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Do Forensic Degrees Really Prepare You for the Job?

There's no question that crime-solving TV shows like CSI are popular. They've created a huge interest in the demand for forensic science programs at colleges across the nation as students strive to have such a prestigious job. However, just like the depiction of the job of forensic scientist isn't accurately portrayed in these shows, the ability of a student to get a job in this field without an advanced degree may be over-exaggerated by colleges that offer 2-and 4-year degrees in forensics. According to Medill Reports:

In order to be a forensic pathologist, you need to first go through medical school, then get a pathology specialization, then do residency," said Tolley, head of the Forensic Chemistry Program at Southern Illinois University.

The best path to CSI-like jobs, said Tolley, is to either become a police officer or get an advanced degree in a hard science.

Of the 160-some forensic and crime scene programs listed on crime-scene-investigator.net, 10 are online degrees, 27 are certificates, and 46 are two-year degrees. Many offer a mixed bag of criminal justice and introductory chemistry courses that some experts worry don't prepare people to do much of anything.

"You're not going to get out of a certificate program and all of a sudden police agencies are going to beat your door down and say, ���Oh will you come and work for me,' " said R.E. Gaensslen, head of the forensic science masters at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "That's not happening."

In truth, the jobs of collecting evidence and examining it are performed by two different entities. The forensic team has the job of examining the evidence after the detectives have collected it. It's not nearly as prestigious as these TV programs, and even some colleges, would have you believe.


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