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Undergraduate students with forensic science club at the Science picnic

Why forensics

Forensic science is the application of scientific methods and processes to matters that involve crime or the public. There are many branches of forensic science because almost any science has some applications to public or criminal matters.

The IUPUI Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program combines the best of biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics and, along with criminal justice and law, enabling you to solve crimes and settle civil disputes. People who work in forensic science solve scientific puzzles, testify as experts in court and even sometimes help collect evidence at crime scenes.

We have nationally recognized faculty in forensic chemistry and biology supported by one of the largest medical schools and one of the top law schools in the U.S.

IUPUI is in downtown Indianapolis where the state and local crime labs, courts, state police and other law enforcement agencies are located. We have the most modern, state of the art instrumentation that you can use yourself to learn about how evidence is analyzed. You can perform cutting edge research and do an internship at a real crime laboratory and get credit for all of it. Come to IUPUI and be a part of one of the leading forensic science programs anywhere in the world.

See forensics degrees

Qualities and skills of a forensic scientist

Obviously, an inquisitive nature and a love of puzzles (and solving them!) are essential. Students must be strong in math, science and writing to do well in our forensics program. Forensic science also requires an ability to tolerate situations and scenes of crime and violence that are difficult to understand and accept. Loss of life and suffering are often involved in these cases, so an forensic scientists need to have the ability to maintain perspective when working in terrible situations.

Qualities and skills of a forensic scientist

  • Ability to work with a team
  • Communication and quantitative skills (PUL*)
  • Critical thinking and problem solving (PUL*)
  • Detail-oriented
  • Inquisitive
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Integration and application of knowledge (PUL*)
  • Observational and investigative skills
  • Professional values and ethics (PUL*)
  • Understanding of relationships, interactions and patterns

Can I work in a crime lab if I have a criminal history?

Criminal background is an important consideration when entering the field of forensic science. Students need to have a clean record to be hired by a criminal lab. It is a normal part of the hiring process to run a full criminal, financial, academic, and personal background check on applicants. Most labs will not hire someone with any convictions.

*PUL = Principles of Undergraduate Learning define a set of abilities and skills that undergraduate students are expected to master. They reflect the expertise that graduate and professional schools and the workforce are seeking.

What can you do with a Forensics degree?

  • Ballistics
  • Blood spatter analysis
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Crime scene reconstruction
  • DNA analysis
  • Explosive analysis
  • Fire debris analysis
  • Forensic pathology (medical school required)
  • Forensic serology
  • Forensic toxicology
  • Illicit drug analysis
  • Trace evidence analysis

Are forensic scientists also crime scene investigators?

Crime scene investigation differs based on the jurisdiction. There are three basic ways this is handled:

  1. Crime scene evidence collection is handled by trained police officers and no forensic scientists are at the actual scene of the crime. This evidence is given to the lab where it is analyzed by forensic scientists.
  2. Crime scene technicians are at the scene to collect the evidence but do not do the analysis. This is done in the lab. The technicians do not have to be scientists.
  3. Forensic scientists are on-call to collect evidence at the crime scene. These same scientists work in the lab doing analysis.

Education - Where will your degree take you?

Bachelor Degree (BA/BS)
Entry level positions in law enforcement at local, state, federal government level. Preparation for admission to professional schools such as medicine, dentistry, and law

Masters Degree (MS)
Managerial positions in government, research and teachers at high school and community colleges

Doctoral Degree (PhD)
Positions in independent research at universities, university faculty, advanced positions in forensics (i.e. anthropology, psychology, or geology)

Here's what our 2014 graduates are doing with their degrees:

  • Lab Technician for Roche Diagnostics (BS)
  • Lab Assistant for Mid America Clinical Lab (BS)
  • Toxicology Analyst for PremierTox Laboratories (BS)

Students who went on to graduate or professional school are currently enrolled in the following programs:

  • Medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine (MD)
  • Osteopathic Medicine at Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)
  • Forensic Science at Michigan State University (MS)

What careers can I find with a Forensic Science degree?

