Forensic Web Links
Reddy's Forensic Homepage
The ultimate source of Forensic Science links
American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS)
American Board of Criminalistics (ABC)
American Society of Crime Lab Directors (ASCLD)
American Society of Questioned Document Examiners (ASQDE)
American Society For Testing and Materials (ASTM)
Canadian Society of Forensic Science (CSFS)
California Association of Criminalistics (CAC)
International Association for Identification (IAI)
Mid-Atlantic Association of Forensic Scientists (MAAFS)
Midwestern Association of Forensic Scientists (MAFS)
Southern Association of Forensic Scientists (SAFS)
Northwest Association of Forensic Scientists (NWAFS)
Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists (SWAFS)
National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS)
NCJRS is a Federally-sponsored information resource. The site features more than 1,800 full-text publications, a searchable abstracts database, a calendar of events, and reference and referral services.
McCrone Research Institute
The Institute teaches more than 50 intensive courses each year, publishes 'The Microscope' (a quarterly journal), and hosts INTER/MICRO, an annual internationally recognized meeting for microscopists. Please visit their website for a calendar of courses.
The Training and Records Testimony Team (TRTT) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division provides training and expert witness testimony in the science of fingerprints, including all the proper preparation/ processing of friction ridge skin, and criminal history report data to agencies with authorized access to the CJIS systems. The TRTT offers a variety of classes which are conducted at the FBI/CJIS Division in Clarksburg, West Virginia. In addition, some of our courses are available via Video Teleconferencing (VTC). Agencies are encouraged to send their employees to the FBI/CJIS Division to obtain fingerprint and criminal history training from the TRTT. The internal classes are scheduled on a quarterly basis and advertised on the FBI's Internet site at http://www.fbi.gov.
American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board
For year round ASCLD/LAB Training courses click on link above.
RTI International under a cooperative agreement (2008-DN-BK-K180, 2010-DN-BX-K177) with the National Institute of Justice is offering ForensicDB. ForensicDB is a free, community-driven, peer-reviewed, and Web-accessible database of multiple spectral methods, including nominal mass, accurate mass, and FTIR data. The database is searchable by spectrum, structure, calculated properties, and submitted information such as compound name.
Frequently Asked Questions
Forensic science is the application of natural sciences to matters of the law. In practice, forensic science draws upon physics, chemistry, biology, and other scientific principles and methods. Forensic science is concerned with the recognition, identification, individualization, and evaluation of physical evidence. Forensic scientists present their findings as expert witnesses in the court of law.
Forensic scientists are often involved in the search for and examination of physical evidence. This physical evidence is useful for establishing or excluding an association between a suspect of a crime and the scene of the crime and/or the victim(s) or between the victim(s) and the crime scene. The scientist will sometimes visit the scene to determine the sequence of events, any indicators as to who the perpetrator might be, and to join in the search for evidence. The following is a general listing of sub-disciplines and associated examinations: Forensic Biologists analyze blood and other body fluids. Forensic Trace Evidence examiners analyze hairs and fibers, paint, soil, and glass. Forensic Chemists analyze flammable substances and evidence from a scene of a suspected arson. Forensic Drug Chemists analyze suspected drugs of abuse such as marihuana, cocaine, and heroin. Forensic Toxicologists analyze specimens from individuals such as blood and urine for alcohol, drugs, and poisons. Other Forensic Scientists specialize in footwear, tool mark, and tire impressions; fingerprints; firearms; explosives; questioned documents; odontology; and/or engineering. Forensic scientists can appear for the prosecution or defense in criminal matters, and plaintiff or defendant in civil ones. They present their findings and opinions in written form either as formal statements of evidence or reports. Most often, they are required to attend court to present their findings in person.
General forensic information can be found in several locations in your local library. There are also many Internet sites that have information about forensic science. Reedy's Forensic Home Page at www.forensicpage.com is an organized site for specific links. Informational links for common disciplines and careers in forensic science can also be found there.
A background in math and sciences including biology, chemistry, and physics will be helpful. A composition or writing course may also be helpful. A solid education will enable you to continue your studies in college and prepare you for a career in one of the many different forensic science fields. You may also want to consider doing an internship in a crime laboratory to gain experience in the forensic application of science and to determine if forensic science is right for you. Contact the laboratory you are interested in working for to find out further details. Unfortunately, there is no official listing for such opportunities.
The minimum acceptable training is a Bachelors degree in forensic science, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, medical technology, or in a closely related field which must have included or been supplemented by twenty credit hours in chemistry. Ideally, your coursework should include the following: microscopy, statistics, and laboratory work.
A Bachelor's degree is essential for a job in the following forensic disciplines: drug analysis, toxicology, trace evidence, and forensic biology including DNA analysis.
