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 Oklahoma.
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 Oklahoma
After obtaining the right education and training candidates will be prepared to search the competitive market for forensic science jobs in Oklahoma. Employers in the field include:
- Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Science Services
- Norman Police Department’s Investigation Division’s Crime Lab
- Tulsa Police Department’s Forensic Laboratory
- Laboratory and Support Services Division of the Oklahoma City Police Department’s Investigations Bureau
Each agency in Oklahoma that employs forensic scientists will have their own hiring standards. As a comparison, the State Bureau of Investigation requires its entry-level Criminalists to have at least a bachelor’s degree in any of the above subject areas, with increasingly stringent education and experience requirements for higher level positions.
There are a number of forensic science schools and colleges in Oklahoma that offer degree programs in these relevant fields, with additional opportunities online.
Forensic Science Training in Oklahoma
Often times the evidence obtained from laboratory work that is presented by forensic scientists is the determining factor in a verdict made by a judge or jury. Using technology that was not available a decade ago, forensic scientists are also responsible for causing cases to be overturned or arrests to be made in cold cases.
Last year in Oklahoma there were 200 forensic science technicians working across the region who made an average yearly salary of $59,170. Candidates who are interested in this career field will find that when looking into how to become a forensic scientist in Oklahoma, certain requirements are common among all hiring agencies- namely an education.
What started out as a training exercise turned into one of the more bizarre cases Oklahoma forensic scientists have recently encountered. Forensic pathologists and anthropologists were called to the scene when highway patrol troopers discovered two rusting cars submerged in a reservoir after testing new sonar equipment. Even more surprising was the discovery of human remains of up to six people in the side-by-side cars manufactured in 1952 and 1969. Forensic scientists usually deal with remains that are not much more than a day or two old, and in unusual cases weeks or months. Because this case involves identifying human remains that have been submerged for decades, forensic scientists will need to use every strategy they have to glean any possible clues from the gathered evidence.
Although the models and makes of the cars has narrowed down the victims to two likely cases of disappeared parties, determining the causes of death and the surrounding circumstances will prove to be a far greater challenge to forensic scientists.
Forensic Science Salary in Oklahoma
The field of forensic sciences is growing rapidly in Oklahoma. The state’s Employment Security Commission projects job growth of 20.33% from 2008 to 2018. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), two hundred forensic science technicians were employed in the state in 2012.
The 2013 starting salary of one such position in the state was $59,721. This was for a criminalist III level job that entailed having two years of experience as a forensic laboratory criminalist.
There are a number of forensic labs in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) alone has five labs throughout the state located in the following cities:
In addition to their work in the lab, a number of forensic scientists specialize in processing crime scenes. These crimes scene investigators (CSIs) document the scene of the crime and collect physical evidence.
CSIs positions can be filled by either sworn officers or by civilians. A number of law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma, including the Oklahoma City Police Department, are switching to hiring civilian CSIs. In this city, they are known as civilian investigation specialists or CISs.
The salaries of CSIs vary a great deal, depending on their level of education and expertise. According to Indeed.com, the average crime scene investigator position in Oklahoma paid $52,000 in the year preceding October 2013.