A forensic scientist usually works in a laboratory setting analyzing particular types of evidence, writing reports and testifying in court as an expert witness. In some cases, forensic scientists may attend crime or other incident scenes to help reconstruct the crime or help in the recognition, collection, and preservation of evidence within their specialty. For example, a forensic chemist may be asked to help in the processing of a clandestine drug laboratory. A trace evidence examiner may be asked to collect hairs and fibers and other traces from a homicide scene. Usually the crime scene component of a forensic scientist's job is a relatively minor part of the duties.

Many forensic scientists work in forensic science (crime) laboratories. In the United States, there are more than 4000 crime laboratories administered by the federal, state, or local governments or private industry. Most crime laboratories employ scientists in the areas of forensic chemistry (drugs, toxicology, trace evidence, explosives, fires, etc.), forensic biology (mainly DNA and body fluids and tissues), and criminalistics (fingerprints, questioned documents, firearms, and toolmarks).

Below is a sampling of places our undergraduate students are currently employed:

  • AIT Laboratories
  • Anheuser Busch Brewery (Missouri)
  • Belize National Forensic Science Service (Belize)
  • Bismarck Crime Laboratory (North Dakota)
  • Buchi Laboratory Equipment (North Carolina)
  • Carrollton Police Department (Kentucky)
  • Colorcon
  • Covance Laboratories
  • Deaconess Health System
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA, Maryland)
  • Dupage County Forensic Science Center (Illinois)
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Florida Department of Law Enforcement (Florida)
  • Fort Wayne Police Department
  • Hartland Bakeries
  • Indiana State Department of Toxicology
  • Indiana State Police Forensic Laboratory
  • Indianapolis-Marion County Forensic Services Agency
  • Kelly Scientific Resources
  • Lancaster Laboratories
  • Marion County Forensic Services
  • Miami Valley Regional Crime Laboratory (Ohio)
  • Mid America Clinical Laboratories
  • Quintiles Laboratories
  • Raabe Company (Wisconsin)
  • Sacramento County District Attorney's Office (California)
  • St. Charles County Sheriff's Department (Missouri)
  • St. Vincent Health
  • Strand Analytical Laboratories
  • United Water
  • University of Miami Miller School of Medicine (Florida)
  • Van Nuys Medical Science Center
  • Wishard Health Services

Below is a sampling of places our undergraduate students have attended graduate school:

  • Drexel University: Physician's Assistant School
  • Indiana University: Law School
  • IUPUI: MS in Forensic Science
  • Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Michigan State University
  • University of Tennessee: Ph.D. in Chemistry
  • University of Central Florida: Ph.D. in Chemistry

Below is a sampling of places our graduate students are currently employed:

  • AIT Laboratories
  • Bulter University
  • ChemaTox Laboratory, Inc. (Colorado)
  • Elmhurst College (Illinois)
  • Ideal Innovations, Inc. (Afghanistan)
  • Indiana State Police Forensic Laboratory
  • Microbac Laboratory Services

Occupational outlook and average salary

Employment for forensic scientists is expected to grow much faster than average compared to all other occupations for the 2008-2018 decade. Employment for forensic scientists is projected to increase by 20%. (2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Jobs in forensic science are available at the municipal, state and federal levels. Nationwide there is a clear trend toward evidence collection being done by scientists. As with many jobs, the willingness to relocate does increase the chances of finding a job in your field. However, our degree is heavily based in the sciences, so most students can get a biology minor, chemistry minor, or a double major with very little additional coursework.  Students completing our degree are well qualified to work as biologists or chemists in private and public sector labs.

Salaries earned by forensic scientists are dependent on degree level. According to the most recent data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average salary for forensic scientists was $51,480.

Forensics student questions everything

Dana Yenko Forensic and Investigative Sciences, Undergraduate
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