The following articles contain additional information about educational requirements for a career in Forensic Science:
Furton, K., Hsu, Y-H., Cole, MD. What Educational Background do Crime Laboratory Directors Require From Applicants? J Forensic Sci, 1999;44(1):128-132.
Higgins, LM, Selavka, CM. Do Forensic Science Graduate Programs Fulfill the Needs of the Forensic Science Community? J Forensic Sci, 1988;33:1015-21.
Siegal, JA. The Appropriate Educational Background for Entry Level Forensic Scientists: A Survey of Practitioners. J Forensic Sci, 1988;33:1065-8.
Gaensslen, RE, Lee HC. Regional Cooperation and Regional Centers Among ForensicSciencePrograms in the United States. J Forensic Sci, 1988;33:1069-70.
Lee, HC, Gaensslen, RE. Forensic Science Laboratory/Forensic Science Program Cooperation and Relationships: The View From the Forensic Science Laboratory. J Forensic Sci, 1988;33:1071-3.
For a list and links to individual schools, please refer to the colleges and universities list on the American Academy of Forensic Science Web site, www.aafs.org or Reedy's Forensic Home Page at www.forensicpage.com.
The majority of positions within a crime lab require a bachelor's degree in a physical science. Some universities offer a degree in Forensic Science. However, if the university you are attending does not offer such a program there are other majors you can consider. The major that you choose should reflect the forensic discipline in which you wish to work. For example, drug analysts should have a degree with a concentration in chemistry, while DNA analysts should have an emphasis on molecular biology. If you want to work in forensic DNA analysis, you must have coursework in molecular biology, statistics, genetics, and biochemistry. While Forensic Science degrees are not required, most provide a curriculum that includes ancillary courses that are helpful in the career. These include criminal law, courtroom procedures, and expert testimony courses.
There is no general requirement for a Masters degree, although if you are interested in employment at a specific laboratory, you should contact the director of the laboratory to determine what they require. A Masters degree in forensic science, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, medical technology, or a closely related field may substitute for experience and are useful for career advancement. Again, contact the specific laboratory to inquire if this is their policy. Many examiners/analysts have a BS in chemistry or biology and an MS in forensic science. For specialty areas, advanced degrees are helpful but not required.
Some laboratories offer trainee positions that do not require prior training in the forensic science field. Trainee positions are not often available. It may be necessary to consider doing an internship in a crime laboratory to gain experience. Unfortunately, there is no official listing for these opportunities and you will need to contact the laboratory you are interested in working for. The internship may be easiest to do while you are a student. In fact, some universities give credit for and/or require an internship.
Internships provide students with the opportunity to experience the "real world" of forensic science and the crime laboratory. They also provide recent graduates with the relevant experience that crime laboratory directors seek from applicants. Getting an internship in any laboratory and learning about the theory behind the techniques that are employed can be helpful. This will provide experience in general laboratory procedures as well as safety processes that are employed in laboratories. Be prepared to perform basic functions such as washing glassware or clerical duties.
At this time, only DNA laboratories have stated specific requirements. The latest FBI DNA Quality Assurance Audit Document Issue 10/00 states that each examiner/analyst should meet the following degree/educational requirements: a B.A./B.S. degree or its equivalent in a biology, chemistry, or forensic science related area; college course work or classes covering the subject areas of biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology; and college course work or training which covers the subject area of statistics and/or population genetics.
The majority of forensic science laboratories in the U.S. are publicly operated. The laboratories may be part of the federal, state, county, or local government (Lee et al, 15). There are also a number of private laboratories that operate independently, are associated with universities, or are under contractual agreements with government agencies (Lee et al, 16). The starting salary is dependent on the above factors and individuals should contact the specific laboratory that they are interested in. Salaries for Crime Laboratory analysts vary from region as well as position. The starting salary is generally around $30,000. Analysts with many years of experience may make $60,000-$70,000.
Most analysts work in a laboratory setting for 8 hours per day. Some analysts may assist at crime scenes where the hours can vary throughout the day and night.
In addition to job listings on this site, there are other sites which may be helpful. Check out the American Society of Crime Lab Director's home page at www.ascld.org. ASCLD members are laboratory directors and if they have a job opening, they usually send the information to the web master for posting. Also, go to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences' home page at www.aafs.org and click on "job opportunities". The AAFS lists job openings according to title and receive postings from numerous laboratory locations.
Courtroom testimony is an essential job duty for a forensic analyst. Therefore public speaking and the ability to convey scientific concepts in understandable terms is vital. Most laboratories require applicants to undergo some sort of background evaluation prior to employment. This may include polygraphs, drug screens, or background investigations. Drug use, alcohol abuse, theft, and even excessive traffic violations are often causes for dismissal from the application process.
The following has been excerpted from the ABC: