Careers in Forensics ("Criminalistics")

For excellent information about forensics and forensics-related careers, look at the I.A.I. website.

NOTE:  The below is only my opinion.  Check it out yourself!

Forensics is a very broad field, ranging from fingerprint identification to DNA typing.

1.  At the bottom are ordinary crime scene investigators. They work in large police departments, where they help detectives collect physical evidence. They are not really "investigators" per se, since conducting interviews and developing leads are performed by sworn officers.

2.  "Evidence and identification" technicians are a step up. They also collect evidence but are specially trained and educated to examine what they find, render independent judgments and testify in court. For example, that a certain latent fingerprint was deposited by a certain person. Or that a certain footwear impression matches a certain shoe. Evidence and i.d. technicians often begin as crime scene investigators, then take courses, often in junior colleges, that prepare students for working in medical and other laboratories. These are good careers but usually pay considerably less than police work.

3. The top careers in forensics are as laboratory scientists. Forensic chemists, for example, extract and type DNA. These professions require at a minimum a 4-year degree in a biological or physical science. Cal State Los Angeles has a Master's program in criminalistics (forensics). Admission requires the equivalent of a bachelor's degree in a natural or physical science (C.J. degrees do not qualify.)

4.  Criminal profiling is not a career. Large law enforcement agencies occasionally send experienced detectives to profiling schools. As far as I know only the FBI has a full-time staff of profilers. All are experienced FBI agents. There is no market whatsoever for civilian "profilers". Forgedabboud it!

Incidentally, T.V. accounts such as "C.S.I." typically exaggerate the importance of forensics - and the role of forensic technicians - in the big picture of solving crime.

For more information about forensics job openings check the L.A.P.D., L.A. County Sheriff and Orange County Sheriff personnel departments and websites. For more information about forensics education talk with one of the C.J. counselors at Cal State L.A.