Forensic Science Job Overview
Forensic scientists analyze data from crime scenes and utilize scientific principles to either support or negate theories about the crime. Forensic science is a rather broad field that encompasses a number of specialties, but for the most part the career is rooted in natural science. As such, forensic scientists may work in areas related to biology, chemistry, or toxicology. They may trace DNA evidence, study chemicals and paint substances left at the scene of the crime, or they may test for the presence of alcohol, poisons, or drugs. Since the career is varied, a forensic scientist may also take on the role of criminalist, forensic pathologist, forensic botanist, forensic anthropologist, DNA analyst, medical examiner, or a number of other titles.
Forensic Science Job Education Requirements
Aspiring forensic scientists should aim to hone their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills in addition to deductive-reasoning and communication skills. Forensic science requires one to be highly perceptive and detail-oriented. Aside from these necessary traits, forensic scientists should obtain a bachelor's or graduate degree in forensic science, chemistry, biology, or a related field. Programs should be approved by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences' Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.
Forensic Science Job Market
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, forensic science should see increased employment of about 6 percent through 2022, which is slower than average. While there will always be a need for forensic scientists and technicians, interest in forensic science has increased to the point that competition for available jobs will be stiff.
Forensic Science Job Salary Information
Forensic scientists and technicians earn an average salary of about $52,840, although this number varies by state. Many enjoy entry-level salaries closer to $35,000. Those with previous laboratory experience tend to earn significantly more.
Forensic science has grown to be central in criminal, accident and mass casualty investigation. As a forensic scientist, you can get your fix of problem solving and a deep sense of fulfillment from serving the greater good. Even with the number of forensic scientist jobs growing, competition will be intense due to great interest in the field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Polish your resume to highlight the large skill set you will need as a forensic scientist to land the job you want.
Open your resume with a strong headline that includes the number of years of experience you have with lab work. Include any forensic scientist certifications or awards you have received. For example, a resume that opens with, "Dedicated Molecular Biologist with 7 Years Experience as a Forensic Scientist," will be read with interest.
Format your resume using a clean and concise template. Forensic scientists are expected to be highly organized and detail-oriented; your resume should reflect these qualities.
State the degrees you have earned. Forensic scientists typically have degrees in lab sciences such as biology or chemistry. A forensic scientist position -- as opposed to a forensic science technician -- will call for candidates with master's or doctoral degrees. Include the name of the university, degree, field of study and completion date. State theses, dissertations, awards and honors as bullet point under each degree.
Highlight the professional experience you have in a laboratory. As a forensic scientist, most of your time will be spent in a laboratory, rather than a crime scene. Organize your professional experience by position in reverse chronological order, stating your title, employer, employer location and dates of employment. Include details as separate bullet points explaining your role. For example, a bullet point may read, "Designed and executed proteome-wide screens using LC-MS/MS to identify bladder cancer markers."
Include a section highlighting the laboratory methods you have experience in performing. These may not all be highlighted in your professional experience details, but are crucial to a forensic scientist's qualifications. Common methods you will be expected to perform include liquid and gas chromatography, gel electrophoresis, light microscopy, PCR and DNA sequencing.
Reference laboratory advisers and supervisors that can speak to the skills and prior success that qualify you for a forensic scientist position. Obtain permission before listing someone as a reference. Your Professional References section should include the relationship, current position and contact information of all of your references.
About the Author
Chris Daniels covers advances in nutrition and fitness online. Daniels has numerous certifications and degrees covering human health, nutritional requirements and sports performance. An avid cyclist, weightlifter and swimmer, Daniels has experienced the journey of fitness in the role of both an athlete and coach.
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