How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Massachusetts?

Violent crime in the state of Massachusetts has risen over the years. According to the FBI and Uniform Crime Reports, the number has gone up from 2515 in 1960 (population: 5,148,578) to 26,953 in 2012 (population: 6,646,144). It is no surprise then that the job of a forensic scientist becomes more important than usual. These behind-the-scenes crime fighters help law enforcement agencies determine the course of events in a criminal activity, along with helping them identify the potential perpetrators.
Here is a list of things that a forensic science technician does, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Reconstruct crime scenes
  • Perform chemical, biological, and microscopic analyses on evidence taken from crime scenes
  • Collect evidence, including weapons, fingerprints, and bodily fluids
  • Catalog and preserve evidence for transfer to crime labs
  • Analyze crime scenes to determine what evidence should be collected and how
  • Take photographs of the crime scene and evidence
  • Make sketches of the crime scene
  • Record observations and findings, such as the location and position of evidence
  • Explore possible links between suspects and criminal activity, using the results of DNA or other scientific analyses
  • Consult with experts in specialized fields, such as toxicology (the study of poisons and their effect on the body) and odontology (a branch of forensic medicine that concentrates on teeth)

If all of these activities sound like something you would be interested in doing, the following guide about how to become a forensic scientist in Massachusetts will be of great help to you.
Disclaimer: Before we get into the details of the steps, you must note that the exact requirements to become a forensic scientist would be influenced by the job you intend to apply for. Various jobs and employers have different training and education requirements. So you are advised to do your research well about what your dream job as a forensic scientist requires.
The following steps are, therefore, meant to be considered as general guidelines for most forensic science careers.

How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Massachusetts
How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Massachusetts

Steps to Become a Forensic Scientist in Massachusetts

Step 1: Complete the Educational Requirements

The minimum education level required for entry level jobs in the field of forensic science is a bachelor’s degree. Since the work of a forensic scientist is highly technical in nature, you are advised to take up relevant courses during your 4-year long bachelor’s degree. You may choose to major in physics, chemistry, biology, anthropology or even forensic science, if the college offers it as a separate discipline.

Step 2: Consider a Master’s Degree

While getting a master’s degree is not mandatory for most forensic science jobs, it is highly recommended that you consider it. Having a higher educational qualification would give you access to better career advancement opportunities, along with expanding your skill set. Furthermore, some higher level jobs might require you to have at least a master’s degree to land the position. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics also emphasizes the importance of a higher qualification in this field, stating, “Many of those who seek to become forensic science technicians will have an undergraduate degree in the natural sciences and a master’s degree in forensic science.”

Step 3: Get a Job

Forensic Scientists in Massachusetts may first start their career as a deputy sheriff or a police officer. Though this is not compulsory, it will certainly help in the future. Potential job titles for forensic scientists may include:

  • Forensic Anthropologist
  • DNA Technician
  • Latent Fingerprint Examiner
  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • Forensic Lab Technician

Forensic Scientists in Massachusetts may first start their career as a deputy sheriff or a police officer. Though this is not compulsory, it will certainly help in the future. Potential job titles for forensic scientists may include:

  • Massachusetts State Police Crime Scene Services Section
  • Worcester Police Department Investigation Division, Crime Scene Unit
  • Town of Framingham Police Department – Crime Scene Services
  • Northampton Massachusetts Police Department Crime Scene Services Unit
  • FBI-Boston Division – Evidence Response Teams

You may also choose to work for one of the several crime labs operating in Massachusetts under the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory. They are located in the following cities:

  • Boston
  • Danvers
  • Bourne
  • Lakeville
  • Lakeville
  • North Sudbury
Step 4: Begin On-the-Job Training

Most aspiring forensic scientists will be required to complete a mandatory training program before they begin their job. The purpose of this training would be to help new recruits get a detailed understanding of the new workplace and how cases are dealt with. They will be given an overview of the methods of collection, recording, analyzing and reporting the results. This training program might last a few weeks, and can even go on for an entire year, depending on the nature of your job and the preferences of the employer.

How much does a Forensic Scientist make in Massachusetts?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2017 data, Forensic Science Technicians made an annual mean wage of $75,570. This is significantly higher than the national annual mean wage of $61,220. Even though Forensic Science Technicians are being paid more in Massachusetts, keep in mind that there are only 50 jobs in the state at the moment. Even though this number is expected to grow, the competition for each job will be very high. So make sure your education and certifications set you apart from the other applicants.