How to Become a Certified Forensic Detective – What to Know
Helping in solving crime cases and bringing culprits to book is a noble service, and if you are interested in becoming a certified forensic detective, here is useful information to guide you into the profession.
Who is a Forensic Detective?
A forensic detective may go by a number of names; a forensic science technician, forensic scientist, or forensic investigator.
He/she is a professional trained to use expert methods in the analysis of physical evidence in other to assist in solving a crime.
They assist to determine how and when a crime occurred and by whom from analyzing weapons, body fluids and blood, finger prints, clothing, and fiber; paints and glass, tire marks, and any other form of evidence found in a crime scene.
The job of a forensic detective often requires work hours outside the normal standard hours because crimes may happen at any time.
They collect photographs and make sketches of crime scene; take notes about observations and other samples to recreate a crime scene or assist in running analysis and scientific tests, eventually putting down reports to assist the relevant units close up a criminal case.
Educational Requirements and Training
Usually, a Bachelor’s degree in forensic science or the natural sciences like chemistry and biology is required to be a forensic detective.
Apprenticeship is also required as part of the job training. This is done under experienced detectives, lasting between 6 months as in DNA analysis, to a couple of years like in firearms analysis. Trainees require a constant update of knowledge in the latest issues in forensic science.
Because of the increase in competition, a post graduate degree may be required, a PhD or M.Sc. in Forensic science may help you stand out of the competition.
Specializing in such areas as archaeology, anthropology may also prove useful. Membership with professional organizations like the Chartered Society of Forensic Science may also be good for networking.
Knowledge of medical terminologies and digital photography may also be required as a forensic detective, as well as familiarity with death situations.
Forensic Detective Certifications
The American Board of Criminalistics (ABC) was formed to represent the forensic science discipline, and it offers certification programs, proficiency tests, as well as a source of current issues in the field of forensic science. They offer certification in three levels:
Diplomate: to obtain this, applicant must possess two years of experience in forensic science having graduated for the natural sciences or a closely related field
Fellow: To obtain this, the candidate must have completed the requirements for a diplomate and passed a comprehensive criminalistics test.
Affiliate: Though not a certified status, here, the candidate must have been qualified for and applied to the American Board of Criminalistics, awaiting the promotion to Diplomate
International Association of Identification (IAI) is a standard-setting organization that offers certification in the areas of Blood stain pattern analysis, footwear analysis, Forensic Art, Forensic Photography, Latent Print, and Tenprint fingerprint.
Other certification bodies include: American Board of Medico-legal Death Investigators, American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT), and the American Board of Forensic Document Examiner (ABFDE).
Forensic Detective Training Institutions and Schools
A number of institutions and schools that provide training and degrees in forensic detective include: Capella University, which provides 100% online courses in the Criminal Justices system, and which is in partnership with the FBI National Academy Associates.
Other institutions include: Kaplan University, Liberty University, which is an online institution that offers both a degree in Forensic Science and a Bachelors in Crime Scene Investigation; and SaintLeo University, which offers a one to two years post graduate in forensic science.
Florida International University also offers certificate program in Forensic Science and is accredited by the Forensic Science Education programs Accreditation Commission.
These institutions expose students to courses like forensic chemistry, principles of forensic biology, chemistry and analysis of drugs, environmental geology, and legal psychology.
Duties, Roles, and Responsibilities of Forensic Detectives
Forensic detectives perform a number of responsibilities during an investigation. They include:
- Running analysis of samples such as hairs, fibers, body fluid, and drugs in the lab
- Performing techniques like high performance liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, and genetic fingerprinting
- Sifting and sorting through evidence
- Recording of observations gotten from analysis
- Reviewing and supervising the work of assistants
- Researching and developing new techniques
- Coordinating with other external agencies and offering advice
- Presenting finding in court if required.
Forensic Detective Skills
Skills in this area include: An enquiring mind, fine analytical skills, ability to work as a team, strong written and oral skills, and working with deadlines.
Forensic Detective Career Opportunities
A forensic detective often begins a career as sworn police officer or civilian consultant. Commercial companies which specialize in providing forensic science services, such as the Environmental Science Group, and forensic science department in law enforcement agencies like the Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime and Operations (SC&O) Unit are places a forensic detective can work.
Other places they can be employed include government department and agencies like the Defense Science and Technology lab (DSTL) and the Centre for Applied Science and Technology.
Salary Expectations for Forensic Detectives
A forensic scientist may earn as much as $15 to more than $40 an hour, or between $32, 000 to $67, 000 or more.