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Author Topic: Career transition advice needed. A good "stepping stone" approach?  (Read 19048 times)

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MTHall49

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I have read announcements for some positions I felt qualified for but was wondering if their is something I could look for as an intermediate step.  A couple of people have offered to help me locally to obtain employment as an armorer.  Several possibilities of an armorer in local law enforcement.  The question is, would experience either as an armorer, or even as "firearms" or "ammunition" inspector be of some value?  I know the latter sounds like a long shot, but there may be an opening soon at a military base for "ammunition inspector" or similar.
I am open to any and all advice.
Thanks very much.

Offline Brenda Lawrence

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Re: Career transition advice needed. A good "stepping stone" approach?
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2006, 03:07:08 PM »
Well, I would say of the choices you listed you'd get more valuable experience by being an armorer, however I don't think this would help you in getting a position as a firearms examiner.  It would make you more attractive than someone who had absolutely no experience with firearms, but that is about it.  While armorer skills and familiarity with ammunition are certainly necessary and welcome skills, there are additional skills that are often harder to find that most labs look for (microscope abilities, pattern recognition abilities, etc.) 

In my opinion your best bet would to be to try and get a technician position in a crime lab somewhere, however those can be scarce.  Also it is not a guarantee that you'll move up the ladder.  It does at least give you some exposure, possibly some training and you can start to make a lot of contacts and show how interested you really are in being an examiner.  Or if you qualify, try and find an entry level examiner position somewhere.  There are more entry level firearm positions coming available due to the lack of qualified examiners for open positions.  There may be quite a bit of competition for them, but if you've got some previous experience with firearms you will likely stand a better chance than someone with no experience or experience in another field.

That's just my 2 cents.  :)
Brenda Walsh
Washington State Patrol Crime Lab
Tacoma, WA

MTHall49

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Re: Career transition advice needed. A good "stepping stone" approach?
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2006, 05:50:25 PM »
Thank You for your input.
I actually do have a good familiarity with firearms already, including NRA Cert instructor for rifle, pistol, firearm safety, etc.  Sounds to me like I had better hold out for level one examiner or general crime lab.  In my area there does not appear to be a lot of choices in this field.  I will keep looking though.

Offline Brenda Lawrence

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Re: Career transition advice needed. A good "stepping stone" approach?
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2006, 12:25:21 PM »
It sounds like your firearms background is great, and anything related to firearms may increase your chances of being hired somewhere so I certainly wouldn't discourage you from adding to your resume with an armorer job or even a firearm or ammunition inspector (I'm not sure what all that involves, but it may be useful), but I'd also try to get my foot in the door with a lab somewhere.  Basically don't take a position as an armorer or inspector for a few years and then hope that it will be enough to help you get a lab job in the future.  You could take one of the positions you mentioned and continue to look for a job in a laboratory somewhere.

My opinion is that just knowing about firearms and ammunition isn't typically enough to get a position as a firearms examiner.  There are a lot of other things that go along with it.  It might be enough to get your foot in the door as a trainee or a lab technician though. 

Unfortunately most labs are in a position where they need someone with as much experience as a firearms examiner as they can get because training someone takes a long time and it often takes the already trained scientists away from their work to assist in training (which when you have large backlogs can be a difficult thing to do).  Also, in terms of cost, it is cheaper to hire someone who already has experience in the field than it is to train someone. 

Also, your options are going to be a lot greater if you are willing to move to find them.  There are openings in firearms sections all over the country, but you have to be willing to go to them.  Depending on where you are there are going to be more or less options available to you simply due to the way that labs operate.  For example, here in Washington state there are basically 8 firearms examiner positions for the state, and currently 6 are filled and 2 are in the process of being filled.  There is not a high turnover rate for firearms examiners here.  So if I was looking for a firearms position here in Washington, I'd probably have to wait a long time.  Also, if you can get a position somewhere else and get some time in as an examiner, when a position comes open where you really would prefer to be you are likely going to be a lot more attractive to the hiring laboratory.

Again, these are all just my opinions, but I know how long it has taken us to find experienced examiners and the lengths our lab has gone to in trying to get one. 

Good luck in your search! 
Brenda Walsh
Washington State Patrol Crime Lab
Tacoma, WA

Offline L. M. Kogler

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Re: Career transition advice needed. A good "stepping stone" approach?
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2006, 03:47:46 PM »
Another option to consider is applying for a forensic job that isn't in firearms. I know a number of examiners who started out doing other forensic work (drug analysis, blood alcohol analysis, etc) before they got a position in firearms. Actually, that's my story -- I did crime scene work and latent print processing and the opportunity to promote into the firearms section came about 2 years later. That was before CSI changed the job market though, so I don't know how difficult it is now to transition from one area to another -- it may depend on the agency.

The advantage of getting such a job would that you could familiarize yourself with laboratory administrative and operating practices, evidence handling and storage, general court testimony, and a lot of things that are essential to a forensic science job but are not specific to firearms or any other field. And obviously, the networking opportunities are much, much, better in terms of finding that firearms job.

As a related sidenote, it looks like there will be a forensic science job fair at the next American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) meeting in Texas next February. See the AAFS site for more info: http://www.aafs.org.
L. M. Kogler

 

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