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A forensic science education goes beyond attending a school and getting a degree or certificate. Forensic science education can be gained in a variety of different settings and through different means, depending on your goals. These methods include volunteer work, academic training, laboratory experience, and post-degree training.
Volunteer opportunities for forensic science education are available at the discretion of the agency making the offer. The Department of Forensic Science in Virginia, for example, accepts volunteers with a stated commitment to provide the training the volunteer needs to meet the responsibilities he or she signs on for. This is a form of education, though not always considered in one’s options. Volunteering in a forensic science facility can help you decide if this is the career choice you wish to make or, if you have already begun your education, provide an opportunity to increase your skill set.
Academic training is a more standard type of forensic science education. An occasional high school offers a forensic science course, and for some students, their forensic science education may begin there. For most people, however, forensic science is more likely to take place at a community college, four-year college or university, or online. And even after you receive an undergraduate, or even an advanced, degree, your education is likely to continue as long as you are in the field.
Depending on your career goal in forensic science, the initial training you receive post-high-school may or may not be specifically in the forensic science field. Often, it begins with a bachelor’s degree in a natural science, most often biology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics, or physical anthropology. There are 31 colleges and universities in the United States that offer an undergraduate degree specifically in forensic science, but most students and most degree programs that lead to a career in forensic science do not have this type of specialization at this level. How much education is required will partly be determined by your employer and partly by the certification board, should you choose to get certified, which is recommended.
Extended laboratory training to further your forensic science education is required by certification boards. It is also often offered by employers. Post-degree and post-certification training is offered by agencies and institutions as well as being the subject of conferences and workshops that forensic scientists are encouraged to attend. Government organizations, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Forensic Science Research and Training Center and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), offer training opportunities.
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