarcerated, lives will be saved. We know so much now about forensic science but you could be one of the innovators and help other scientists learn so much more. Until society learns to control its criminal population, police and scientists will be needed to catch criminals and keep them away from the regular population. You may become addicted to solving crimes and that's a good thing for society. Start hunting for evidence of one of those top forensic science colleges right away.
B.O.N.E.S., C.S.I., Criminal Minds…—these are just a few of the shows that tell us one true thing: forensic science rocks.
Advances in science have turned crimes that may have been deemed unsolvable 100 years ago into easily unlockable secrets, and forensic science has become the term coined for the application of science in relation to a criminal matter. Lifting fingerprints, analyzing DNA, determining cause of death—these are some aspects of crime solution that a forensic scientist gets to be a part of.
So, how to enter the foray? Well, doing what you love best can be a great start. That is to say, don’t enter this field if you don’t love science, but if you do, get to the lab to begin training. There are several specialty fields underneath the umbrella we call forensic science; here in this article you will find information on five common specialties that you might consider pursuing, as well as the path you might take to get hired on as a forensic scientist. To keep things modern, we will start out with Forensic Anthropology, a.k.a., the study of “B.O.N.E.S.” for the solution of crimes.
First things first. If your goal in life is to become a scientist, then your life will be about science, so it’s important you be passionate about it.
Forensic Anthropology is not a career for people who want to just skate by. This career requires passion and interest.
The love most scientists have for their field is what makes them successful. A passion for knowledge and discovery is what drives them to learn and continue learning, until eventually they become experts in their field and can contribute to criminal investigations.
Forensic Anthropology is no joke. In the field of forensic anthropology, you have to be able to examine and analyze the remains of a human being and attempt to discern plausible cause of death by reading the “story” told to you by those remains, in particular, by the bones. First step—get a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. Anthropology as a discipline is, by dictionary definition, “the science of human beings; especially: the study of human beings and their ancestors through time and space and in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture.” Long before you can hope to specialize in the study of human remains, you must acquire a broad knowledge of mankind and his development. Trying to study osteology, which is simply the study of bones, before getting a broad understanding of human development first, would be like trying to understand the last episode of a tv series, without watching any other episode of the show. You have to have a broad understanding of human development before you can fully comprehend and read the messages found within the bones of a human being. After you acquire a degree in anthropology, you will want to get at least a master’s, or, preferably, a doctorate degree in the specialization of physical anthropology. Physical anthropology is the study of the development of the human anatomy. This study is still yet a bit broad in comparison to the very specific study of bones, a.k.a., osteology. So, after your studies have taken you close enough to this specialization, you can continue your education in this very specific discipline in order to be considered a most valuable asset to any team of forensic anthropologists. It is sometimes possible to be brought on board with a team of forensic scientists for the purpose of learning more of the science of forensic anthropology with just a degree in anthropology and further specialization in physical anthropology. A formal education in osteology is not always required.
A very helpful and necessary part of being successful in this field, is to try to find a mentor during your time in college who can help guide you and put you in touch with the right people and opportunities that may present themselves.
Once, you have acquired your formal education, you can job hunt. But having a mentor who can point you the right direction is always a great idea.
In addition to networking, gain experience in the field by volunteering all you can: experience in the lab is golden; also, go on archeological digs to gain experience. These activities will put you in contact with experts in your field, will help you learn more as a scientist, and will also help you find a place of employment.
Apply for work. The Smithsonian Institute, which is one of the most renowned locations at which a forensic anthropologist might work within the United States, will actually post openings online, and, in quite the normal fashion, will accept applications from all who may apply.
So, follow your dreams, network, study hard, and look for job openings.
As a forensic anthropologist, you might expect to earn around $70,800 per year, depending on who you work for, according to some reports. These same reports also share that salary can fluctuate quite deeply depending on where you work and with whom you are employed.
One of the higher paying specializations in the forensic science field, forensic pathology deals with determining cause of death when death is sudden or when circumstances surrounding a death are questionable.
A forensic pathologist will study the body of a possible victim to discover when and how the individual died. They may look at tissue, organs, bones, etc. to locate signs of disease, poison, or violence.
Once the cause of death has been determined, a forensic pathologist may be called upon to present his findings in court or submit his findings to investigators. The job can be stressful and hard, but also very rewarding.
