You’ve Decided You Want a Career in Forensic Science … Now What?

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Source:  Brittany N. Beyer, MS, YFSF Secretary

Welcome to the wonderful world of forensic science. Maybe you took a ride-along with your local law enforcement agency or maybe you saw an episode of whatever iteration CSI is on, and thought, “Huh … that seems cool!” (In reality, it’s not like it is on television!) Nevertheless, a career in forensic science can be fun and fulfilling. To know you are using your scientific expertise to help solve crimes and protect the public is a great feeling. Also, it’s just cool! That being said, there is a lot of information out there about forensic science that we didn’t learn until actually being in the field, and it can be difficult to navigate the minefield of information. The AAFS Young Forensic Scientists Forum wants to help young people interested in a forensic science career to navigate that minefield.

Things to know:

  • First and foremost, have a love for science. You are a scientist first.
  • Do well in your math and science classes in high school. They aren’t going away anytime soon.
  • The earlier you get involved in the field the better. Volunteer. Participate in internships. Try to go on a ride-along or ask for a tour at your local crime lab (if you have one).
  • It is recommended you obtain a general science degree (biology, chemistry, etc.) for your undergraduate degree instead of a more forensic-focused degree because you’ll still be able to get other laboratory-type jobs if there are no actual “forensic” jobs open at the time. This would be much more difficult if you had a forensic-focused degree.
  • Be able to handle sensitive and oftentimes gruesome information and images. This is a field that deals with crime and death, so you will come across things that will be offensive to the senses.
  • Often an extensive background check is required in order to be hired. A deep look into your past will be taken — keep that in mind as you make decisions.

Ask, ask, ask. Ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to reach out. The worst someone can do is say no or not reply, and you’re already expecting that!