The Field of Forensics

By: Coach Kristine   Since forensic shows continue to remain popular, many students have become interested in pursuing a career in forensics. Maybe you are one of them. But where should you start? What options do you have in this field? Let’s discuss a few career options you should consider including forensic science technician, forensic pathologist, and forensic psychologist.   Becoming a forensic science technician or forensic pathologist would allow you to be part of a crime-solving team. Both careers involve a lot of biology and chemistry, so you would need to be very strong in those subjects. Forensic psychology has more to do with research, interviewing people, and presenting your findings in court. All three careers will require a strong ability to communicate.

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Forensic science technician is one of the top twenty fastest growing careers! It’s expected to grow 27% over the next decade, and it pays an average of $55,000. As a forensic science technician, you would work in the lab or at a crime scene and deal with things like bugs, body fluids, and bodies. Most forensic scientists begin their education with a bachelor's degree in forensic science, chemistry, or biology although some study anthropology or criminology. You will also need on-the-job training for this career. Forensic science technicians are responsible for collecting evidence and performing tests on tissues, fibers, and weapons. Some specialize in ballistics, biochemistry, fingerprinting, or handwriting.   Forensic scientists must obtain certification after earning a degree. The American Board of Criminalistics (ABC) offers two levels of certification for practicing forensic scientists. Candidates for diplomate certification must hold bachelor's degrees in an applicable science, have two years of lab or teaching experience, and pass an examination. To earn fellow certification you must pass an additional proficiency test and have two years of experience in your specialty area.   Forensic pathologists are licensed physicians with special training to perform autopsies and determine the cause of a death, disease, or injury. According to the Wall Street Journal, forensic pathologists are scarce, especially in rural areas. The United States has 500 forensic pathologists that are board-certified. According to the number of autopsies that need to be done, twice that number of pathologists are needed. One major roadblock to solving this problem is that there aren’t enough pathologists available to replace retirees. This could be due to the fact that hospital pathologists earn a much higher salary.   Forensic pathologists have a lot of responsibilities including investigating deaths, collecting and protecting evidence, constructing plausible explanations of wounds and injuries, analyzing toxicology reports, learning new technologies, consulting with other specialists, and communicating with family members of the victim.   To become a forensic pathologist, your first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree in a field such as biomedical or forensic science, microbiology, anatomy, chemistry, or genetics. You would then go to medical school to earn a doctorate in pathology, pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam, and complete a residency program and fellowship. Altogether, this usually takes 11-16 years.   Students who are interested in this career should have a love for science, maintain high grades, enjoy problem solving, and have a strong stomach. In high school, you should take classes in biology, chemistry, forensic science, math, anatomy, and anthropology if they are available.   If you prefer psychology and want to study the criminal mind, then becoming a forensic psychologist might be a good option. Forensic psychology is a rapidly growing field. Forensic psychologists interview criminal defendants and their family members and testify in court about a person’s mental state. They also work cases involving abuse, violence, and psychopathic disorders. Research is a big part of this career. To work in private practice you must be licensed. After earning a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in clinical psychology, you would pursue a specialty in forensics. Altogether it will take about seven years of graduate study to become a forensic psychologist. If you are interested in this career, consider interning at a forensic or mental health hospital or at a correctional or rehabilitation facility. This career requires a solid science background as well as critical thinking, research, written, and oral presentation skills.   If you have any questions about careers, please feel free to call your coaches. We’re here to help! References: Photo Credit: