Careers in Forensic Sciences
Backlogs of unsolved criminal cases, expectations for high standards and quality control, and the need for accurate and reliable research point to a demand for a highly educated workforce in the coming 5-10 years. Forensic scientists work in crime and medical examiner labs as well as in government agencies and universities.
Jobs of recent graduates
- Forensic document examiner
- Research analyst or technician
- Quality assurance manager
- Crime scene investigator
- 90 percent report having either related career positions or entered an advanced degree
- 50 percent obtained new career-related employment
- 24 percent continued in related career positions
- 16 percent entered a doctoral program
*Reported within three months of graduation over the past five years (2014-2019)
Anyone considering a career in the forensic sciences should be aware of specific academic requirements by employers and requirements for background checks. Find additional information below.
Academic Requirements by Employers
Applicants to the graduate program should research the requirements for the chosen discipline of forensic science and for prospective employers in that field to become fully informed of particular requirements that may affect eligibility for employment.
In addition, applicants interested in forensic psychology should be aware that practitioners in this area typically have doctoral degrees. Therefore, the application letter should clearly reflect what the ultimate career goals are and how the degree program will help the individual reach those goals.
While the M.S. in Forensic Sciences prepares students for employment in particular fields, prospective employers may have other requirements, especially related to laboratory accreditation. To ensure high standards of quality for forensic practitioners, agencies governing laboratory accreditation may require employees to have courses not offered in the OSU forensic sciences program. In the area of forensic DNA analysis, for example, the FBI sets the following requirements:
The analyst shall be an employee of the laboratory and meet the following qualifications:Standard 5.4.1 Minimal education requirements: The analyst shall have a bachelor’s (or its equivalent) or an advanced degree in a biology, chemistry, or forensic science-related area and shall have successfully completed course work (graduate or undergraduate level) covering the following subject areas: biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology; and course work and/or training in statistics and/or population genetics as it applies to forensic DNA analysis.*
Of these requirements, molecular biology, statistics, and population genetics are mandated courses in the DNA track; however, biochemistry and genetics are not offered in the School of Forensic Sciences. Therefore, any student entering the DNA program should either have biochemistry and genetics courses on their undergraduate transcript or plan on taking those courses before seeking employment.
In addition to national standards and guidelines, some states have additional requirements for positions in the forensic laboratory. For example, some states may require those analysts who perform forensic alcohol analysis to have analytical chemistry; in such cases, an individual who has taken the course would have a competitive edge in applying for a position in the laboratory area (controlled substances, toxicology, or DNA) where this testing is performed. Advance awareness of standards by employers may help aspiring scientists become more marketable as they seek positions in forensic laboratories.
*Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories,” FBI Laboratory Services Web site. https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/quality-assurance-standards-for-forensic-dna-testing-laboratories.pdf/view. Accessed 07/23/2019.
Anyone considering a career in the forensic sciences should be aware that the job
applications typically go beyond normal requirements for transcripts, employment history,
references, interview and criminal-record checks. Because of the comprehensive screening
involved, students applying for permanent positions or even for internships in forensic
laboratories are encouraged to apply well in advance, as the approval process may
take several months.
Though varying by agency or employer, background checks may extend to inquiries about social companions, financial history, military history, use of alcohol and illegal drugs, medical history, mental health conditions, motor vehicle accidents, police records, personal weapons records, and civil court actions. In addition, personal information posted on the Internet, including for social media websites may be subject to review. Work samples and medical examinations may also be required along with drug, personality, and polygraph tests. Although the OSU-CHS application asks about felony convictions only, the prospective student should consider all factors that could influence future employment.