How to Become a Forensic Pathologist
A person must have an incredible amount of education and career experience to become a forensic pathologist.
You need to be a licensed physician and become board certified in forensic pathology: this takes four years of undergrad study, four years of med school, and at least a couple of years in a pathology residency program.
While the path to this career may be long, if you are interested in the study of the human body, the journey can be rewarding and interesting. Those looking to enter this career might consider it to be a life-defining choice in which interest matches career goals, making the journey an adventure.
The payout for forensic pathologists is higher than many other careers in this field: a forensic pathologist might expect to earn upwards of $150,000 per year at least.
Time to get real. Forensic biologists are the epitome of what most of us mere amateurs think of when we hear about “forensic scientists.” Another more broad term for the forensic biologist is the forensic science technician. This is what most people entering the field might find to be their first job title.
In any one given criminal science tv episode, you will very likely see scientists scouring a crime scene for any scrap of DNA evidence they can find. This might be fragments of skin found beneath the fingernails of the victim, pieces of hair, blood, saliva, etc.
Any evidence found at a crime scene is analyzed. And forensic biologists analyze those pieces that share a DNA story about who might have been present at the scene of a crime.
All the Sherlocks of the modern day unite to collect pieces of such evidence left behind, and the forensic biologist takes those back to the lab to analyze.
How To Become a Forensic Biologist
Well, step one, get a degree in biology, chemistry, or forensic science.
To be honest, with a degree like one of these, you will not always get hired on right away as a forensic biologist. The field typically requires a lot of on-the-job training; so most of the time, a person with the right degree can obtain an entry level position in the field as a forensic science technician, and with time is trained in all the aspects of forensics that make for a competent forensic biologist.
In this field, you will learn about DNA analysis not only in college but also on the job, as DNA analysis is an integral part of the work.
You will also learn how to discern the outside forces which may affect a corpse that might provide reliable data regarding the time of death and also point towards how it happened.
You will work in conjunction with other law enforcement officials and investigators as you work to solve the crime. This career is not for the faint of heart. A crime can happen anywhere and you may be called upon to work in all kinds of conditions and at any given time of night in order to help bring justice to the victim of a given crime. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics a forensic science technician might expect a median salary of $56,750 per year.
Poison “the woman’s weapon” as some have called it, is most definitely one type of weapon that has been used in cases of sudden death. One of the only ways to figure out if poison is the cause of death is for an examination to be made of various types of fluid left in the body.
This is where the forensic toxicologist steps in.
To be able to perform professional and reliable analysis regarding cause of death to discern if it be due to drug overdose or perhaps poison is a very important aspect of the field of forensic science.
However, as relevant as forensic toxicology is to criminal investigations, it is one specialty of forensic science that does not deal exclusively with criminal investigations. A forensic toxicologist is a person who conducts lab tests on body fluids to determine what is present within it. Sometimes such a person will work in a civil capacity, for example, testing urine samples for people seeking employment. Sometimes, a forensic toxicologist will work hand-in-hand with other criminal investigators to see whether a person’s body fluids show signs of poisoning, drug intake, or other evidence that can share important clues about the last moments that preceded the victim’s death. Some types of fluid a toxicologist might analyze include blood, urine, gastric fluid, and vitreous humour (from the eye). Other organs in the body may also be analyzed by a toxicologist for clues regarding what may have been recently ingested by the deceased person. All of the information discovered by a toxicologist can lead to conclusions regarding the cause of death or may point toward the perpetrator if foul play was involved. If you are interested in this type of forensic science, then understand you will spend most of your days in the lab, not traipsing about collecting evidence. You might be considered the most “sciency” one of the bunch when it comes to forensic science, so make sure you are intrigued by lab work before launching into this full steam.
How to Become a Forensic Toxicologist
If you decide this career is for you, then you have some flexibility in choosing a major.
You want to study either chemistry, biology, biochemistry, or forensic toxicology. Any one of these degrees can prepare you for a ready launch into this field, but make sure that when you are surveying coursework offered by the programs you might enter to see that they do include studies in toxicology and pharmacology.
Also, if your major is biology, be sure to not neglect studies in chemistry, and vice versa. A well-rounded knowledge of these sciences is important when analyzing specimens in the lab.
The more you understand, the better you will be at your work and the greater your chance for success and promotion will be.
