MadSci Network: Other

Re: What are the requirements to become a Criminalist

Date: Wed Mar 14 12:34:08 2007
Posted By: Dale L. Laux, Staff, Serology/DNA, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification
Area of science: Other
ID: 1173807459.Ot

Hello Carianne,

I am a forensic scientist here in the states and really enjoy my job. I think it's great that you want to enter the field. Criminalistics is the application of science to solving crime and there are various fields of expertise such as Biology/DNA, Trace Evidence, Firearms, Chemistry and Latent Prints to name a few. But they all require some advanced training beyond high school.

Here in the US, the typical analyst has attended a 4 year college program and has majored in a science such as Biology, Chemistry or Physics. There are also many forensic science programs that are available and some college students are Forensic Science majors. They end up taking some basic introductory forensic science courses before they graduate. It has been popular here in the US to attend a graduate program in forensic science and obtain a Masters degree, especially for the field of DNA analysis.

I think that you are looking at 4 years of schooling after high school at a minimum and 7 years at a maximum. There are several good forensic science programs in the UK that you could apply for and receive the training that you need.

Here's some advice that I will give you. I talk to school age people all the time, and I always recommend getting a good, well rounded science education that covers Biology, Chemistry, Math and Physics, along with a good understanding of English and perhaps Speech/Debate. This way, in case you can't land a job in the forensic science field, you will be eligible for some other fields of science like a hospital lab, a nurse, a doctor, etc., provided that you get some additional schooling.

My other advice is to try very hard to get an internship at a forensic lab near where you live. Here in the US, we offer summer internships and in this way, the students can learn about the field and see whether they like it, and we get to evaluate the student and decide whether they would make a good employee. I believe that they do the same sort of thing in the UK and perhaps Germany too. You might have to work for free, but the experience would be invaluable and be impressive on a resume.

Good luck in your career and I wish you the best,

Dale L. Laux
Forensic Scientist

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