Remember, what you see on TV is a dramatized account of how crimes are solved. Many are never solved, and they all take much more than an hour to figure out. Results from tests may take quite awhile. There are many different people and agencies that must work together, and that does not always happen smoothly. Not every town has the ability to hire enough help, and there is considerable paperwork involved when investigating a crime. For more comparisons, see:
The definition of 'Forensic' as an adjective refers to evidence used in courts to determine the facts of a crime, and also scientific research that proves or disproves a theory. Forensics is the study of arguments and debate. It comes from the Latin word 'forum'. The word was first used about 1659.
There are a number of different careers you might choose in order to work at crime scenes or with evidence. Job titles vary by location, but three names for someone who works at a crime scene are: Forensic, Crime Scene, or Evidence Technologist.
Evidence is numbered at the crime scene.
A Forensic Technologist typically has a Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Science. This person collects evidence such as fingerprints, hair, fibers, clothing, and blood. He might also take pictures of the crime scene. He may testify at a trial as to his findings.
Keep in mind that the title "Tech" doesn't necessarily mean the job requires only a Technical School certificate, although there are some which require an Associate of Science. Some 'Tech' jobs involve a 4 year degree. The term is short for 'technologist.'
Types of fibers, microscopic view
- A Forensic Tech may specialize in fingerprint evidence.
Here is a criminologist attempting to make a fingerprint match.
- Ballistics Experts are always in demand, to determine how bullets were fired and from what type of gun.
All the bullets pictured above have been fired.
Showing the size of a bullet cartridge. This is likely a mock crime scene.
- An Arson Investigator-Working closely with the fire department, this person would determine the origin and cause of a fire and whether it was deliberately set: What is the pattern of the burned area? Where did it start? Was it an accident, like an electrical fire, fallen cigarette, or a tipped candle, or did it start 'on purpose' with an accelerant, such as something like gasoline, lighter fluid, paint, or anything else that would catch fire quickly?
An arson investigator would be likely to have a 4 year degree plus added certification in Fire Science and Investigation. A major in Criminal Justice, Science, Engineering, or Chemistry would be an appropriate path towards ultimately being an arson investigator. Frequently, arson investigators have experience as firefighters, on a paid or voluntary basis, in order to become more familiar with fire investigation.
Here is a page describing fire investigation:
How can you tell where this fire started?
You may be interested in doing DNA research as it pertains to crime: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/genetic/dna-evidence.htm
A Criminalist would have a 4 year degree in Natural Science or Physical Science, with an emphasis on Chemistry as well.
A casting made of a shoe print found near a crime scene
A plane crash requires investigating: What happened, how, when, and why?
There are also criminologists who have a specialty such as Cyber Crime or Computer Crimes; a Digital Evidence Analyst, or a Computer Forensic Examiner. These crimes involve fraud or scams, identity theft, online stalking, pirating music, or 'simply' examining the hard drive of a computer to see what activity is on it. Demand for this specialty has been growing rapidly.
Here is the FBI site on Cyber Crimes:
All of these specialties can be studied after you obtain a degree in Criminology, Law, Law Enforcement, the Court System, Corrections, or Corrections Policy.
Crime scene investigators of most types will work with coroners or Pathologists (M.D.s) to determine the cause of death of a person when a crime is suspected.
Coursework for a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology would include:
- Anatomy & Physiology
- Crime Scene Evidence
- Crime Scene Law
- Violent Crime Scene Investigation
- Criminology Theory
- Research Methods
You may also need to study photography and death investigation to add to your knowledge as you do your work. With new methods and technology becoming available all the time, you will need to continue your education throughout your career.
Be aware that working in this field means you may work any time or any shift during a 24 hour period, in any kind of weather, inside or outside, and sometimes in unpleasant or unsafe environments. You need to have good communications skills, be good at writing, have good critical thinking skills, have solid computer skills and work well with others, and it will be helpful if you are physically fit.
There are a number of schools in Minnesota that offer Forensic Science degrees-again, make sure the school is accredited in order to be sure it is accepted by law enforcement agencies:
Metro State offers a 4 year degree in Computer Forensics, Criminal Justice, Human Services with an emphasis on Corrections, and Law Enforcement as well as a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice:
Hamline University offers a Bachelors in Criminal Justice; Brown College offers both an Associates and a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice as well. http://www.hamline.edu/cla/forensic-sciences/
Alexandria Tech offers both an Associates and a Bachelors Degree in Law Enforcement.
Hibbing offers an Associates Degree in Law Enforcement; Inver Hills Community College offers an Associate Degrees in Law Enforcement, and in Criminal Justice.
MCTC offers an Associates Degree in: Computer Forensics, Criminal Justice, Homeland Security, and Law Enforcement.
Bemidji State offers both an Associates and a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice. http://www.bemidjistate.edu/academics/departments/criminal_justice/
Here is a link to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that may also give you some information on these careers: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/bca/bca-divisions/forensic-science/Pages/forensic-programs-crime-scene.aspx