Forensic psychology can be fascinating. Anyone who has seen an episode of Criminal Minds can tell you so. And, while tv dramas can perhaps at times exaggerate the reality of the day-to-day norms of a career, they can’t always stray too far from truth. Where there’s smoke there’s fire.
A person intrigued by the human psyche can find a place in the field of forensic psychology if willing to work hard enough at it.
That being said, the field of forensic psychology is highly competitive. People working in this field generally have at least a doctorate degree in clinical psychology and then usually have specialization certifications in forensic psychology that equip them to skillfully navigate the legal aspects of this field that make it categorically forensic psychology.
So, before you jumpstart your career plans, ask yourself, is this for you?
What does a Forensic Psychologist Do?
Historically, psychologists in court are often called upon when the question of a person’s mental state arises in relation to a crime committed.
A clinical psychologist with experience in the field can be considered an expert witness in sharing whether a person committing a crime was in his right mind when committing the act.
Besides evaluating a defendant’s mental state at the time of a criminal act, a forensic psychologist might also be called upon to evaluate whether a witness be mentally fit to provide testimony, whether a criminal is likely to continue being a threat to society or if the act was an isolated incident, as well as be asked to assist with many other psychological questions that may need answering within the realm of civil and legal matters.
Forensic psychologists also conduct research regarding the criminal mind, to see if there might be ways to help people before they become criminals, thereby precluding the need for court rulings by way of lowering crime rates.
Experts in this field also look into the question “why.” When a crime is committed, society often wants to know why it was done. A forensic psychologist studies this question and attempts to answer it.
Forensic psychologists are also called upon frequently in divorce court, to give expert opinion regarding decisions of child custody.
How to Become a Forensic Psychologist
Because the opinion of a forensic psychologist can carry such weight (a person’s life or death could even be hanging in the balance) this field is not easy to enter.
Four years of undergrad studies, four or more years of study after that to obtain a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, and then post-doctorate studies specializing in forensic psychology is recommended.
Some might say you can simply obtain a bachelor’s in psychology and then a master’s in forensic psychology to enter the field, but because competition is so high, being that forensic psychology is a field dominated by those with doctorate’s in psychology, obtaining a master’s degree is not usually enough to launch a career.
If you want to enter this field and actually find work, the surest path is to obtain a bachelor’s in psychology, a doctorate in clinical psychology, and then a reputable certification in the field of forensic psychology that includes focus studies on the legal aspects of forensic psychology, i.e. court room proceedings, laws regarding the psychological state of a defendant, etc.
Different states may require certain certifications to practice in this field, but those can be obtained usually after acquiring adequate levels of study in the science of psychology itself.
After you work for a couple of years in the legal system, gaining experience doing clinical studies and research, you will have acquired enough knowledge and understanding of psychology to be of some value to legal proceedings.
Now, the question of salary might be in your mind, especially what with the level of study that has to go into this career.
The answer? A forensic psychologist might not make as much as someone with a doctorate degree might generally hope, though according to studies, you can cross the $100K threshold depending on your position and where you are employed; however, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the median salary of a forensic psychologist to be around $64,000 per year.
After all of this intense reading, you must no doubt realize that when someone tells you they are a “forensic scientist” that title may by no means actually share what they actually do on a regular basis.
The field of forensic science may be as broad as science itself. DNA, anatomy, natural forces, psychological forces, and more, all play a great role in today’s criminal justice system.
Scientists, more than ever before, are finding themselves front and center in matters of legality. Soon enough, computer science will be also no doubt more heavily affect the outcome of these proceedings. Because of this, the demand for workers in this field is not, it appears, in any way subsiding. If you have a love for science and also a love for justice, you may truly discover your calling after watching an episode or two of B.O.N.E.S. Science is a part of who we are as humans, which may be why it is indeed such a fascinating field. Not every scientist is meant to be a forensic scientist. You have to have some amount of grit to make it in this field, as your findings may very well change a person’s life forever: to do well in this field you must have some grit, a passion for science, and a bit of a knack for investigation. So go home, check out that latest episode of CSI, and see if you can picture yourself enjoying the work you see on screen; because, to be honest, the lab side of those shows, as well as the crime-scene scouring, is not so far-fetched as some might believe from what a forensic scientist might experience in a day’s work.