Solving Crimes~The Life of a Forensic Scientists

by Lexus Wilt

Forensic scientists collect and analyze data on a daily basis to aid in criminal investigation.  (“Summary”, 2017) They sometimes exonerate innocent suspects and may have to write reports.  They may work in a laboratory or at a crime scene.  The main goal of these scientists is to resolve legal issues by applying scientific principles to them and using logical reasoning.  (“What is a Forensic Science Technician?”, 2017)

        Forensic scientists are responsible to complete many tasks and duties on a daily basis.  While at crime scenes, forensic scientists analyze the scene to determine what and how evidence should be collected.  Evidence they often collect includes weapons, fingerprints, and bodily fluids.  They must preserve this evidence for transfer to the laboratory.  They take photographs of the scene and the evidence.  Making sketches of scenes and recording observations of evidence

such as location and position are required with this job.  Forensic scientists have to write many reports. While in laboratories, forensic scientists have to perform many tests, especially on evidence.  These tests may be biological, chemical, or may include microscopic analyses.  Exploration of links between suspects and criminal activity is conducted using the results of DNA or other scientific analyses.  Digital media is often examined for information pertaining to the case.  Forensic scientists consult with experts in specialized fields such as toxicology and odontology.  They reconstruct crime scenes.  In addition to working in laboratories and at scenes, forensic scientists may also appear in court.  Here, they may serve as expert witnesses in a court of law. Forensic scientists have to ensure that laboratory protocols and regulations are followed. They also must be advanced with technology.  Almost every day, forensic scientists will be required to input data into computer programs and use relevant computer database information.  They will have to oversee the maintenance and calibration of laboratory equipment, especially if they hold a high position in the laboratory. (‘Job Description for Forensic Laboratory Scientists.”, 2017) (“Forensic Science Technician Career.”) In addition to these duties, there are many more tasks and responsibilities that are required to be completed by forensic scientists.

        The educational requirements for forensic scientists may vary.  Forensic scientists should have a high school diploma.  They need to attend college after high school. Generally, forensic scientists are required to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.  This degree may be in forensic science or another related field such as biology or chemistry.  A master’s degrees isn’t usually required although it would be helpful.  Having a master’s degree would provide a better chance of receiving higher positions such as lab supervisor or leader.  (“Forensic Scientist Education Requirements and Career Info.”, 2017) ("Forensic Scientist Job Description, Career as a Forensic Scientist, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job.", 2017) Professional certification usually is not required but it would also be very beneficial to have.  Professional certification requires the passing of an exam through a board.  Some professional certification boards include The American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, The American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, The American Board of Criminalistics, and The American Board of Forensic Toxicology. (“What it Takes to Become a Forensic Laboratory Scientist.”, 2017) (“Education Required to Become a Forensic Scientist.”, 2017) These are the common educational requirements to be a forensic scientist, however, further education would be very beneficial, setting potential employees up for a very successful career and life.

        A wide variety of skills and abilities are needed to be a forensic scientist.  Being a forensic scientist requires the ability of being able to work well with others as a team. Employees must be able to communicate, speak, and write well.  Forensic scientists must be able to understand relationships, interactions, and patterns.  They must have a logical and analytical approach.  Highly developed observation and scientific skills are needed as is a deep understanding of the legal process.  Forensic scientists must be detail oriented.  (“Forensic scientist.”, 2017) (“Qualities and Skills Needed for a Career in Forensics?”, 2017)  Being skilled in using laboratory equipment is necessary.  They also must be meticulous when examining and collecting evidence. (“Skills Needed to Be a Forensic Science Technician.”, 2017)  There are a plethora of needed skills and abilities.  These are just a few.

       The employment outlook for forensic scientists is good. Between 2014 and 2024 there is expected to be 3,800 new jobs available. In 2014 there were 14,400 jobs so in 2024 there should be at least 18,200 available. The job outlook is 27%. (“Summary”, 2017) This is much faster than usual. However, competition for the jobs will be strong because of much interest in forensic science. Forensic scientists may be employed for local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies. They may also work at crime labs, coroners’ offices, and hospitals. People living in large cities have a better chance of being employed as a forensic scientist.  Large cities near Shanksville that may be useful for finding a career in this field include Greensburg, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh, maybe even Johnstown. This job is needed in larger cities due to higher crime rates in these areas. Overall, the crime rate has dropped in the world. This may or may not contradict the expected growth of forensic scientists.

        Before becoming a forensic scientist, you may want to complete police academy training to become familiar with law.  Enrolling in a 2-4 year science program is encouraged. Some forensic scientists were police officers or other law enforcement officers prior to their role in forensics. Forensic scientists will need to have a lot of on the job training, including learning to store evidence, give courtroom testimonies, and write reports. They need much hands on experience especially in the lab. This usually involves learning about lab equipment and computer programs. They usually achieve this knowledge by working as an assistant with an advanced forensic scientist. They will also receive additional ongoing training during their career to keep up with technological advances. Fulfilling an internship would be helpful. (“How to Become a Forensic Science Technician: Career and Salary Information.”, 2017) (“How to Become a Forensic Scientist- Requirements for Becoming a Forensic Scientist.”, 2017)

        Average pay for forensic scientists in the United States was $51, 027. The starting salary was around $35, 859. Meanwhile, advanced scientists were making up to $85,221. (“Forensic Scientist Salary.”, 2017)  In Pennsylvania forensic scientists earn an hourly wage of $21.36. The starting hourly wage is $14.16. Skilled forensic scientists make up to $36.07 per hour. The median salary in Pennsylvania is $44,440. The starting salary was $29,450. Top end workers make up to $75,020 per year. (‘Forensic Science Technician.”,2017)

Shanksville Senior '17...Future Communications Student at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

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