Forensic science combines science and investigation in order to aid and support the prosecution or defense in criminal and civil investigations. While the profession has been widely romanticized by various TV shows, make no mistake – this job is most likely different that you expect. In contrast with popular perception, this is a highly scientific role, which often involves detailed, painstaking work. Field duties are limited to a few areas of expertise, and most often than not a forensic scientist will spend his time in the lab.
If you made it this far, though, congratulations! You’re taking the first steps in joining a very rewarding profession and itsGOV is here to guide you through what you need to know and what you need to do to join a forensic science program in Nebraska.
Depending on the type of forensic science practiced, different degrees and educational backgrounds may help a candidate get a job and excel in this field. Regarding formal education, requirements vary across jobs, but you should definitely have a solid background in mathematics, biology and chemistry.
The National Institute of Justice, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, offers guidelines for model undergraduate and graduate forensic science degree programs. According to the American Academy of Forensic Science, strong programs should offer a curriculum that concentrates on scientific writing, laboratory skills, public speaking, and computer software application training.
Forensic Science Requirements in Nebraska
A Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Science is the first step for individuals who want to learn how to become forensic scientists in Nebraska. Within this field, it is quite common for colleges and other degree-granting schools to offer a number of tracks or specializations.
For example, students may focus their Bachelor in Forensic Science on Crime Scene Investigations or Forensic Biology. A concentration in Forensic Biology, which is most often sought by those individuals who want to pursue forensic scientist jobs, is designed to prepare students to work in a laboratory setting, where they will identify and analyze a wide range of biological evidence, including DNA.
A Bachelor’s in Forensic Science with a concentration in Forensic Biology is an interdisciplinary program that includes coursework in the sciences, including molecular biology, forensic biology, biochemistry, and genetics, among others, along with a core curriculum typically consisting of:
- Survey of Criminal Justice
- Introduction to Forensic Science
- Forensic Science Seminar
- Comparative Analysis
- Current Issues in Forensic Science
- Forensic Science Seminar
Individuals who want to learn how to become a forensic scientist must first set their sights on an undergraduate degree in one of the natural sciences or in forensic science, as the minimum requirement to work as a forensic scientist in Nebraska is a bachelor’s degree in one the following fields of:
- Natural science
- Physical science
- Forensic science
Further, because forensic scientists in the Crime Laboratory are called upon to perform DNA analyses, these professionals must also complete specific coursework (at least 9 semester credit hours), in the following:
- Molecular Biology
- Statistics/Population Genetics
The preferred requirement for these forensic professionals is at least one year of experience performing DNA casework within an accredited forensic science laboratory.
All candidates for forensic science jobs in Nebraska should expect to undergo an extensive background screening as a condition of their hire, and all candidates will be screened for a criminal history through a fingerprint-based check.
Forensic Science Training in Nebraska
The Nebraska State Patrol Crime Laboratory, which was established in 1971, is a full-service forensic laboratory that is responsible for performing services necessary to preserve, identify, and analyze evidence materials related to the investigation of crimes. The Crime Laboratory, which is fully funded by the government, provides services to all law enforcement agencies in the state, including local, county, state, federal and military agencies.
The forensic science services provided to the law enforcement agencies of Nebraska, from Omaha to Bellevue to Grand Island, are divided into sections:
- Drug Chemistry Section
- Latent Fingerprints Section
- Biology/DNA Section
- Trace Chemistry Section
- Questioned Documents Section
- Toxicology Section
Nebraska’s Crime Laboratory, which is now housed entirely in Lincoln, includes a staff of 24. It is ASCLA/LAB accredited and the forensic scientists there are often called upon to provide technical assistance and educational services to the state and local agencies regarding forensic science matters.
Forensic Science Salary in Nebraska
Forensic scientists in Nebraska made an average of $61,000 in the year preceding October 2013 according to Indeed.com. Within Nebraska, several cities have crime labs that employ forensic scientists.
The Nebraska State Patrol’s Crime Laboratory is in Lincoln. Two crime labs are located in Omaha: that of the Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Crime Lab. The latter crime lab handles cases from across the state and even from some other states.
Because of the large number of forensic science technicians working in Omaha, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides employment and salary information for forensic scientists in this area. Fifty such scientists were employed in the Omaha area in 2012. They made an average of $49,710 a year in 2012 with experienced professionals in the top 90th percentile making $65,020.
Forensic scientist positions can entail either analyzing evidence in a lab or processing crime scenes. The latter type of scientists are known as crime scene investigators (CSIs). They document the site and collect evidence that undergoes further analysis in a lab. The types of positions for CSIs vary greatly.
Some law enforcement agencies in Nebraska have investigators that are sworn officer who specialize in the collection of forensic evidence and the processing of crime scenes. These professionals are paid according to the standard rates for law enforcement officers.
In other cases, civilians perform the crime scene investigation work. One such position in Omaha in 2013 was for a CSI with three years of experience. It was a crime scene investigator III position that paid from $48,080 to $60,216 a year.
Forensic Science Schools and Colleges in Nebraska
Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Nebraska
There are currently no bachelor’s degree programs in Nebraska.
Master’s Degree Programs in Nebraska
|University||Nebraska Wesleyan University, Forensic Science M.S.|
|Type||Full time, Part time|
|Tuition and fees||$1o,080 per year|
The Master of Science in Forensic Science (MSFS) degree prepares students for leadership positions in forensic science laboratories. Emphasizing hands-on learning and coursework in the natural sciences, the curriculum is designed to provide students a solid foundation in the forensic sciences, particularly in forensic DNA and forensic chemistry. A new degree approved in 2011, the MSFS grew out of the Master in Forensic Science (MFS) degree biology/chemistry concentration, which began in 2001. The MSFS program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and by the Forensic Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).
Focus on Experiential Learning: Nebraska Wesleyan’s forensic science graduate program focuses on building real-life experiences. The university offers a designated Crime Scene House adjacent to campus. Here, faculty and advanced students (or “faux felons”) develop scenarios and create mock crime scenes. Students from all three tracks work together to process the scene, analyze blood spatter, collect DNA evidence, develop latent fingerprints and reconstruct the crime. Over the course of 10 months, students identify a suspect and testify before a mock grand jury. Research Facilities: A former microbiology lab has been reconfigured into a research lab equipped with microscopes, freezers and cameras. Students enjoy space that can be devoted to conducting their own research. The core modules are:
- Survey of Forensic Science
- Advanced Crime Scene Investigation
- Advanced Investigation I and II
- Law and Evidence
- Administration of Justice
- Advanced Criminalistics I and II
- Physical Analysis in Forensic Science
- Medicolegal Investigation and Identification
- Forensic DNA Analysis
- Criminal Law
People planning a career in forensic science should have an aptitude for mathematics and be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures quickly. In addition communication skills, critical thinking, listening, nonverbal communication, and problem-solving abilities are valuable assets. Because legal decisions are made on the basis of their statements and services, they should have high standards of integrity.
Nebraska Wesleyan University offers a 42-credit-hour forensic science program through which graduate students may earn a Master of Forensic Science (MSFS). The first year curriculum focuses on giving graduate students a broad-based knowledge of the forensic sciences. Over the next summer, they complete a two-week internship with a medical examiner or coroner.
During the second year, students focus on biological and chemistry courses. They also participate in a yearlong crime scene investigation course that counts for two credits. The last class for most students is “Forensic Science 599”. This course involves research and internship work relevant to students’ individual interests and concentrations.