a forensic scientist

Starting Your Career as a Forensic Scientist

You’ve been working for a company providing ServiceNow security solutions for nearly two years now. You were directly recruited after you graduated with a computer science engineering degree from MIT. You had other options, but this company wanted you badly, and they consented to your request to allow flexible work hours so that you can pursue further studies.

You grew up enjoying TV shows like CSI and Law & Order. You’ve always wanted a career in law enforcement, more specifically in the field of forensic science. That’s what you been studying on the side. Your deal with your present company is for at least two years or until the big project that’s been assigned to you is finished. You’re excited about your prospect but also wondering about what the other requirements would be like and how to succeed in the field.

Here’s what you should know when pursuing a career in forensic science:

Forensic Services Industry

This is still a highly specialized industry with forensic laboratory businesses across America numbering less than 630. About 400 of these crime labs are publicly owned. The industry employs just over 22,300 people.

Quiz Yourself First

There are certain personality traits that you should possess if you want to be a forensic scientist and work as part of a law enforcement team. Here’s an initial list of questions that you should use to test yourself:

  • Are you excellent at paying attention to details?
  • Do you have an excellent aptitude in the natural sciences?
  • Can you handle intense situations well?
  • Are you a highly effective communicator with integrity?
  • Is your logic and reasoning skills off the chart?

These are just some of the questions that you need to reflect upon, and your answers should all be in the affirmative.

How to Get There

looking through a microscope

One obvious requirement for being a forensic scientist is a background in the sciences, and you must at least have a bachelor’s degree. An example of these degrees includes chemistry or biology. Some schools offer a specific course on forensic science. But note that there is a wide range of specialization in the field, which includes, among others, physical anthropology, toxicology, DNA/pathology, and entomology. If you identify with the character of Grissom in the original CSI TV series and with his love for bugs, then you would be a forensic entomologist.

Also, plan for completing an advanced degree if you also want to take your career heading a laboratory instead of just being inside one. Consider an M.A. or Ph.D. in any of the fields of specialization.

Further Training

Once you’re on the job, you need to fulfill the required training, which consists of two parts. The first part is the compulsory training for you to be an official forensic scientist, and the second part pertains to your specialization, e.g., toxicology, anthropology, odontology, etc.

Proficiency exams are given, which you are required to pass.

You will note that this career is heavy on education and training. While in other professions, your career will advance by just gaining experience and learning things on the job, being a forensic scientist requires formal learning. And you need to have a knack for the sciences.

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