What do you want to do?
- Medical Examiner
- The highest pay but you have to be able to handle death and autopsies. 7+ years of college and uncertain work hours. Although there are routine protocols, the various ways people die create sufficient variety to combat boredom and provide a problem-solving challenge. The Medical Examiner requires a medical degree and in Iowa is appointed by the County Board. Select a residency that provides a forensic emphasis. A chemistry or biology degree at the undergraduate level is a good major.
- Forensic Odontologist
- Consultant specializing in examination of teeth for identification. Also does examination of bite marks.
- Forensic Anthropologist
- Consultant specializing in examination of bones.
- Crime Laboratory Analyst
- Reasonably good pay and you generally work indoors with relatively stable work hours and relatively clean samples but the cases are often quite repetitive and routine. The microanalysis section probably provides the most variety but currently it is being phased out or scaled down in most crime laboratories. It will come back but look for slim pickings during the current "bottom-line" management fad. The crime laboratory usually requires a bachelor's degree in a natural science for any of the specialties. The best degree overall is chemistry. If you are interested in DNA testing, then biology with genetics and biochemistry is required. If you are interested in trace evidence examination, good electives for the chemistry degree include optical mineralogy, microbiology, botany and textile courses. You should, of course, take the crime detection & investigation course as one of your electives. Occasionally evidence is encountered that requires other specialties, such as entomology, anthropology, zoology and botany. These areas may be adequate to obtain employment but do not expect to work exclusively in the specialty as not even a large laboratory receives enough evidence in those areas to fill an individual's time. One combination that would probably get you a job in a crime lab would be a major that contained sufficient background to do both forensic archeology and DNA on the samples recovered.
- Crime Scene Examiner
- You will work whenever and wherever crime occurs, indoors or outdoors, day or night, and have to be able to deal with dead bodies and other messy situations but there certainly is a lot less routine. The pay is not great but few folk voluntarily leave a crime scene section for other duties. The intellectual challenge is still there and the scientific basis of the field is developing. Some tasks will become more routine or more sophisticated but overall it could be an exciting time for the next decade. The crime scene examiner should have a bachelor's degree either in a natural science with emphasis in law enforcement and crime scene processing or a criminal justice degree with emphasis in natural science.
- Forensic Engineer
- You will deal with traffic accidents, fire investigations, and a variety of wrongful injury cases. The work is much like that of the crime scene examiner but with fewer bodies and better hours and generally much higher pay. You earn that pay by the degree you obtain. The forensic engineer requires an engineering degree. The usual specialties include electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, materials engineering and traffic engineering.
- Academic Assistant – psychology/social science/statistics
- Technical Assistant – computer analyst, polygraph, composite drawing, photographer.
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