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What does a Forensic Science Technician do?

Forensic science technicians help investigators solve crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence from crime scenes. Popular criminal detection series like NCIS and CSI have helped bring this very important job field to the forefront of public consciousness. In forensic labs, trained technicians use measuring and testing instruments, incorporating the latest computer technology to thoroughly analyze trace evidence from crime scenes. Forensic science technicians can:

  • Examine hair, blood and tissue samples
  • Test firearms and ballistic evidence
  • Analyze fibers, pieces of glass, wood and other physical substances
  • Identify drugs and chemical substances
  • Recognize impressions left by fingerprints, shoes, tires
  • Ensure proper handling and storage of evidence

forensic technician

Most work for local or state public law enforcement agencies, but there are also job possibilities with the federal government and with private medical or diagnostic labs. Forensic science technicians may also reconstruct crime scenes and testify as expert witnesses at criminal trials.

Forensic science technician training

Most employers of forensic science technicians require a bachelor’s degree, either in chemistry, biology, physical anthropology or forensic science. There are also two-year forensic science programs that combine classroom education in the principles of science with practical hands-on lab experience.

For an entry-level forensic science technician, most labs will provide a training period under the direct supervision of an experienced technician or forensic scientist. A new technician will also have the opportunity to observe court testimony and legal procedure before testifying in court.

A prospective forensic scientist should take a full program of science and math courses, starting in high school. College coursework should concentrate on lab sciences and computer skills, such as:

  • Biology, physical anthropology
  • Chemistry
  • Pharmacology
  • Physics
  • Quantitative analysis, statistics
  • Forensic science techniques
  • Computer science

Some forensic science technician students will take advanced course work to train as specialists in DNA typing, fingerprint, blood, or handwriting analysis or firearm identification. Others will chalk up several years of work experience and then pursue a master’s degree in order to advance to the level of supervisor or forensic scientist.

Related skills and qualifications

Forensic science technicians have many skills and qualifications in common with other applied scientists; they must be analytical, precise, accurate and observant. They are expected to:

  • Keep detailed scientific logs as they monitor experiments
  • Interpret results and communicate their findings clearly
  • Operate and maintain sophisticated equipment and computer systems
  • Follow security precautions to avoid contamination

Career outlook for forensic science technicians

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs for forensic science technicians to grow by a healthy 20 percent, driven by increased use of scientific analysis like DNA testing in solving crimes. Forensic science technicians working for the federal government reported above-average wages.

What does a Juvenile Probation Officer do?

Choosing the career of juvenile probation officer is challenging and rewarding. It gives you the opportunity to provide a needed service to your community. Your mission is to monitor and counsel juvenile offenders and help them become useful members of society. Probation as an alternative to incarceration offers youthful offenders a chance to get back on a law abiding path and avoid becoming hardened criminals.

juvenile probation officer

Becoming a juvenile probation officer: the basics

Good health, emotional stability, the ability to interact well with people and an affinity for law enforcement provide a solid starting point for success in this profession.

A bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice, psychology or related fields provides essential academic knowledge while a master’s degree betters your possibilities for advancement in law enforcement.

You must pass strict written, oral, physical and psychological exams and normally spend a year as a trainee.

Technological skills in computing, communications, investigative techniques plus the ability to express yourself concisely and clearly either in writing or verbally are vitally important.

Scope of activities

To be a successful juvenile probation officer, you should be aware of the underlying causes of criminal behavior along with understanding the verbal and body language used in dealing with youthful offenders. This includes familiarity with the environment that caused their misbehavior.

You must be sensitive to evasive techniques and stories used by the individuals you monitor. The illegal activities of your clients can range from petty crimes to violence, and your occupation carries an element of danger.

You may carry a caseload of 20 to 150 individuals and learn to know when either firmness or empathy is required. Your recommendations can have a large impact on the sentencing or release of these individuals.

Meeting court deadlines and following court procedures is a large part of your duties. Good organizational skills will keep you ahead of the game.

Job outlook and wage considerations

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the job outlook for juvenile probation officers is excellent. Many states are considering probation as an alternative to incarceration and the need for juvenile probation officers is expected to grow approximately 19 percent according to the BLS. The American Probation and Parole Association is a nationwide organization working on improved performance and standardized procedures in the field. You can get important information at www.appa-net.org.

What does a Military Officer do?

Do you think you have what it takes to serve your country and protect its citizens? A career as a military officer is a distinguished, disciplined professional path that you must pursue with pride, honor, and dedication to core American values.

military officer

Becoming an officer

Military officers are leaders and organizers who are expected to excel both physically and mentally while under pressure. There are five branches of the American military – Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard – and, depending upon which branch you serve, your duties can vary widely. Your duties and responsibilities will also vary depending upon your rank.

In order to become an officer, you must at least hold a high school diploma, though generally, officers are preferred to have completed at least a bachelor’s degree. Then, you may pursue an officer career track in one of three ways:

  • Enlist in the military and apply to officer candidate school
  • Attend an accredited college or university and enroll in the school’s ROTC program
  • Attend a service academy such as West Point, Annapolis, or The Citadel

As a military officer, you will be assigned to and trained in a specialty based partially on what you’re good at, partially on what the military’s needs are.

Made in the U.S.A.: career pathsfor a military officer

Officer ranks consist of commissioned officers (the highest ranks) and warrant officers. As a military officer, you may be assigned to one of the following occupational groups:

  • Combat specialty officers could plan or direct military operations, or lead units in a number of information gathering, offensive, or search-and-rescue missions.
  • Health care officers might provide medical, dietary, or psychological services to soldiers at military facilities.
  • Media and public affairs officers might direct training or news-related video, radio, or television broadcasts, or handle press inquiries into military-related activities.
  • Protective service officers protect people and property on military bases, and might help prepare for and execute responses to emergency situations.

It is also possible to take skills learned through the military and apply them to civilian careers. Many skill sets cross over for those who choose to leave the military after their set-service time.

Commissioned military officer earning potentials

Military wages are fairly cut and dry: You will be paid according to your rank and the number of years you have been serving. In addition to salary, military officers receive free room and board (or stipends to cover these expenses), medical and dental benefits, 30 days of paid leave annually, and a host of other benefits. Before joining the military, it is important to do very thorough research on your committments and requirements.