There is no single career path that guarantees a career in forensic science. Competitive candidates must demonstrate the knowledge, skills and abilities that are important to the field. Forensic scientists must be able to apply scientific principles to civil or criminal cases and communicate effectively in the courtroom.
Forensic scientists work in crime laboratories and medical examiner’s laboratories where they handle, analyze, and interpret scientific findings. A strong scientific background is required to work in forensic science.
Traditionally, most forensic scientists begin with a bachelor of science degree in a natural, physical, or biological science. This is important because forensic scientists must have a sound understanding of basic scientific principles. Due to the competitive nature of forensic science today, an advanced degree in the area of forensic science may be important for securing a leadership role in a crime laboratory.
At the graduate level, students are encouraged to focus on either forensic chemistry or biology. After completion of the core courses, students can select from a number of highly specialized electives. These courses are designed to complement the core curriculum and provide the student with both academic knowledge and research skills that will prepare them for the workplace. The following undergraduate courses are helpful in pursuing a graduate degree in forensic science:
- Quantitative Analysis
- Instrumental Analysis
- Analytical Chemistry
- General and Organic Chemistry
- Molecular Biology
- Population Genetics
Because forensic science is part of the criminal justice system, personal honesty, integrity, and scientific objectivity are paramount. Those seeking careers in this field should be aware that background checks similar to those required for law enforcement officers are likely to be a condition of employment. Drug testing, history of drug use, criminal background checks and other factors, including social media content and activity, may be considered for employment or internship placements.