Definition of a Forensic Scientist
There is a definition for a forensic scientist. According to Career Information Center, there is a definition for forensic scientist, “forensic scientists gather and evaluate evidence from victims, vehicles, and scenes of crimes.” “Their findings may help to convict or prove the innocence of a person accused of a crime.” Nearly all forensic scientists work for federal, state, or local law enforcement (Engineering. 126).
There are entry requirements to become a forensic scientist. According to Career Information Center, to be a forensic scientist, one needs at least a bachelor’s degree in physical or natural science. However, most crime labs prefer employees that have a master’s or doctorate’s degree in forensics (Engineering. 126). Working Conditions
Forensic scientists work varied hours. According to Career Information Center, forensic scientist work a five day, forty hour work week. However, they are on call 24-7 and may be expected to answer late night calls. In some cases, overtime is forced on employees (Engineering. 127).
Forensic scientists work in varied environments. They spend most of their time in clean labs (Engineering. 127). They may also work outdoors in all weather conditions including snow, rain and heat (Echaore-McDavid 61).
Forensic scientists have to stand, bend, kneel, and crouch in awkward positions (Echaore-McDavid 61). Forensic scientists have to observe unpleasant sights such as blood and corpses (Engineering. 127). Also, there are some risks with working with weapons (Engineering. 127). In addition, forensic scientists are exposed to noxious fumes and poisons (Engineering. 127). Generally, forensic scientists work with lab partners and other branches of law enforcement such as, policemen, FBI, and judges (Engineering. 127).
Pay and Benefits
Forensic Scientist’s pay varies. According to Career Information Center, their earnings vary depending on experience and education. Entry level pay for a forensic scientist with a bachelor’s degree in 2005 was about $30,000 a year. The median salary was about $40,000. Experienced forensic scientists with a master’s degree earn around $70,000. Different types of forensic scientists earn different salaries. For example, a technician will make around $40,000 a year, but a forensic pathologist can earn up to $200,000 a year. Also, large crime labs use specialists, scientists who do one specific duty well. These specialists often make more money than others (Engineering. 127).
Forensic Scientists get benefits. According to Career Information Center, forensic scientists get sick days and vacation days. The amount of days depends on the crime lab they work at. They are also offered medical insurance. Again, this varies with the crime lab. Forensic scientists are also offered pension plans (Engineering. 127).
Forensic scientists have opportunity for advancement. Most start out as trainees where they learn how to do their job. Then, they are given more freedom and assume the duties of the other forensic scientists. A few people may be promoted to senior forensic scientist or manager of the crime lab (Echaore-McDavid 60). Typically, positions open up when other forensic scientists are promoted, retire, or if the lab expands (Engineering. 127). Also, forensic scientists may train new employees for a bonus (Engineering.
Forensic scientists have a very positive outlook. Jobs in forensic science are expected t raise by twenty percent in ten years, well above the national average (U.S. Dept. n.p.) Growth in the field of forensic science is tied to crime rates, high crime rates means a large amount of jobs (Engineering. 127). According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, new technologies speed up the growth of jobs in forensic science. Furthermore, there were 12,800 jobs held by forensic scientists in 2008. The projected employment for 2018 is 15,300 jobs (U.S. Dept. n.p.).
