Certified Forensic Scientist: Career Options and Certification Info

Oct 20, 2021

Forensic scientists evaluate scientific evidence and can work in a variety of settings, which include laboratories, crime labs, courts, and morgues. A bachelor's degree is typically required and master's degree programs are also available.

Essential Information

Forensic scientists gather and scientifically assess the evidence from crime scenes. There are many aspects to this procedure, thus forensic scientists can work in many different positions. Earning voluntary certification demonstrates a level of professional competency and may lead to enhanced job prospects.

Required Education Bachelor's degree at minimum; master's degree are available
Other Requirements Voluntary certification available
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 14% for all forensic science technicians*
Median Salary (2020) $60,590 for all forensic science technicians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options for Certified Forensic Scientists

With the proper education and career experience, forensic scientists can work in a number of different positions. Typically, forensic scientists work in a laboratory or crime lab, evaluating evidence that is delivered to them. However, they can also be recruited to attend to a crime scene and gather information on site. Forensic specialists may also work in clinical settings, courts, morgues or universities, depending on their specialty and certification.

Certification Information for Forensic Scientists

Certification proves that a forensic scientist has reached a certain standard of understanding and education within the forensic science discipline. It does not, however, legally allow a forensic scientist to practice. They may or may not need to apply for state licensure before beginning to work.

There are a number of certifications offered through the American College of Forensic Examiners International (ACFEI). Designations include a Certified Forensic Consultant (CFC) or a forensic professional trained in forensic law. Forensic scientists interested in helping children and families involved in domestic abuse cases might pursue certification as a Certified Master Forensic Social Worker (CMRSW). A Registered Investigator (RI) checks the competency and efficiency of investigators in the forensic field. The Certified Medical Investigator (CMI) designation is available to anyone in the forensic discipline who can demonstrate familiarity with the legal intricacies that accompany identifying and securing evidence.

Each certification has a different set of requirements, including professional references, years of specific experience and certain educational degrees. Once qualified, individuals need to sit for and pass an exam. Applicants for the credentialing program must also be members of the ACFEI, which offers free continuing education courses and inclusion in their online forensic specialist database.

The International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS) offers a unique certification, the Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE). Computer forensics is becoming a popular field, and CFCEs know how to gather and assess electronic evidence.

Salary and Employment Information for Forensic Scientists

According to 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic science technicians made a median salary of $60,590 a year. Industries that employed the highest numbers of these professionals included local and state government agencies, as well as medical and diagnostic laboratories. The BLS projects a 14% increase in jobs for forensic science technicians between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the national average for all career fields.

Forensic scientists typically analyze evidence from crime labs, but can also work in a variety of other settings. A bachelor's degree is usually required. Numerous certification programs are available, which include Certified Medical Investigator (CMI), Certified Master Forensic Social Worker (CMRSW), and Registered Investigator (RI) designations.

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