What forensic scientists do
If you have always loved investigation and science, and you would like to help people, you might want to consider a forensics career. However, it is important that you choose wisely what to major in for forensic science courses, so you can secure the job you want and stay ahead of the competition. Find out which areas of forensics you should be focusing on for each role and how to get ready for a job in the field.
Forensic scientist majors
If you have always been interested in getting justice and providing evidence for law enforcement and legal professionals, becoming an expert in forensics could be a great career path for you. If you are undecided what to major in for forensic science to make the most difference for the public and the legal system, read our tips below.
Today, DNA plays an important role in court cases, but that’s not everything forensic scientists do. You will need to have the technical and scientific knowledge, as well as empathy and people skills to make it in this legal field. If you major in Biology, to ensure that you land the right job, you will have to find the right career path. Before you decide what to major in for forensic science you might want to decide where you would like to work. As an example, having a biology major will open the doors for a job in DNA analysis or fingerprint expert. Most of your time – during your work and course – will be spent in the lab.
One option is to start by completing a comprehensive degree program with plans to move into a physics major that is related to forensic science. This will help you get into the right courses that are often oversubscribed. Once you have a degree in one of the technology or natural sciences fields, you can decide what to major in for physics, based on your grades and qualifications. This degree will allow you to examine ballistics evidence or analyze blood stain patterns. You can choose a college certificate, Bachelors, or higher education once you have the basic qualifications to advance your career and your education. On average, you will take home $52,500 a year with a Physics major.
With this major, you can become a toxicologist or a forensic lab analyst. You might also be working with the police on drug related crimes and help them understand the chemical composition of new illegal substances. Once you have a chemistry or natural science degree, you can go for a Bachelor’s degree in forensic science to advance your career. For this program, you will need to have chemistry basics and you might choose to major in DNA, physical evidence, or ballistics. Further education opportunities include Chemistry, or Biochemistry, with a concentration on the forensic science element. You might be working in arson investigation, forensic chemistry, or blood evidence retrieval, or alongside criminal or industrial accident investigators.
In case you would like to gain more knowledge and enter the career level at a higher step, you can opt for a Master’s degree in forensic science. The main available master level programs are Master of Science in either Biomedical Forensic Science, Criminalistics, Forensic Biology, or Forensic Science. Find out more about the best paid master’s degrees on our site. You will have to decide what to major in for forensic science based on your interest and your grades. If you are good at biology but your chemistry is your weak link, you might choose a future career and major that reflects this. If you already have a degree and would like to specialize in forensic science, you can further your education by going for a doctorate degree program. This will take a longer time and you will have to complete loads of research at the lab, but your career chances will be much better if you take this brave step. These programs are best suited for individuals who already have an undergraduate or higher level of forensic science degree. Individuals who are in forensic science and work alongside FBI agents can get a higher job recognition and salary. You could become a forensic anthropologist for a law enforcement agency. Your expected salary will, however, depend on your experience, qualifications, the company or organization, and your location.
If physics has always been your strong subject, and you are wondering what to major in for forensic science careers, you can opt for engineering courses. You might investigate the causes of fire, accidents, and building safety breaches. You can work with insurance companies or the police. You might even decide to take on civil engineering or mechanical engineering that will allow you to work with the police on traffic crash reconstructions. A forensic engineer will either work on the mechanical or architectural side of the lab. You will analyze the cause of an accident and assist lawyers in manslaughter cases.
If you have always been fascinated by the life of insects, you can help the cold case unit or the police investigate crimes. As a specialist in the area of insects, you can discover the body’s condition, determine the time of death, and maybe provide information on the location of the evidence based on insect samples and DNA. Most of your investigation will be around post mortem examination, and you will be able to provide investigators with crucial information on the background of the death by knowing the lifespan and behavior of different insects. It is important that you seek further practical training before or right after your graduation, as this will improve your chances of getting a job.
When you try to decide what to major in for forensic science, you have to consider your interest and the unique skills and qualifications that are in high demand. A forensic anthropologist will simply study human remains. Your skills and knowledge will be useful for investigators of cold cases or arson. When there are no identification documents present, and the identity of the victim is unknown, you will be called upon to determine the age, sex, genetic background, height, and other characteristics of the deceased. You will also be the person who determines how long ago the person died, and what the cause of death was. There are only a few specialists who are able to provide this service to law enforcement, however, cases when your expertise are needed are also rare.
Medical degrees that are transferable
If you take a medical degree course, you will have to work hard, but you will be able to enter the workforce of the forensic science field at a much higher level. If you are trying to decide what to major in for forensic science, you need to know that roles with a medical degree lead to some of the highest paid careers in the field. Medical degrees will help you get a job assisting criminologists or investigate biological weapons or terrorism. You can become a medical examiner or a forensic pathologist and your main job will be to collect medical evidence, document assault injuries, or determine the cause of death.
Of course, forensic science is not all about lab work and staring at the microscope. You will need a few interpersonal skills that will help you progress in your career path. The first humanities subject is Psychology, of course, but Criminology and Sociology will help you gain the soft skills you will need to manage your job effectively, do your research, and understand people’s motivations. Anything that will be related to law enforcement, such as law will also come useful in your career. Archeology and linguistics can also help you choose a career in forensic science; you might be analyzing letters or emails, or carbon date items for forensic purposes.
Dentistry and odontology
If you major in dentistry and odontology, you might be working alongside crime investigators and help them compare dental records or even bite mark evidence to support the case. You might be working in a dental practice and have a partnership set up with law enforcement agencies. Most dentistry and odontology work will be on an ad-hoc basis, so you might need to have another job. If you are thinking about a new qualification, it is important to first decide what to major in for forensic science. These pointers are hopefully going to help you decide. Want to know what your skills are worth? Read up on different salaries on our site.