Forensic Science: The Basics
article by Public Service Degrees | December 12, 2011
With a large number of criminal investigation shows on TV such as CSI, Criminal Minds and Bones, many people have become fascinated with the forensic science profession. Many do not realize, however, the hard work and dedication that this position requires. Not only is this field extremely competitive, but organizations that work with people in this field look to hire only the best. With that being said, the educational requirements are beginning to get stricter as more and more people are trying to break into the field.
The forensic science field, otherwise known as forensics, includes the use of an extensive range of sciences in order to answer questions that the legal system has, usually regarding a crime of some sort. The legal system turns to them for help with identifying and convicting criminals. It their examinations and findings of forensic data that regularly verifies whether or not the suspects in a crime are guilt or innocent. Their responsibilities include observing the information and evidence of a crime and writing down their findings in order to provide a statement of their discoveries to a court of law. Other tasks include performing physical and chemical investigations on criminal evidence provided by some type of law enforcement organization which can be found at the scene of a crime, on a victim, in some cases, both. People in the forensic science field use an assortment of problem-solving techniques, mathematical ideologies, intricate tools, and microscopic probing methods to clarify the particulars of each part of evidence from a case.
There are a number of different positions that someone in the forensic field can have. Some work in strictly in laboratories testing all the evidence that was found, while others work directly at the scene of the crime in order to collect their analysis. Focuses of the area include clinical work, research, communication, computer sciences and much more. Some people in forensics chose not to specialize in a specific area, but would rather be considered a generalist. Most that choose this option are involved in a number of different tasks involving forensics or are involved in a new or rare forensic area of expertise.
Most people that are in the forensic profession work directly with the law enforcement run by city, county or state governments. If people are lucky enough, they can also work for several federal agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Secret Service; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; the U.S. Postal Service; Health and Human Services; and the Criminal Intelligence Agency. Additionally, forensic scientists may be employed by other organizations outside of the government. They may chose to work in private forensic labs, medical examiners offices, hospitals, toxicology labs, medical examiner or coroner offices, colleges and universities, or as independent consultants.
People in forensics have a tough occupation and in order to stay current on all the new technology and methods, they are often encouraged to take a path of higher education. Unfortunately, the education and training requirements are different for every forensic position and for every state, but almost everyone in the forensic profession has earned at least a bachelors' degree. Many chose to earn their bachelors' degree in biology, chemistry or physical anthropology if their college of choice does not offer a forensic science program. An important factor that people interested in the forensic science fields should know is that the title of the degree they earn is not nearly as important as the courses they take throughout their education. Prospective forensic scientists should take college courses that give them experience in a lab and technological setting, such as biology, chemistry, physics, quantitative analysis, toxicology, computer sciences, psychology, criminal justice courses and statistics.
Depending on the forensic position someone is looking for; they may also be required to further their education by enrolling in a graduate program. Most graduate programs are more specific and will include different divisions of forensic science; therefore, this is the time when most students decide what to specialize in. Many programs allow students to focus on areas such as forensic archeology, forensic pathology, or body identification. Many times, labs require a person to get a masters degree for advanced positions in the forensic field such as a lab technician leader or supervisor, or someone who specializes in DNA analysis or ballistics. Most positions only require a masters' degree; however, people who are interested in teaching should continue on to earn their PhD. Also, everyone in the forensic field are expected to continuously update their training in order to maintain their various certifications and to keep current with all of the new tools, technology and techniques used in the field.
And now, higher education institutions have made it even easier for people to earn a degree in forensic science. A number of schools have created online degree programs that allow students to earn their associates, bachelors or masters degree without having to ever step foot on a college campus. Online programs allow students to complete their work on their own time, which is great for those people who have a full time job, or a family and do not have time to attend class through a traditional college setting. Online programs also benefit students who live in areas that do not have a college nearby. Students could possibly earn their degree from a college that is all the way across the country, if they wanted. That means that students have more options for deciding what degree program is right for them and will give them the best quality education for their specialty. Also, many times online degree programs cost less than a traditional degree program and take less time to complete.
Public Service Degrees has recognized that many people desire the opportunity to go back to school, so we have teamed up with a number of regionally accredited colleges all across the country to help those people reach their goal. All of the programs we offer are 100% online and are offered by colleges that are known for their quality education. Public Service Degrees has several programs specifically for people interested in forensic science, such as a BA Social and Criminal Justice-Forensics or an MBA in Criminal Justice. For more information about all of the programs we offer please visit publicservicedegrees.com.
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