Team Member: How to get into CSI, Crime Labs or Pathology

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Guest Post Author Kelly Elkins, PhD; DyingWords.net blog, 2021 Bio Update

Kelly Elkins, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Townson University (MD) and a founding editor-in-chief of the “Journal of Forensic Science Education.” She has also authored 3 books: “Forensic DNA Biology, a Laboratory Manual”; “Introduction to Forensic Chemistry,” and her latest, “Next Generation Sequencing in Forensic Science — a Primer.”

I teach at one of the places that has a strong track record in forensic science education, research and post-graduate employment.

The “forensic sciences” encompass many diverse specialties. Many require specialized training. So the real question for students is: what do you want to do? Do you want to investigate crime scenes and collect evidence? Do you want to work in the lab? Do you want to analyze DNA evidence or fingerprints or firearms?

These jobs require an education in a natural or physical science, like chemistry or biology or forensic chemistry or forensic biology. The Forensic Education Programs Accreditation Committee (FEPAC) has put their stamp of approval on some forensic science programs that meet their requirements. Most FEPAC-accredited programs are housed in Chemistry or Biology departments so you’ll learn the science with the rest of their majors. You will take specialized forensic science courses that will prepare you to work in the crime lab.

If you just want to investigate crime scenes and send the evidence back to the lab, you’ll still need to know how the lab works and the analyses they perform so you don’t send them the kitchen sink.

If you want to work in a coroner’s office or with a medical examiner, you should major in (forensic) biology. Minor in chemistry. Or minor in criminalistics. Or even death investigation, if that’s an option. Take courses in anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, toxicology, and crime scene investigation. Apply for jobs as a death investigator or pathology assistant. These will serve you well in your choice. If you later decide you want to perform autopsies as the pathologist, you have the prerequisite education to continue further.

Whatever you choose, Good luck!

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