JOB DUTIES OF A FORENSIC SCIENTIST
Second, there are personal qualities that are required to be a forensic scientist. There are job duties that all forensic scientists share. Also, there are job duties for different types of forensic scientists. Personal Qualities
There are personal qualities that are necessary to have to be a forensic scientist. According to Law Enforcement, Security, and Protective Services, Forensic scientists must have communication skills, teamwork skills, writing skills, problem solving skills, and self management skills. Forensic scientists must also be observant, objective, detail oriented, meticulous, ethical, honest, dependable, and courteous. In addition, computer skills are recommended (Echaore-McDavid 60). General Job Duties
There are some job duties that all forensic scientists share. All forensic scientists gather, evaluate, and analyze evidence and data from victims, vehicles, and crime scenes (Engineering. 126). Forensic scientists’ findings are used in court cases (Engineering. 126). They may have to train lower level or new employees (Echaore-McDavid 63). All forensic scientists may be called out to crime scenes (Echaore-McDavid 63). Technicians
Forensic technicians have specific job duties. According to Law Enforcement, Security, and Protective Services, they gather physical evidence, such as
bullets, weapons, and tissues from crime scenes. Technicians must also talk and coordinate with police officers at the crime scene. They note, sketch, and photograph every piece of evidence. Then the technicians send the evidence to the crime lab for further investigating. Technicians also submit accurate and well detailed reports and documentation for court cases. Technicians also maintain and use photography equipment as well as develop film (Echaore-McDavid 60-1).
Latent Prints Examiner
Prints Examiners have specific job duties as well. According to Law Enforcement, Security, and Protective Services, prints examiners analyze all latent prints including fingerprints, palm prints, footprints, and tire tracks. They use chemicals and plasters to lift prints from scenes of crimes. They take photographs of the prints and convert them to 3D images on a computer. Prints examiners compare these prints with known suspects, victims, and others. Examiners will write reports of their findings and may testify in court (Echaore-McDavid 63).
Forensic chemists also have specific job duties. According to Law Enforcement, Security, and Protective Services, chemists use chemical analysis to examine physical evidence. They also perform tests to determine the contents of an unknown substance. Chemists make reports and may testify in court (Echaore-McDavid 65).
Trace Evidence Examiner
Trace evidence examiners have specific job duties as well. According to Law Enforcement, Security, and Protective Services, trace evidence examiners examine hair, tissues, saliva, blood, fluids, plastics, metals, and explosives. They work in crime labs alongside chemists and print examiners. They also develop new and better methods for examining evidence (Echaore-McDavid 65).
Firearms and Toolmark Examiners
Firearms and toolmark examiners have specific job duties. According to Law
Enforcement, Security, and Protective Services, they handle two pieces of evidence: firearms and tools. They determine if firearms or tools were used in a crime. They make identical matches between guns and bullets, and tools and toolmarks. Firearms and toolmark examiners also determine paths of bullets and recreate crime scenes (Echaore-McDavid 69).
Questioned Documents Examiner
Questioned documents examiners have their own job duties. According to Law Enforcement, Security, and Protective Services, documents examiners analyze checks, currency, vouchers, contracts, certificates, wills, notes and letters. They check if documents and signatures are real or counterfeit. They determine if changes have been made to a document and determine what words were erased or crossed out. Document examiners also identify different types of inks and papers (Echaore-McDavid 71).
Polygraph examiners have specific job duties too. According to Law Enforcement, Security, and Protective Services, polygraph examiners administer polygraph tests to suspects and analyze the results. Polygraphs measure pulse, blood pressure, breathing, and perspiration during questioning. Polygraph examiners write their own questions and give them to suspects (Echaore-McDavid 76).
Forensic pathologists have specific job duties. According to Law Enforcement, Security, and Protective Services, forensic pathologists primarily perform autopsies. They answer the time of death, whether a death was caused by suicide or homicide, and cause of death. Pathologists may also have to identify bodies. They are also called out to crime scene to examine bodies before they are moved. Forensic pathologists sometimes meet with families of the deceased (Echaore-McDavid 73).
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
Third, there are advantages to having a career as a forensic scientist. There are also disadvantages.
Forensic scientists have advantages for their occupation. With enough education, most forensic scientists make around $70,000 a year (Engineering. 126). They can also earn sick and vacation days (Engineering. 126). They get medical insurance (Engineering. 126). Finally, forensic science is a fast growing field. Its growth is above the national average (U.S. Dept. n.p.).
