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Forensic Biologists by Paige Songer
In a world where crime is evident; people have been tasked with the duty to find and prosecute those who have committed such crimes. Of these people who work for the law, are forensic biologists. Forensic biologists examine findings collected from crime scenes. Using ever advancing technology and techniques, they analyze bodily fluids (e.g. sperm, blood), hair, fragments of animal remains, and much more (Anonymous 2011, 11). In addition to working in labs, forensic biologists may also be brought into court to provide information for a trial/jury.Though some people may not be able to face the daily routine of a forensic biologist; the outcome proves for an ever changing job which boasts both excitement, and the feeling of contributing to society.
A major portion of a forensic biologist's work list includes gathering information from crime scenes. After all evidence has been found, it is then taken back to a lab, where a forensic biologist will then analyze it. Upon analyzing they are looking for a number of different things that ultimately hold some sort of DNA footprint. This includes hair, skin, teeth, and other body remains, as well as blood samples and chemicals. This data is then documented either by hand in a journal, or digitally (Anonymous 2010, 7). In some instances, the work of a forensic biologists goes deeper than that of just the case. Sometimes, they will be called upon to help further in investigations by testifying in court (Cengage 2011, 19; Schwartz 2011, 14). All forensic biologists do not just solve crimes however, but specialize in other branches of the field. Some of these include examining remains of endangered animal species, and working with law enforcement to help stop the poaching and selling of animal remains/ furs. The job of a forensic biologist also combines the work of both public relations and science. Adding to the work of examining findings and so on, a forensic biologist may in addition use their scientific knowledge to help improve public safety and health (Cengage 2011, 19). This is done by them adding their testimonial for cases directed towards those particular subjects.
People looking to become a forensic biologist should begin preparing "as early as high-school because the basic applications needed" are taught at this stage (Harper 2011, 2). In addition, by excelling in classes at this time, one is more likely to get into a better college, which is immensely needed to become a forensic biologist. A bachelor's degree is required for this profession, and is considered just the bare minimum. Finding work in a specialized lab will most likely demand for a master's degree, or even a PhD in some cases. When taking classes, whether in high-school or college, it is healthy to keep in mind what basic principles will be needed for this occupation. In this case, it would include mathematics, chemistry, molecular biology and other sciences. Other necessary courses include genetics, statistics, and biochemistry. As well as earning a degree in forensic biology, some may choose to study another speciality such as pathology or entomology (Sandmeyer 2011, 27). Preparing early for a career such as this will ensure one that they will succeed.
In order to work as a forensic biologist one must first get a degree. There are many colleges and universities now a days with forensic science programs, due to it being an ever evolving career. An honorable mention would be the University of New Haven. With a long-running program that has been established since 1975, the University of New Haven has both programs for undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field of forensic science (Anonymous 2011, 28). Tuition fees estimate at about $45,000 total for an undergraduate degree, and about $34,000 for a graduate (Anonymous 2011, 29). Another option for earning a degree is the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. John Jay offers both online courses and in-class sessions dedicated to the study of forensics. The school has been around for over 50 years; ensuring an ever-changing curriculum that is always updated. A semester here is about $2,500 for an undergraduate., and $4,000 for a graduate (fees may vary by state or credits) (Anonymous 2011, 30).
The wage of a forensic biologist varies among different factors. Work experience, skills, and education all play a key role to what one will make off of work. The minimum salary for a starting forensic biologist is typically $27,000. This however increases the longer they work in a particular lab (Sandmeyer 2011, 25). In a recent study conducted in 2009, a majority of forensic biologists held a salary of about $55,000. Those working in specialized labs were sought to make about $54,000 annually, or about $26.38 per hour. Some forensic biologists even make up to $92,000 when employed by government agencies. According to national wages, Massachusetts holds the highest paying rate for forensic biologists; coming in at about $82,000 annually. While Washington D.C. is a close second with its average at "$78,430 a year." (Anonymous 2011, 31)
Walking into this career would most likely ensure a stable job, as this type of field is rapidly growing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs for forensic biologists are expected to increase approximately 20%, from 2008 to 2012 (Friend 2011, 32). This growth is ostensibly due to the "increasing application of techniques used to evaluate evidence and solve or reduce crime." In addition, there is yet no sign of decreasing jobs in this field. In fact according to most studies, it is rapidly growing in an exceeding rate, much higher than the national average. Furthermore, due to media coverage of crime investigation shows on television, there is a steady demand in people wishing to fulfill a career as a forensic biologist. With that said, the outlook for a career in forensics, especially that of a forensic biologist, is undoubtedly positive.
Using forensics is a relatively new concept in solving crimes. With that there are always new advances or procedures being created in this field; which can ultimately solve a case. Since its founding over 20 years ago, one major aspect of forensic biology has "revolutionized" investigations. This concept is the analysis of DNA (Jobling 2004, 17). DNA contains genetic information for all walks of life, and with it can be used to solve crimes. One of the first forms of DNA analysis that is still commonly used today is fingerprinting. Through this act, forensic scientists analyze objects for fingerprints. Once found they are ran through a database which will narrow the suspects down to a likely culprit. Other such forms include, but are not limited too a(n): PCR analysis, STR analysis, Y-chromosome analysis, and a Mitochondrial analysis. Other new advances include "high-performance liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, and 3-D computer imaging", all of which are used to help recreate crime scenes (Anonymous, 13). When working as a forensic biologists, work habits and equipment are constantly changing, due to the rapid succession of upgrading instruments. Since this field of work is greatly used now a days, advances are always being made around the clock.
In conclusion, a career as a forensic biologist should be looked upon greatly by many people. Though it may take a lot of effort from the individual (such as prepping as early as high-school, to getting a degree), the result is one that towers over the latter. Between being able to work for justice, or simply fulfilling one's passion of forensics and criminology, becoming a forensic biologist is a great way to achieve most of life's ambitions. Working with the newest of technologies to solve cold-cases, and recent crimes they are truly passionate about their work. As one can see the life of a forensic biologist is very diverse, however it may not appeal to everyone. From tough hours, to stress the life of a forensic biologist could be considered too much for some. However, for those that get a thrill out of situations stated before, they should not have to think twice before knowing what occupation best suits them.
Just like any other job, being a forensic biologist has its pro's and con's. Solving cases and examining findings, could prove to be too gruesome for some; including myself. Additionally, the education requirements are not exactly in my best interest, considering that math and science tend not to be my forte. On the other hand, the advantages of this career tend to outweigh those complications. One of the most major pro's would be the ideal of working for society. Working for justice is something that just about everyone would be proud of. Plus as an added bonus, you can choose your cause that you work with. Whether, it be protecting endangered animals, putting away criminals, or solving dead cold-cases, there is always something new. Working as a forensic biologist would definitely be a well put job for me, seeing as it has most of what I am looking for in a job as well as more.