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Author Topic: Graduate degree advice  (Read 16347 times)

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Offline Megan Cleek

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Graduate degree advice
« on: July 14, 2014, 08:39:50 AM »
Happy Monday all!

I have followed a couple of threads (several years old) here, that did not highly favor forensic science graduate degrees, but I thought that I might go ahead with my question anyway!

I have a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice (2004), I started work in forensics (crime scene investigation, and later firearm and toolmark examination) in 2008, and now I have an opportunity to return to school! Because my bachelor's degree is not in a "hard" science, I thought that it might be best to continue my education, if not only to keep up with the expectations of the legal community.

An online program would be best for me; I understand that online programs may lack in hands-on aspects, but I believe that I am able to get those working in my lab. I am familiar with the University of Florida program, and am just now looking into the Oklahoma State University program, does anyone have other recommendations, better suggestions, warnings, etc.? Any comments/advice would be a great help!

Thanks everyone! :)
Megan Cleek
Maryland State Police
Forensic Sciences Division - FATMU
221 Milford Mill Road
Pikesville, MD 21208

Offline Zachary Kotas

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Re: Graduate degree advice
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2014, 10:00:33 AM »
Hey Megan!

First congrats on the grad school acceptance.  I have my BS in Zoology (which gives me the hard science) then I got an MS in Forensic Science (criminalistics, not the investigative).  I have been asked a number of times, "was it worth it to get the MS"?  First of all, I am still paying this MS degree off :(.  That being said, I think that this degree really helped me get my current position for the sheer fact that it got me an internship in the lab that I currently work in.  So that being said, I would do it again. 

In your situation, already working in the field, I would think long and hard about it.  An online degree will not get you the "lab science" experience that other programs will.  Most labs that I know do not pay any more for advanced degrees.  However, most labs do require advanced degrees to pursue admin roles later in life.  So, if you see yourself pursuing admin at some point in your career, I think getting the masters now would be better than later in life. 

I hope this helps.  See you at AFTE next year (I hope ;))

Zach Kotas
Denver Crime Lab

Offline Katharina Babcock

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Re: Graduate degree advice
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2014, 11:29:52 AM »
Hi Megan,
I have been in FA/TM for almost 15 years and a supervisor of FA/TM for about 6-7 years. I just received an MBA because I would like to move up administratively and also to have options. I felt that I was becoming very non-marketable with a BA in Criminology (some but not much hard science) and although I don't plan on leaving forensics, I wanted the freedom to do so if I wanted. With all that being said, I think any graduate degree (whether it is science or forensics) would benefit you in the long run. There is no downside other than the hard work you put into it and also the fact that it's not free. If your work pays for school, I'd say do not hesitate. I think you should go for you. It'll always set you aside from others in the field and remember that there's a bunch of buzz out there that Bachelor degrees are the new high school diploma and Master degrees are viewed as Bachelor degrees. I don't really have an opinion either way on that but will say it's good to make yourself more marketable. If you can only do online, it's best to talk with people who have gone through the FL and/or OK program and see where they are now and what they thought. There is also Strathclyde but that's really far away. Best wishes to you in your future endeavors. Katharina Babcock-NM DPS

Offline Robert Thompson

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Re: Graduate degree advice
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2014, 09:35:23 AM »
Hi Megan!
If you are looking at degree programs I would advise that going to a FEPAC accredited program would be very beneficial.  The link following is a list of undergrad and grad forensic science course programs that are accredited:
I would favor a degree that had hands-on laboratory in its curricula to fill in the gaps.
Good Luck! BTW, I'm a part-time Grad student at George Washington University here in DC.
/Robert T.

Offline Zak Carr

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Re: Graduate degree advice
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2014, 01:06:24 PM »
I decided to go back to school for a Master's degree after being in FA/TM for over six years and having a BS in Forensic Science (Forensic Chemistry basically) from Eastern Kentucky University.  I quickly began to think that taking a multitude of survey-level Forensic Science classes in an MS-FS program would bore me to death considering that I have gained a decent understanding of what the other disciplines do just based on daily interaction with coworkers over the previous six years.  My biggest concern was that I did not want to pay a large sum of money only for the piece of paper at the end and not learn anything new.

I wanted to find a degree that would interest me, diversify my qualifications and still be marketable within our profession.  Much like Kat, I looked at MBA programs and MPA programs, and decided to earn the MPA degree.  My opinion is that if you have already began working within a discipline of FS and do not plan on changing, a MS-FS may cover much non-relevant info from all of the other disciplines.  If you are concerned about your lack of hard science education making you less marketable, I believe that your work experience should cover you in the "hard science" department.  If I had two applicants for a position, each having the same number of years experience as a FA/TM examiner, I would not let a MS-FS versus a BS-FS be the deciding factor.

Lastly, the MBA or MPA degrees may set you apart from even those with MS-FS when an opportunity for promotion arises since MBA/MPA courses cover leadership, budgeting, policy analysis, performance management, ethics, etc.  This is of course assuming that you would like to move into management (which you did not specifically mention). 
Hope this helps,
Zak Carr
Cadre Forensics


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