I receive emails from students with questions about forensic science. My goal is to help as much as I can and to give accurate career advise, so I will be posting the emails and my responses. Comments and questions are invited and welcome.
In an email I received the following inquiry:
“I mainly wanted to know the steps and classes one would have to take to become a forensic (anthropologist and chemist). The other thing I would like to know is how hard getting a job is and if you believe that I would have the ability to succeed in a field like this.
1. What are the steps I would have to take to become a forensic anthropologist and chemist?
2. What is the difference between forensics and criminology?
3. What college would you recommend are the best for pursuing a career in forensics?”
My expertise is in forensic biology, chemistry and toxicology, as well as the disciplines that are currently listed on this page: Disciplines
So I can answer a few of your questions based off of my knowledge, and the other questions I will forward to someone that can better assist.
Whether or not your will be able to succeed in this field all depends on how passionate you are about forensics, your understanding of what it is, preparation through studies and hands-on experience. A career in forensic science is very broad and general, because there are tons of different specialities and disciplines under the term forensic science. Each specialty requires a different academic path.
For example, if you are interested in pursuing a career as a forensic chemist, you would need to be strong in chemistry, get an undergraduate degree in chemistry or in one of the similar sciences, pursue a masters degree in chemistry or forensic chemistry specifically, take a few supplemental forensics classes and get an internship at a laboratory. A forensic chemists job consists of analyzing and identifying substances like drugs, paraphernalia, substances encountered at the scene of a fire, just a few examples. Working mostly in a laboratory.
I am not quite sure what the path for an anthropologist is because I haven’t researched that field as of yet. I can get back to you on this if you’d like. But I have a feeling it is quite different than that of a chemist. But I think that it is possible to study both, to be strong in chemistry, and to study anthropology as well. As I said, I can confirm with my colleagues their thoughts on this.
The difference between forensics and criminology is that forensics is a broad umbrella term, under which criminology is a sub-discipline. My understanding of what criminology is, that it is the study of the psychology of a crime. We just recently interviewed a criminologist, you can take a look at what she does here, and the type of classes she took in pursuing her career: Interview
We have a directory that lists the different types of schools that are available for different forensic interests. I would suggest thinking about where your strengths are…because that might help to determine whether you would prefer to work in the lab as a scientist or on the scene as an evidence technician, etc. Maybe take a peak at the list of disciplines that exist in forensic science, to see what interests you most. Here is our directory of schools: Programs
I hope this helps. If not, please feel free to write back with more questions.
Any further advice for this student is welcomed. Thanks!