How to Become a Forensic Scientist in New Jersey?

The New Jersey Association of Forensic Scientists is one of the biggest providers of forensic science and investigative services in the US. With laboratories located all over the state, the Association has been a forerunner in promoting the field of Forensic Science in New Jersey. Before its founding in 1967, only the Newark City Police Department Lab and the New Jersey State Police Lab provided forensic science services. But with the growing rates of crime and population, the demand increased manifold over the years.
The current State Police laboratory system, also referred to as the Office of Forensic Science has multiple laboratories. These include:

  • Central Laboratory – Hamilton Technology Complex, Hamilton, NJ (2004)
  • North Regional Laboratory – Little Falls (1972)
  • South Regional Laboratory – Hammonton (1973)
  • East Regional Laboratory – Sea Girt (1980)

In the past 25 years, the State of New Jersey has seen a phenomenal growth in the entire network of laboratories within its jurisdiction, including those at the state and county levels. The number of scientific personnel in the state has also gone up considerably.
If you are interested in working in one of these laboratories, the following document on how to become a forensic scientist in New Jersey would be very informative for you.
Bear in mind though, that the exact requirements to become a forensic scientist in New Jersey would be dependent on your employer and the position you choose to work in. The following set of guidelines are therefore, meant to serve a generic purpose.

How to Become a Forensic Scientist in New Jersey
How to Become a Forensic Scientist in New Jersey

The field of forensic science is a highly technical one, requiring detailed education, training and experience. Therefore, to become a forensic scientist, you would need to invest a lot of your time, energies and efforts in the process.

Step 1: Complete a High School Diploma and get a Bachelor’s Degree

A high school diploma is the basic requirement for entry into any undergraduate program. If you intend to enter the forensic science field, you are advised to focus on subjects such as physics, chemistry, statistics, calculus and biology, while still in high school. These would help form a strong foundation for your future career in the field.
This foundation would help you get into a good bachelor’s degree program, which is a mandatory requirement for entry level jobs in forensic science. You may go for a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or any natural sciences.

Step 2: Consider Higher Education

While most entry level jobs would not require a degree higher than a bachelor’s degree, having one will certainly increase your chances of career advancement. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics states, “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.” Since the competition in this field is usually high, having a master’s degree is likely to increase your chances of securing employment.

Step 3:Get a Job

You may be able to find employment opportunities at various county or state level organizations, many of which are mentioned above. Your work may be largely in laboratories; however field work may be required too. Forensic scientists may have to work late shifts as well, depending on the work load. Those working in laboratories however, typically have a standard weekly schedule.
Most forensic science jobs will make the applicants go through an extensive on-the-job training program, which may last a few months or even a whole year. This training is to ensure that you learn the basics of forensic science in a practical environment, with hands-on training and instruction. Once you have cleared this training program, you would be allowed to work independently on cases.

Step 4: Complete On-the-Job Training

Once you are hired, you will be required to complete a training program, that may last somewhere between a few months to a year in some cases. This program would be designed to give you an insight into the way your employer works, showing you the proper procedures for collecting and documenting evidence. You might be required to clear a proficiency exam before you are allowed to work independently on cases.
Training requirements would vary according to the organization you are hired by. If you are hired by the New Jersey State Police, you might have to complete a police training academy and become a sworn officer first. Applicants for civilian forensic science investigator jobs would not have this as a requirement.

Step 5: Consider Getting Certified

Even though this is not a requirement, it is still considered an added bonus if you are certified by an accredited forensic science association. These could be any of the following organizations:

  • Society of Forensic Toxicologists, Inc.
  • New Jersey Association of Forensic Scientists
  • Eastern Analytical Symposium & Exposition
  • The American Board of Criminalistics
  • The International Association for Identification

How much does a forensic scientist make in New Jersey?

The annual mean wage of forensic science technicians in New Jersey, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics was $54,860 in May 2017. The number of jobs in the state for forensic science technicians is expected to grow by 7% from 2016 to 2026, according to O*NET OnLine.