How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Arizona

The Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Scientific Analysis Bureau is a state agency responsible for providing scientific analysis of trace evidence, technical crime scene assistance, and expert testimony to all criminal justice agencies throughout Arizona. Four regional crime labs carry out these services:

  • Central Regional Crime Lab: Phoenix
  • Northern Regional Crime Lab: Flagstaff
  • Southern Regional Crime Lab: Tucson
  • Western Regional Crime Lab: Lake Havasu City

According to a May 2012 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Arizona ranks fourth in the nation for its employment level in forensic science and second in the nation for its overall concentration of jobs and location quotients, with the Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale metropolitan area ranking first in the nation. The annual mean salary for forensic scientists in this metropolitan area, as of May 2012, was $56,380.

Forensic Science Colleges and Degree Granting Schools in Arizona

Due to the highly technical nature of forensic science, minimum requirements in Arizona typically include a bachelor’s degree in one of the sciences, such as biology, chemistry, and physics. However, undergraduate degrees in forensic science are becoming more commonplace.

In Arizona, a number of community colleges offer certificates of completion in forensic science and associate of applied science degrees in forensic technology or forensic science crime lab, which may provide a solid foundation for those working toward an undergraduate degree.

There are currently a few institutions in Arizona that offer undergraduate degrees in the field of forensic science, such as a Bachelor of Science in Life Sciences, with a specialization in forensics.

This specialty bachelor of science degree prepares students for careers in forensic science and for graduate or professional programs in forensic science. Students can expect the majority of their coursework to focus on chemistry and biology, with lab work playing an integral part.

Coursework in a Bachelor of Science in Life Sciences, with a specialization in forensics includes:

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Fundamentals of Genetics
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Biology Behind the Crime Scene
  • Modern Concepts in Biochemistry
  • General Physics
  • Careers in Natural and Health Sciences
  • Instrumental Awareness
  • Fundamentals of Ecology
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Procedural Criminal Law
  • The Microbial Universe
  • Comparative Forensics
  • Environmental and Human Toxicology

Forensic Careers in Arizona

A recent job posting for a forensic scientist in one of Arizona’s regional crime labs reveals that all new forensic scientist trainees must complete a course of closely supervised training from highly trained forensic scientists. Through training forensic scientists receive comprehensive instruction, including classroom work, extensive required reading, research and presentation, and the completion of a mock court program.

Candidates for this entry level forensic scientist position must have knowledge of current applications of forensic science, laws of evidence and criminal procedure, and modern criminal investigation and identification techniques and procedures.

Further, minimum requirements include a bachelor’s degree in a natural science, criminalistics, or a closely related field.

About Arizona’s Scientific Analysis Bureau

The Arizona Scientific Analysis Bureau is responsible for providing the following services to criminal justice agencies throughout the state:

  • Expert testimony
  • Scientific analysis of evidence
  • Secure storage of evidentiary items
  • Technical crime scene assistance
  • Training

Services provided by forensic scientists of the Arizona Scientific Analysis Bureau include:

  • Breath alcohol
  • Controlled substances
  • DNA
  • Firearms
  • Latent fingerprints
  • Photography
  • Questioned documents
  • Serology
  • Toolmarks
  • Toxicology
  • Trace evidence

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