Several factors should determine your choice of a college major. You need to have a keen interest in your chosen major, an aptitude for it, and a desire to transform your diploma into a rewarding career. The ability and passion for a subject go hand-in-hand. Most people excel at something they love and love something they excel at – fundamental human nature. After all, how can you enjoy mathematics if you struggle with the subject throughout high school? At the college level, your strength in a particular field should be higher as your studies become more complex and challenging.
Another critical ingredient into your selection of a major is employment. Will your degree translate into a fulfilling and financially secure job? Ideally, you want to graduate with a diploma in a major that will open doors and provide low unemployment prospects. This article looks at some of the job opportunities in the field of forensic science.
The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) state that there are 15,400 employed as Forensic Science Technicians in 2018. This occupation includes those who collect and analyze crime scene evidence. The BLS projects the job growth to be 17% over ten years from 2016 to 2026. This percentage equates to a change in 2,600 jobs. Therefore, there will be only 260 positions added per year – a relatively small number.
Individuals seeking work in this field should start with local government, excluding hospitals and schools. More than 50% or 9,520 forensic technicians work in this sector — approximately half (4,480) of the previous figure work in state government.
Although the BLS doesn’t have the specifics as to where the local government jobs are, it is likely within metropolitan police departments. Most major cities have a unit of forensic scientists and technicians. The St. Louis County Police Crime Laboratory, for example, handles over 7,000 requests for evidence analysis each year. San Diego is another example of a city with a state of the art crime lab that is FBI-accredited. This facility handles over 13,000 pieces of evidence to test each year.
At the state government level, some state police departments have a crime lab. The Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab employs scientists who have a degree in chemistry, forensic science, biochemistry, biology, or pharmacology. The Wisconsin Department of Justice had a job opening for a DNA Analyst at the Madison Crime Laboratory to work in the DNA Databank Technical Unit. This lab also supports and guides local law enforcement departments.
There are also positions for Forensic Scientist Trainees. The Illinois State Police advertised for a bachelor’s degree graduate in forensic science to train in one of several specialties. The length varies according to the specialty. Firearms-tool marks, microscopy, latent prints, and biology/DNA are 24 months. Drug chemistry is the shortest at twelve months.
Further down the list of employment opportunities are private labs. Many of these labs are in the business of providing testing services for law enforcement. One example is the RJ Lee Group headquartered in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. The company offers full-service testing, from raw materials to industrial hygiene to trace evidence. The Group has contracted with state and federal agencies, including the Department of Defense and EPA.
A source of information on job openings is the links to numerous forensic sciences associations at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences site. Here you can link to the Midwestern, Northeastern, or New Jersey Association of Forensic Scientists.
Location plays a significant role in job placement. Some cities and states have a higher concentration and number of employees than others. The BLS reports that California (2,110), Florida (1,710) and Texas (1,320) employ the highest number of forensic technicians. Cities with better job prospects might be Los Angeles, New York-New Jersey, Phoenix, Washington, DC, and Miami-Fort Lauderdale. Los Angeles tops the list with 960 technicians. California also has a second-best median wage of $85,280 – Illinois pays an average of $87,660 (May 2018) for the profession.
The cities mentioned above do not have the highest concentration per 1,000 jobs. Tallahassee, Florida has the honors of having 0.73 forensic technicians per thousand jobs. Santa Fe, New Mexico ranks second with a quotient of 0.59 per thousand.
Another source of employment opportunities is the Crime Scene Investigator Network that posts CSI jobs across the country. The site claims to be the most popular forensic science website in the world. Also, they have numerous articles covering topics as shoe print castings, bloodstain patterns, luminol, photography, and more. The material is available at no charge.