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21st Century Careers: Forensic Science

By Pranjal Karanjkar ('22)

Photo courtesy of Wix

Forensic science is the science behind the scenes of a criminal case. The main purpose of the job is to analyze, evaluate and examine evidence.

Since working with real criminal cases is common and work hours are unpredictable, being able to cope under stress is a required skill, according to forensic scientist, Ms. Lisa Black, in an exclusive interview. Ms. Black is a successful forensic scientist, and NYT bestselling author of the novel, Suffer the Children. Ms. Black has worked at the Cape Cod Police Department for 20 years and is extremely experienced in her field. Just like all jobs, forensic science has its best parts, along with the not-so glorious ones.

The typical amount a forensic scientist must study for is 4-5 years, but it can differ. There are not any specific colleges that must be attended to pursue a career in Forensic Science but common universities include: West Virginia University, George Washington University and University of California.

The type of degree that is necessary is an associate or bachelor's degree in Forensic Science, Forensic Biology, criminal justice or other related field. Some jobs also prefer a master’s degree.

A nearby college that offers the necessary degree is Pennsylvania State University. Required courses include anatomy, biology, criminal justice and chemistry. According to College Calc, a 4-year stay and degree costs about $16-36,000.

According to Ms. Black, forensic scientists have the sole responsibility of dealing with evidence along with many others. Analyzing even the smallest things that could help a case such as fingerprints, hairs, and fibers.

Forensic scientists have the huge responsibility to be accurate with their work. The work hours of a forensic scientist are quite demanding. Most of their work takes place in labs and work is done at long stretches.

Ms. Black said, “I have over 900 hours of continuing education in topics ranging from crime scene reconstruction to bloodstain pattern interpretation to fingerprint comparison and have to go to a crime scene, even if it’s the middle of the night or a holiday.”

Additionally, to be a forensic scientist, there are many personality traits that would work best for this job.

Ms.Black said that, “...good attention to detail, work[ing] under stress and unpredictable circumstances, be[ing] patient and cautious” are all traits that a forensic scientist must have.

Furthermore, they must be accurate with their work and should be organized. It is a huge responsibility for a forensic scientist to maintain records and keep their findings accurate.

To pursue a career in forensic science, there are numerous skills and qualifications that must be present. Some requirements are: good writing, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. In addition, it is helpful to have law enforcement experience, attention to detail and good observation skills. Most forensic scientist jobs require 1-3 years of experience in Forensic Toxicology. Some need moderate on the job training.

The salary for a forensic scientist depends on where he or she works. Starting salaries will usually be quite low as with any other job. According to career website, Chron, a local government starting salary could be around $25.00 per hour which averages to about $55,000 a year. Median salaries vary for forensic scientists starting at $36,000 and going up to $86,000.

As stated in Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected employment is 18,000 people, which is about 17%. This means in today’s time many more people are pursuing a career in forensic science. The projected number of new jobs is 15,400. Thus, the future outlook for this job is good.

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