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Forensic Science - Overview


Forensic science programs prepare people to examine evidence found at a crime scene. Students learn to study physical evidence such as blood, DNA, and fingerprints. They also learn to use many laboratory tools to collect and test data.

Forensic science programs teach you to "listen to the dead." Crimes scenes and crime victims can provide clues to what happened, how it happened, when it happened, and most importantly: who did it. You examine trace details such as skin, hair, and clothing fibers. You examine DNA, blood, and fingerprints. In the case of a murder investigation, you study wounds, patterns of blood loss, and the amount of decay. However, forensic science is more than just murder investigations. Perhaps most importantly, forensic science teaches you to determine if a crime occurred in the first place.

First and foremost, forensic scientists are scientists. This means that most of the courses in forensic science programs are science-related courses. You take several chemistry courses, including general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. You also take biology, physics, genetics, and anatomy courses. In addition, you study methods of investigation and how to analyze different types of evidence. This can include collecting, transporting, and storing evidence. It also includes instruction in how to use microscopes and other tools. In fact, many programs require you to take archeology courses that teach research methods used on digs.

About 50 four-year colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in forensic science. Many also offer graduate degree programs. Typically you receive a bachelor's degree in forensic science in four years. Several community colleges offer two-year programs in the technical aspects of forensic science (such as lab analysis) that can be transferred to a four-year college or university. Graduate programs take from two to five years after you finish your bachelor's degree.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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