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Forensic Science Careers

What is a crime scene investigator?
Crime scene investigators or technicians are people who are trained to secure crime scenes and then search for, collect and preserve physical evidence. This evidence is then shipped to a crime laboratory where forensic scientists perform examinations on the evidence. Crime scene technicians seldom do any analysis or processing of evidence, although some are trained in blood spatter analysis or fingerprint processing, etc.

Historically, crime scene investigators have been sworn police officers, but the present trend is toward "civilianizing" this unit - hiring and training non-police personnel. To prepare for a career in crime scene technology, a science background would be helpful, especially if there is some forensic science in it. Beyond that, you should pursue a college degree that is suitable for becoming a police officer. Law enforcement and criminal justice are examples of majors that would be helpful here.

What is a forensic anthropologist?
A forensic anthropologist is one who is educated in physical anthropology (particularly skeletal biology), archaeology, anatomy and allied sciences, usually with a Ph.D. There are few people who make a living solely as a forensic anthropologist. Instead, most are connected with universities and lend their talents to police agencies, prosecutors, defense attorneys or courts. Other forensic anthropologists work with state, regional or national government agencies and may be involved in the identification of victims of mass disasters or international war crimes. There is a certification process for the forensic anthropologist.

What is a forensic pathologist?
A forensic pathologist is a medical doctor whose job is to determine the cause and/or manner of death in cases of suspicious death. They are sometimes referred to as medical examiners or coroners, depending on the state. A forensic pathologist has a college degree, followed by a medical degree, and a 3-4 year residency in pathology. There are also some additional residencies in forensic pathology that can lead to certification as a forensic pathologist.

What is a forensic entomologist?
A forensic entomologist has extensive education and training in entomology, usually with a Ph.D. Almost no one makes a living in the United States solely with forensic entomology work. Instead, most are connected with a university and lend their talents to police agencies, prosecutors, defense attorneys, or courts.

What is a forensic (police) psychologist?

Many people wish to become involved in what has popularly become known as “forensic psychology”. They want to be involved in psychological crime scene reconstruction, psychological profiling and tracking serial criminals. Strictly speaking, this is not forensic psychology. This is police psychology or a form of criminal psychology. Forensic psychology deals with the determination of the ability of an accused person to assist in his own defense or stand trial.

There are few if any universities or colleges that have formal educational programs in police psychology, as most psychology departments consider this too applied. To get into this field, the best course of action is to get a strong clinical psychology background (a Ph.D. is preferred) and then obtain employment with a large police department or other law enforcement agency that has a behavioral science unit.

The job market for criminal psychologists is very small. We have very few serial rapists or murderers in the United States to profile, and the FBI behavioral science unit will perform this function at no cost for law enforcement agencies. Most police departments cannot afford to hire a police psychologist full time.

What is Criminology?
The term criminology is sometimes used interchangeably with forensic science. In fact, criminology is a social science that studies how and why people commit crimes, or crime causation. It is part of most criminal justice curricula in colleges and universities.

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