There are also disadvantages in the field of forensic science. The occupation is very high stress. Forensic scientists may witness gruesome sights (Engineering. 126). They also put themselves at risk by working with weapons and chemicals (Engineering. 126). Also, forensic scientists are on call 24-7 and may be forced into working overtime (Echaore-McDavid 60). In addition, it takes about six years to earn a good degree, master’s degree, in forensic science (Engineering. 126).
Fourth, there are entry requirements to get into Michigan State University. In addition, Michigan State offers a great program to study forensic science.
The main entry requirement for Michigan Stat is to have a better application than the other applicants. According to Peterson’s Four Year Colleges, the average high school GPA of those admitted to MSU is 3.61. Ninety-seven percent of students had an ACT score over eighteen and nine percent had a score of thirty. Seventy-six percent of students scored over 500 in reading on the SAT’s, eighty-five percent scored over 500 in math, and seventy-three percent scored over 500 in writing. Nine percent of students scored over 700 in reading, fourteen percent scored over 700 in math, and five percent scored over 700 in writing. Only seventy-three percent of applicants are admitted into Michigan State University (Peterson’s. 473).
Those admitted into MSU are required to pay tuition. According to Peterson’s Four Year Colleges, on average, state residents are charged about $7,665 per
year. Out of state residents are charged around $20,310. Part-time students who live in state are charged $235 per credit hour. Out of state part-time students are charged $656 per credit hour. Some financial aid is provided by MSU if necessary (Peterson’s. 473).
Michigan State University
Michigan State is a great college to study to study forensic science. MSU was founded in 1885 (Peterson’s. 473). The school has offered a forensic science program since 1946 (“School.” n.p.). MSU is a coed school (Peterson’s 473). The campus is 5,192 acres and has relatively easy access to Detroit and Lansing (Peterson’s. 473).
Michigan State has a great college atmosphere. According to Peterson’s Four Year Colleges, fifty-four percent of students are women and forty-six percent are men. There are students studying at MSU from fifty-four states and territories. There are also students from one hundred different countries. The student faculty ration at MSU is 17:1 (Peterson’s. 473).
MSU has a great athletic program. According to Peterson’s Four Year Colleges, all sports available at Michigan State are Division I except for football. MSU offers men’s football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s track, men’s baseball, women’s softball, and men’s and women’s cheerleading. MSU also offers many intramural sports (Peterson’s. 473).
Michigan State University offers many clubs to its students. MSU has a drama club, marching band, choral group, radio and television club, newspaper club, and national fraternities and sororities (Peterson’s. 473).
MSU provides prime housing. On campus residency is required for a student’s freshman year (Peterson’s. 473). Coed dorms are available as well as women only dorms and disabled students dorms (Peterson’s. 473).
Michigan State offers services to students. According to Peterson’s Four Year Colleges, there is a health clinic available to MSU students, psychiatric counseling, and legal services. There is also a woman’s center.
MSU provides twenty four hour emergency response and transportation services. Also, self defense workshops are available (Peterson’s. 473).
MSU offers top rate classes and degrees in forensic science. According to “School of Criminal Justice,” the Master’s Degree in Forensic Science is provided by the Michigan State School of Criminal Justice. Applicants for the degree must have at least a 3.0 to apply. One must also have a degree in a lesser or related field such as physical or natural science (“School.” n.p.).
MSU offers a degree in forensic chemistry. To earn a degree, one must take the following classes: Advanced Analytical Chemistry II, Survey in Forensic Science, Forensic Chemistry and Microscopic Evidence, Scanning Electron Microscopy/X-Ray Analysis, and Forensic Serology (“School.” n.p.).
INTERESTS AND NEEDS
Furthermore, forensic science does fit my needs. It pays a decent amount of money and will give me a comfortable lifestyle. Forensic Science involves a lot of science and chemistry, which I love to do. Also, forensic scientists help people by assisting in the justice process, which I think is very rewarding.
In conclusion, forensic science is a very challenging career. If a person is interested in becoming a forensic science, it is going to take a lot more than just a love of the TV show CSI.