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Author Topic: Getting Started  (Read 28763 times)

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Offline ZERO_M_O_A

  • AFTE Friend
  • Posts: 1
Getting Started
« on: February 20, 2008, 02:44:08 PM »
OK so here are the basic facts

1. I am currently Acitve Army
2. I have approx 3 years left
3. Need to find an education path
      A. Would like to get started in a Forensic science degree
      B.  Would like it to be as online as possible
4. I would like it to be related to firearms and ballistics

Questions
1.  Any recommendations on where to start?
2. What to study?
3. Who to talk to?
4. best place to gather information?

Any information would be of great help, as most of you who will be answering this will have started somewhere, somehow with the same questions. 
                    Thanks  ZERO_M_O_A

Offline Bob Poole

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2008, 03:22:40 PM »
Jonathan,

Drop me a line at bpoole1946@yahoo.com.  Perhaps I can give you some advice.

Bob Poole
==========================

Offline Michael Ward

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2008, 03:36:02 PM »
Jonathan,

Sometimes the best advice is it not what you really want to hear.  First, I would suggest that you pursue a traditional physical science degree instead of a degree in Forensic Science.  It may take you a protracted time to secure a position in a forensic laboratory and you will have an easier time utilizing a degree in biology or chemistry as opposed to a forensic science degree when you are waiting to get the job that you really want.

I would also suggest that you are better off pursing a traditional degree instead of an online degree.  In a traditional science degree, you will have lab classes and this is something that will be difficult to get in an online degree.

There is not private degree program that you can pursue in firearm identification.  One of the best things that you can do to make yourself marketable is to volunteer as an intern in a forensic firearm unit.  You will do mundane work as an intern / volunteer; however, you will get real world exposure to how work in a firearm laboratory is conducted.

Good luck.

Michael
Michael S. Ward
Forensic Science Division Manager
(Crime Laboratory Director)
FWPD Crime Laboratory

Offline Geoff Bruton

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  • Posts: 187
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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2008, 05:45:57 PM »

Hi Jonathon,

As bad as it may sound, I wholeheartedly agree with everything Michael Ward said (not bad because I agree with Michael - just that it may not want to be what you want to hear! ;)).  Although you may find that some labs may hire a Firearm Examiner without a traditional 'hard science' (chemistry, biology, biochemistry, etc.) degree, I would say that most labs (in the US & UK) would only hire someone with such an educational background.  Gain your academic experience as a scientist first; train as a forensic scientist second.  Most training within this profession is performed in-house.

Ditto what was said, re: an online degree versus a traditional route.  Many labs require a practical element (lab work) to the degree program, which online courses cannot offer (unless there is the opportunity to perform lab work at a learning institute as part of the course).

If you are fortunate enough to be able to go back to school (although we never stop learning), you are sure to find yourself in a very good position for a career in the forensic sciences, and especially in Firearm & Toolmark Identification.  If you can gain some (possibly unpaid) experience in a Firearms Section, that will definitely add to your marketability.

Good luck!
Geoff.
Geoff Bruton
Ventura County Sheriff's Office
Forensic Services Bureau

Offline Jeff Foggy

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2008, 08:10:09 AM »
I disagree with Michael and Geoff a little on their opinion not to pursue a forensic science degree.  The forensic science program at Univ. of Central Florida is heavily grounded in chemistry.  I already possessed a Chemical Science degree from Florida State when I went back to get my forensic science degree and I had to take biochem to complete the requirements (tough class when you haven't had a chemistry class in 4 years).  I believe the UCF program requires at least 30 hours of chemistry (gen. chem, organic chem, analytical chem. and physical chem.-including the labs).  I would say choose your university carefully if you are going to pursue a forensic science degree, making sure it is more scientific grounded than criminal justice grounded. 

I do agree with them that you should try to get the degree on site as opposed to online.

A good place to gather information on Firearms Identification would be Doyle's website--Firearmsid.com (Scott, I will be looking for my royalty check in the mail).

Just my opinion

Offline Michael Ward

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2008, 08:58:29 AM »
Jeff,

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a forensic science degree; I have one myself.  The forensic science market place is currently saturated.  There are more people who want jobs, than jobs available.  The last three people who I have been involved in the process of interviewing and hiring, all had Masters Degrees in forensic science, with undergraduate work in the physical sciences.

I believe that due to the popularity of the CSI television shows, that there will be many people who purse degrees in forensic science and than never obtain a job in the field.  There will also be those persistent people who do obtain a career in forensic science, but may have to wait a prolonged period before they actually obtain a job in the field.  The ideal scenario would be an undergraduate degree in a physical science and a graduate degree in forensic science.

My suggestion to pursue a physical science degree over a forensic science degree was based on the belief that in the public sector, where many people may have to work while waiting to obtain a forensic science job, that a traditional general science degree will make that person more marketable than a very specific degree such as forensic science.  If a person has the tenacity to pursue a career in forensic science, they will most likely get hired regardless of whether they have a forensic science degree or a physical degree.

Michael
Michael S. Ward
Forensic Science Division Manager
(Crime Laboratory Director)
FWPD Crime Laboratory

Offline Zak Carr

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2008, 09:50:47 AM »
Zero MOA
IMHO... A degree in Forensic Science from an accredited university is the way to go.  The FS program that I attended at Eastern Kentucky University is over 20 years old and is split into 2 tracks (Chemistry and Biology).  Each track is only one or two classes short of a BS in the traditional degrees.  The program is designed to provide the graduate with the option of working in either the traditional fields or a forensic laboratory.  Along with the hard science classes, the student also receives rigorous instruction in microscopy, evidence handling, courtroom testimony, evidence collection, criminal law and a semester long full-time internship in a forensic laboratory.

