The thought of going back to college to study forensic science crosses many people’s minds. As a first step, finding out on how good it is as a career is a must and requires further investigation.
Is forensic science a good career? Forensic science is a good career as it gives immense job satisfaction with good salaries. However, forensic science is also very competitive with limited job opportunities available for graduates, as TV shows like NCIS and CSI have increased the number of people studying forensic science. Leading to not enough job opportunities when they graduate.
Think of it as any other job, only that it comes along with experiences you’ll live to cherish. You’ll also get to interact with so many other professionals in law enforcement and medical fields.
Many forensic scientists describe their jobs as intriguing. This shouldn’t come as a surprise given that forensic science is all about decoding mysteries using science.
Forensic Science Pros and Cons
Like any other job, forensic science comes along with a myriad of challenges as well as fulfilling experiences. It is interesting to note though that the pros, as far as forensic science is involved, outweigh the cons by far.
Forensics science careers have many benefits, making them appealing to those who want to branch out into this area. Let’s take a look at some of the pros.
A career in forensic science will certainly put you in the upper 50% professionals who earn at least $55,000 a year. It gets even better if you land in a position working for the federal government where the figure can easily hit the $100,000 mark.
Note that the figures mentioned above come with a price. This is not to say though, that the price, which is in most cases years of specialization, is a con or a downside. Think of it as the process one has to go through to become a forensic scientist.
In simple words, forensic science is a huge field. Specialize in one field and you’ll most likely be in demand. Specialized positions complete with state or federal certifications as well as a masters or doctorate degree will get you noticed.
Meaningful Contribution To The Society
Forensic scientists work closely with law enforcement agencies. This means that as a forensic scientist, you’ll get the chance to solve crime. You could help catch a serial killer or even save kidnapped children before it is too late.
The testimony you give in court as an expert could also help an innocent man avoid serving time in jail. In a nutshell, your impact as a professional will be felt when it comes to preventing crime.
Identify Victims of Disaster
In forensic science, any type of organism is 99.9% identifiable through DNA analysis. That is exactly why forensic science plays a key role in exonerating wrongly accused people, apprehending criminals and identifying victims of disaster.
For instance, the DNA Shoah project contains database of thousands of people who lost their loved ones during the Holocaust. The database can help reunited friends and loved ones separated during that time. It could also go a long way to positively identify Holocaust victims who are still anonymously buried in Europe.
Notably, after the terrorist attacks of the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre on September 11th in 2001 (commonly known as 9/11), victims could only be identified through DNA in tissue and bone fragments. As complex as the work my sound, it can ease the pain and suffering of people who seek closure of the whereabouts of their loved ones after a disaster.
Forensic science is mostly teamwork. That’s the beauty that comes along with jobs that require forensic analysis. If you’re in law enforcement, you’ll closely work with high ranking government officials in the secret service.
If on the other hand you choose to work at a private lab, you’ll get to work other professionals, mostly scientists like biochemists and chemical engineers. This will make it easy for you to make friends with respected people in science who you may only have heard or read about before.
Many forensic scientists who work with the government and private firms eventually retire. While that is a fact of life, it retirement in forensic sciences jobs often lead to other greater opportunities like teaching. That explains why many forensic science lecturers and professors are senior citizens.
Many do it out of passion while others do it for the money. Either way, you still get to contribute to the betterment of the field by teaching younger generations not just from books but also from your own personal experiences.
A never ending learning experience
Think about forensic scientists who work with anthropologists and historians. Many of them help in dating fossils in a bid to unravel what life was like millions of years ago. It may sound a little bit baffling but like historians say, to better understand and prepare for the future, you have to study the past. Forensic scientists play a key role in that endeavor.
Analyzing DNA samples of popular figures who lived centuries ago is for example an experience that opens up one to a new perspective of life in medieval ages. Only forensic scientists and their counterparts in pure sciences experience that.
Funding for Research Projects
Scientists research a lot. Some of the projects they undertake call for huge investments in terms of time and money. It is important to note that in many cases, research studies conducted for years have led to ground-breaking discoveries that have changed the way humans live.
Forensic scientists sometimes find themselves in the middle of such studies. Fortunately for many of them, funding and finding support from the government or private sector is almost always guaranteed. This is especially the case where the research in question looks promising with a possibility for long-term solutions to problem that has remained a challenge for years.
There are a number of downsides to a forensic science career and these cons need to be carefully considered before embarking on studying and learning about forensic science.
TV shows like CSI and NCIS have made forensic science very ‘sexy’, showing it as an incredibly rewarding and fascinating career, this has made forensic science very competitive, as more and more students enroll onto to learn forensic science.
So many people graduate in forensic science each year as a result with some places not having enough jobs available for these graduates. This means many of these forensic science graduates struggle to find work where they live.
Before embarking on a forensic science career, it’s important to understand the demand where you live or where you plan to work in forensic science. If the salaries are lower than the national average, then this could indicate there are too many forensic science experts in your area. With the flipside being higher salaries potentially indicating not enough forensic scientists are available to meet demands.
Forensic science can be a 9 to 5 job, but it can also be unsociable requiring out of normal hours working. This could include working late evenings, very early morning, during the night, weekends and during public holidays.
Some people will not mind too much at the unsociable hours involved if they are getting a lot of job satisfaction. However, as people get older, have relationships to having children, their perspective on life changes and working unsociable hours might not fit into their lifestyle.
Potential Job Hazards
Forensic scientists handle a wide range of bodily fluids including saliva, sperm, sweat and blood. Interestingly, ‘Forensic Magazine’ warns that there isn’t one special or particular type of glove that shields the human skin or hands from all hazardous fluids. This calls for extreme care when handling forensic subject matter.
Forensic scientists also use many different kinds of specialized forensic lab equipment that use Ultra Violet light. Such exposure can easily take a toll on one’s eyesight if prolonged. Add this to the fact that they may sometimes be exposed to radioactive elements in the lab. Ultimately, it becomes hard for one to deny that there are adverse health effects that come along with some specialized fields of forensic science.
You may have heard before that forensic science is not for the faint hearted. You’ll most likely take on very disturbing cases. Gory images of crime scenes could leave you baffled at how evil some people can be.
It gets even worse with the fact that the testimony you give in court can very easily put you in harm’s way especially if you get a gang member convicted. Put people away through your expert testimony in court and you immediately become a threat to criminals. Ultimately, your privacy and safety may not be guaranteed.
Backlog of DNA evidence that hasn’t been processed because of time and costs involved stand out as one of the main challenges forensic scientists grapple with. Note that DNA evidence falls into two main categories – DNA evidence from open and active criminal investigations and DNA samples from convicts trying to overturn their convictions.
Evidence from criminal investigations tend to cause more backlogs compared to evidence from convicts. Either way, backlogs make it hard for forensic scientists to analyze samples on time. That’s because they have to thoroughly comb evidence from hundreds, sometimes thousands of samples just to find biological material. This is importance because biological material must be identified before any DNA sample can be processed.
There’s no doubt at all that forensic science is a good career. Like nearly all other career options though, it comes along with rewards as well as challenges. It pays well no doubt and you’ll most likely get to discover things that’ll leave you with a fresh perspective as far as human behavior and DNA are concerned.