Academic Requirements by Employers
Applicants to the graduate program should research the requirements for the chosen discipline of forensic science and for prospective employers in that field to become fully informed of particular requirements that may affect eligibility for employment.
In addition, applicants interested in forensic pathology or forensic psychology should be aware that practitioners in those areas typically have doctoral degrees. Therefore, the application letter should clearly reflect what the ultimate career goals are and how the degree program will help the individual reach those goals.
While the M.S. in Forensic Sciences prepares students for employment in particular fields, prospective employers may have other requirements, especially related to laboratory accreditation. To ensure high standards of quality for forensic practitioners, agencies governing laboratory accreditation may require employees to have courses not offered in the OSU forensic sciences program. In the area of forensic DNA analysis, for example, the FBI sets the following requirements:
The analyst shall be an employee of the laboratory and meet the following qualifications:
Standard 5.4.1 Minimal education requirements: The analyst shall have a bachelor’s (or its equivalent) or an advanced degree in a biology, chemistry, or forensic science-related area and shall have successfully completed course work (graduate or undergraduate level) covering the following subject areas: biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology; and course work and/or training in statistics and/or population genetics as it applies to forensic DNA analysis.*
Of these requirements, molecular biology, statistics, and population genetics are mandated courses in the DNA track; however, biochemistry and genetics are not offered. Therefore, any student entering the DNA program should either have biochemistry and genetics courses on the undergraduate transcript or plan on making up any deficiency before seeking employment.
In addition to national standards and guidelines, some states have additional requirements for positions in the forensic laboratory. For example, some states may require those analysts who perform forensic alcohol analysis to have analytical chemistry; in such cases, an individual who has taken the course would have a competitive edge in applying for a position in the laboratory area (controlled substances, toxicology, or DNA) where this testing is performed. Advance awareness of standards by employers may help aspiring scientists become more marketable as they seek positions in forensic laboratories.
*Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories,” FBI Laboratory Services Web site. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/lab/codis/qas_testlabs. Accessed 06/09/2011.