Forensic Scientist Careers in Criminology

These days, a forensic scientist career is the trendy choice among people considering going into criminology. This is due in large part to the seemingly ever-growing number of TV shows in which these scientists play crucial roles in cracking tough murder cases. Some sociologists say that these shows are simply reflecting back what the American public wants to see and that people became fascinated with forensic scientists in the 1990s during the televised murder trials of O.J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers.

No matter what the ultimate reasons are, there's no denying that, these days, there are a whole lot of people interested in pursuing careers as forensic scientists. If you're one of them, here's what you need to know about this career.

In order to qualify for a job, you'll need to have at least a bachelor's degree in forensic science. Unlike other criminology careers, there is usually no leeway here; the degree must specifically be in forensic science and nothing else.

A master's degree will give a person more options; this can be earned before applying or, as many people do, after being hired on the basis of the bachelor's degree. Most forensic scientists are employed by law enforcement agencies and other branches of local and state governments. Some work at universities or in private labs.

One unfortunate result of the popularity of TV shows revolving around forensic scientists is that many people are enamored of the career but only because the work involved is cleaned up tremendously for TV.

Make no mistake; this can be a very unpleasant job. Visiting the scenes of violent murders to take blood samples and collect other evidence takes a very strong stomach, and some people simply aren't cut out for it. Another common task is determining how long a murder victim has been dead, and this is usually calculated by the size and number of maggots and other insects on the body. We don't include these details to disgust you but only to paint a realistic picture of what's involved.

Yes, there is also lab work involved, but it usually means working with unpleasant substances. Some forensic scientists are called upon to testify at trial, but that is out of the ordinary. These other functions happen day in and day out.

As criminology careers go, forensic scientist is one of the better paying ones. As of this writing, 60 percent of those currently working in the occupation earn between $40,000 and $66,000 per year. The highest 10 percent earn nearly $85,000 per year, and fully half make over $51,000 per year. These salaries compare quite well to not only other criminology careers but also to many other careers requiring only bachelor's degrees.

The federal government expects job growth for forensic scientists to remain steady for the foreseeable future. If you've got the constitution for it, it's an excellent time to enter this career.

Last Updated: 06/03/2014

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