A degree in Forensic Science also may relate to a potential employer that you are serious about wanting to work in the field of firearm and toolmark identification; not just someone with a chemistry degree that likes watching CSI.  There are many univeristies that offer programs similar to the one at EKU.  Conversly, as Jeff put it, there are also many univeristies that offer FS degrees that are very weakly rooted in the hard sciences; thus not meeting some agency's min reqs.  Researching the best program for you is the key.  There is nothing wrong with entering this dicipline with a traditional degree... These are just my thoughts on the subject.  Good luck Zero MOA,

Zak
Zak Carr
Cadre Forensics
zak.carr@CadreForensics.com
785-215-7884

Offline Justine Kreso

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  • Gender: Female
Re: Getting Started
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2008, 12:42:40 PM »
I think part of the point is, if you have a Forensic Science degree and can't find a job in forensic science after graduation what are you going to do?  It's quite specific.  Great, if you luck out and end up with a job right away.  But if not, then no other industry is going to touch you if you have to work in say--pharmaceuticals or a university lab in the mean time.  Bottom line is, there are a LOT of people applying for jobs out there with Forensic Science degrees and a LOT of people applying of jobs out there with other Physical Science degrees.  You have to do something to make yourself stand out (work your behind off in an internship for a long time) to snag one of these spots.  The degree might not matter per se...but if you aren't lucky enough to get a job the day you graduate, what is your back-up plan?  And yes, there probably are labs out there that don't accept forensic science degrees and might require something more traditional.
Justine Kreso
Onondaga County Center for Forensic Sciences
Syracuse, NY

Offline Geoff Bruton

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2008, 11:08:45 AM »

One way to go might be to look at the educational requirements for any agencies that you might be interested in working for.  Many of the positions are listed on the HR / city / county websites, even if they are not currently hiring.  If the positions predominantly list physical science degrees, that may be the way to go - and I agree with Justine's comments about your ability/inability to get a non-forensic science related job if you aren't fortunate enough to be able to get straight into your field of choice.  (Indeed, it could also be advantageous to have a less-specific undergraduate degree in case you later decide that forensic science is not the field for you - I know a few people who couldn't stand the crime scenes, dead bodies, the blood, the smells, testifying, etc., etc., and left their career for a less stressful one.)

However, as others have pointed out, the academic content of forensic science degrees are highly variable - so it is important to do your homework (figuratively and literally ;)).

Good luck, and warm regards to all,
Geoff.
Geoff Bruton
Ventura County Sheriff's Office
Forensic Services Bureau

Offline Bill Wheatley

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  • Posts: 1275
  • Gender: Male
  • NRA Life Member
Re: Getting Started
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2008, 11:23:17 AM »
Jonathan,

One advantage you should have is veteranís preference.  Most county, city and state laboratories offer it when applying.  That in combination with either degree should give you an advantage over those that have not served. Is there any particular area of the country you are looking at?

Bill
(908) 797-6553
factsgroup@comcast.net
wwheatley@essexsheriff.com
 :tank:11B1PQ6

Offline Patrick McLaughlin

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2008, 12:59:33 PM »
Zero MOA

As much as it pains me, I have to agree with Zak (just kidding Zak).  I personally went to EKU with Zak and currently have many friends from there that both work in Forensics or in a more "traditional" field.  For the people on both sides none of my friends from EKU have ever not qualified for a forensics or a traditional job.  I believe this is because EKU is an accredited school and requires an extensive background in science (Chemistry or Biology) before any of the Forensics classes can be taken.  In addition, the forensics classes are very scientifically based including a large amount of lab time. 

On the other hand I have run across people in Forensics that have traditional degrees but do not qualify for the job they want, and are required to go back to school in order to keep there job.

The other thing that some colleges require that is helpful (and I believe most everybody mentioned as being valuable) is to do an internship in the field that interests you the most.  In addition, I would suggest that you spend time in other sections of the lab during an internship just to learn what is done there on a daily basis.


Pat

Offline kwarner

  • AFTE Friend
  • Posts: 1
Re: Getting Started
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2008, 09:16:58 AM »
Zero MOA,

I was in the same position as you about 10 years ago.  I took most of my core requirements for my BS degree either at night or through CLEP tests while I was active duty.  After my ETS I went to college full time and completed my BS in chemistry in less than 3 years.  After graduating I went to work as a chemist and eventually was able to obtain a position as a forensic scientist.  I am currently in training as a firearm and toolmark examiner. 

As far as what type of education to get, I would recommend a major in chemistry, but a forensic science program that is heavy in chemistry is a good choice also.  I work with an examiner who is a graduate of the EKU forensic science program and it seems to be an excellent program.  You need to have a backup plan though.  What are you going to do after college if you can't get that "dream" job right away?  In my case, since I did not want to leave the state I was living in, and since forensic science jobs are few and far between with plenty of competition, I worked as a chemist for six years before I was able to get into the field.  My military experience was beneficial also.  I went into the Army national guard after my ETS and I am still serving.  I returned from a deployment to Iraq just before interviewing for the forensic science job and I think that made a big difference.  I also had experience through the military with a wide variety of firearms.

Something else to take into consideration is your history.  Most if not all forensic scientist jobs involve a lengthy background investigation.  A criminal record, drug use and financial problems like bankruptcies are going to keep you from being hired.  If your background is clean don't worry about it, but it is something to keep in mind before pursuing a career and then finding out you are unemployable.

If you have more questions, the AFTE forums are an excellent resource.  I would also recommend that you contact the crime lab in your area and go on a tour and talk to some of the firearm and toolmark examiners they employ.  If you would like to ask me any questions my email is: kevin.warner@state.tn.us or you can use my AKO at: kevin.warner1@us.army.mil.  Good luck in your endeavors.

Kevin

 

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