Preparation for a career as a forensic scientist usually begins with your first degree after high school, though high school science can provide a good foundation, and specific forensic science courses, which are becoming more widely available, can also help. A post-secondary education at an accredited institution of higher learning is usually the first step.
Although an associate’s degree can be used as a starting point, the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science states that it will not be enough to get you the job you want or qualify you for certification. A bachelor’s degree in a natural or applied science is recommended, and advanced degrees such as D.D.S. or MD may be required certain specialties or employers. Additional training is frequently obtained from government agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as other organizations like the California Criminalistics Institute and professional organizations.
Another factor to consider is the type of forensic scientist you want to become. Academic, crime scene, medical, or laboratory are some of the job types that can be considered, as well as specialties. If you want to be a forensic science professor, you should pursue a career in academia. If you’re interested in the investigative side of things, a career as a crime scene examiner, investigator, or forensic engineer might be right for you. If you want to be a forensic scientist like a forensic anthropologist, forensic odontologist or dentist, forensic pathologist, medical examiner, or forensic psychologist, the medical field is for you. If you work as a forensic scientist in a laboratory, your field of study could include biology, botany, chemistry, entomology, or toxicology, or you could specialize in a specific type of evidence, such as DNA, documents, fingerprints, firearms, or toolmarks.
Forensic scientists are employed in a wide range of settings. Colleges and universities, as well as high schools that offer forensic science courses, hire academic forensic scientists. Medically trained forensic scientists may work for hospitals, medical examiners, or coroner’s offices. Forensic scientists who work in laboratories may work for police departments or other law enforcement agencies, such as government agencies, the military, or private businesses, or as independent consultants.
For those interested in becoming a forensic scientist, certification is a step that is recommended but not required. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board, Inc. is the accrediting agency in charge of forensic science accrediting boards. They’ve given accreditation to eight forensic science certification agencies that meet their requirements. The American Board of Criminalistics, the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, the American Board of Forensic Odontology, the American Board of Forensic Toxicology, the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, the Board of Forensic Document Examiners, and the International Institute of Forensic Engineering Scie are the eight organizations mentioned.
If you want to become certified in the future, which is recommended but not always required, you should be aware of the requirements from the start. Different boards have different requirements because they deal with different areas, but ethics and safety are general requirements. For the diplomate certificate, the American Board of Criminalistics requires a bachelor’s degree in a natural science from an accredited institution, two years of forensic laboratory experience or teaching experience, and passing an examination; for fellow certification, the American Board of Criminalistics requires an additional proficiency exam and two years of experience in a specialty area. The certification is valid for five years, but fellows must take proficiency tests every year.