Forensic Science Schools and Colleges in Oklahoma
Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Oklahoma
|University||University of Central Oklahoma, Forensic Science B.S.|
|Type||Full time, Part time|
|Tuition and fees||$30,464 per year|
The Forensic Science undergraduate degree program is one component of a concurrent degree program. Students must declare a major in addition to Forensic Science. Students will satisfy all requirements in an existing undergraduate program at UCO and, at the same time, complete requirements for a concurrent degree in Forensic Science. There are two primary mechanisms for earning the Forensic Science degree:
(A) To earn a degree in Forensic Science, students must satisfy all requirements in an existing undergraduate program at UCO and concurrently complete 30 – 36 required hours in one of the Forensic Science Program tracks. In addition, students earning a concurrent degree must complete a minimum of 139 credit hours with 30 unique hours in each major. Students earning a concurrent degree will receive two diplomas. (B) A student possessing an appropriate undergraduate degree can obtain an additional degree in Forensic Science by meeting the admission standards at UCO and completing 30-36 hours in one of the Forensic Science Program tracks. The core modules are:
- Topics in Forensic Science
- Behavioral Aspects of Crime Scenes
- Digital Evidence
- DNA for Crime Scene Investigators
- Wildlife Forensics
- Forensic Interviewing
- Forensic Psychology
- Crime Scene Reconstruction
- Forensic Archaeology
- Forensic Pathology
- Forensic Toxicology
- Forensic Molecular Biology
- Forensic Serology
- Firearm and Toolmark Analysis
The processes by which human remains are scattered and destroyed by mammalian vertebrate scavenging behaviors are significant to forensic death investigations, in terms of focusing search techniques, improving remains recovery, and contributing to more timely and successful case resolution. This study utilized domestic pig (Sus scrofa) carcasses as human analogues, placed at a wildlife conservation area during three seasons, to assess members of the scavenger guild of the area, their associated behavior, and related effects on remains to address these issues. Carcasses were observed by digital video, motion triggered game cameras, and site visits. Biological radio telemetry transmitters, which are typically used to track living wildlife, were implanted in carcasses to assess long distance movement of skeletal elements. It was shown that there were three main participants in the vertebrate scavenger guild, the coyote (Canis latrans), the Virginia opossum (Didelphis viriginiana), and the bobcat (Lynx rufus). Each of these species left unique taphonomic identifiers on carcasses. They also contributed significantly to the destruction and dispersal of skeletal elements. There were clear patterns in time of carcass acquisition, tissues consumed by each species, and the subsequent dispersal of elements caused by each activity. Mammalian scavenging drastically increased time to skeletonization, which has the potential to lead to inaccurate estimations of post-deposition/post-mortem interval using current techniques. Further research is needed to understand if these patterns are similar in human adult remains and other ecoregions.
Master’s Degree Programs in Oklahoma
|University||University of Central Oklahoma, Forensic Psychology M.A.|
|Type||Full time, Part time|
|Tuition and fees||$18,240 per year|
The M.S. Forensic Science degree and the M.S. Forensic Science-Biology/Chemistry degree are research-oriented, thesis-required graduate degree programs. Students must complete a minimum of 36 hours of graduate level work including required core courses, electives, and 6 hours of thesis research in their major area. The Forensic Science Practicum (3 credit hours) will involve a field experience requiring a substantial time commitment (120 hours) in a setting selected by the instructor of record in conjunction with the Practicum student. The student desiring to enroll in the Practicum must work with the instructor well in advance of the beginning of the Practicum as there is often a significant time requirement to meet with the Practicum site host, complete appropriate paperwork (which may include background checks), establish a report date, work out a Practicum work schedule, and complete administrative requirements. This process may take as long as three months. This syllabus gives general information and each host site will have specific requirements. The core modules are:
- Crime Scene Reconstruction
- Forensic Pathology
- Forensic Toxicology & Lab
- Forensic Molecular Biology & Lab
- Forensic Serology & Lab
- Firearm and Toolmark
- Bloodstain Pattern Analysis
- Forensic Arson Investigation
- Digital Forensics
- Forensic Chemistry and Lab
- Forensic Microscopy and Lab
- Adv. Firearm Analysis and Toolmark & Lab
- Advanced Forensic DNA Analysis
- Digital Forensics for Tools & Analysis
- Forensic Pharmacology
- Seminar in Forensic Science
The Forensic Psychology major prepares students for careers in intelligence analysis and criminal investigation at
the local, state, and federal levels of law enforcement. The program emphasizes scientific research in experimental psychology and applications to forensics issues. This is a non-clinical program that trains students in quantitative methods of scientific inquiry. The Forensic Psychology major requires a minimum of 49
graduate credit hours. In addition to the core courses required for all Psychology M.A. students, a student exercising the Forensic Psychology major must also enroll in the Forensic Psychology course work and additional course work as required by the advisory committee. A student enrolled in this major must submit a thesis in partial fulfillment of their degree requirements. The student’s advisory committee, with the addition of one faculty member from outside the department, will constitute the reading committee for the master’s thesis.
The member from outside the department will, at the request of the student, be appointed by the graduate dean along with confirmation of the total committee as the thesis is begun. The master’s thesis is a research project which has the potential for publication in a psychological journal. For clarification of what qualifies as research in the field of psychology and for matters of concern regarding the design and reporting of research, the student is referred to the publication manual of the American Psychological Association.