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 Tennessee.
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 Tennessee
Forensic scientists are intricately involved in the criminal justice process across Tennessee. Last year these specialists assisted in resolving many of the state’s crimes:
- 409 murders
- Nearly 2,000 rapes
- Over 1,000 cases of arson
- 8,170 robberies
Using the most advanced techniques and technology, forensic scientists work in a laboratory environment to examine clues gathered by detectives and CSI agents at crime scenes. Researching the process and learning how to become a forensic scientist in Tennessee will illuminate the need for higher education that will prepare candidates to make a competitive bid for forensic science jobs.
Some of the primary employers of forensic scientists in the state include:
- Murfreesboro Police Department’s Crime Scene Unit
- Hamilton County Forensic Center serving Chattanooga
- The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Services Division operates three regional crime labs:
- Central Laboratory in Nashville
- Regional Laboratory in Knoxville
- Regional Laboratory in Memphis
Forensic Science Training in Tennessee
Every forensic agency has its own hiring requirements, but having the right education is a common prerequisite across the state. For example, to become a forensic technician with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, candidates need to possess a high school diploma as well as either two years of highly relevant work experience or an associate’s degree from an accredited college.
The three state crime labs located strategically across the region have certain specializations which provide an idea of the variety of tasks in which forensic scientists participate:
- Nashville Crime Laboratory: Here forensic scientists work in:
- Firearms identification unit
- Latent print unit
- Microanalysis unit
- Memphis Regional Crime Laboratory: Forensic scientists participate in:
- Serology/DNA unit
- Evidence receiving unit
- Violent crime response team
- Knoxville Regional Crime Laboratory: In this lab forensic scientists participate in:
- Drug chemistry unit
- Toxicology unit:
- Blood alcohol
- Breath alcohol
- Drug toxicology
In a recent case that demonstrates the importance of forensic scientists, a Clarksville pizza store robbery suspect was identified after forensic scientists discovered his fingerprints on a stolen safe-deposit bag. Detectives caught up with the alleged perpetrator and conducted an interview that determined his fingerprints were not coincidentally on the bag, and subsequently placed him under arrest.
This is an example of a relatively easy forensic case. Experts must regularly resort to DNA analysis and trace evidence examination to determine any leads in a case or secure a conviction. When they are not working in the lab, forensic scientists may also be called to the witness stand to provide expert testimony in criminal cases.
Forensic Science Salary in Tennessee
According to Tennessee’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, there were 200 forensic science technicians employed in the state in 2008. They project that ten positions will become available a year in the period of 2008 to 2018. They also provided the median salary of the professionals who hold these positions.
It is listed below:
- Tennessee statewide: $43,620
- Chattanooga: $29,200
This occupational category includes both forensic lab technicians, who work primarily in crime labs, and crime scene investigators (CSIs) who work in the field processing evidence from crime scenes for storage and further analysis.
There are a number of crime labs in Tennessee that hire forensic scientists as technicians. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Forensics Sciences Division has three crime labs throughout the state. They are located in the following cities:
Employees of these labs work for the state of Tennessee. A forensic technician for the state earned from $31,332 to $50,124 in 2013.
Some special agents of the TBI receive forensic training. Their wages in 2013 were as follows:
- special agent forensic scientist I: $45,324 – $70,320
- special agent forensic scientist II: $49,500 – $76,788
A crime scene investigator position can employ either civilians or enlisted personnel, depending on the department. A number of the CSIs in Tennessee are law enforcement officers.
For instance, a Tennessee state trooper received official certification as a CSI from the International Association of Identification (IAI) in 2013. The department hopes to have more troopers obtain this certification. The salaries for state troopers ranged from $34,032 to $50,580 a year in 2013.
Forensic Science Schools and Colleges in Tennessee
Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Tennessee
|University||King University, Forensic Science B.S.|
|Type||Full time, Part time|
|Tuition and fees||$24,911 per year|
As a forensic scientist, you will use your scientific skill for the good of society, public health, and public safety. Because of the extreme breadth of skills a forensic scientist needs, courses in this major focus on chemistry and biology as well as ethics, law, statistics, psychology, communications, and mathematics.
You will learn about the scientific method, statistics, and how to make courtroom presentations. The courses will also prepare you to pursue your choice of postgraduate programs in forensics where you could get the training you need to become a medical examiner, psychological profiler, or forensic specialist.
Outside the classroom our students join Northeast State Community College criminal justice students to investigate mock crime scenes. The core modules are:
- Criminalistic practitioner
- Jurisprudence (philosophy of law)
- Odontology (forensic dentistry)
- Physical Anthropology
- Document analysis
The Forensic Science degree provides you with a number of options for careers and for further study. You can go to graduate school, medical school, or dental school. Forensic scientists work in crime laboratories, forensic laboratories, police departments, medical examiner/coroner offices, hospitals, government agencies, and private laboratories.
Possibilities in Forensic Science are expanding-crime scene technicians, forensic molecular biologists, toxicologists, and crime scene analysts are just a few of the options available.
Master’s Degree Programs in Tennessee
There are currently no master’s programs offered in Tennessee.