How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Illinois

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the metropolitan area of Chicago-Joliet-Naperville ranked sixth in the nation for its pay of forensic scientists. As of May 2012, forensic scientists here earned a median annual pay of $73,570.

The Illinois State Police, Division of Forensic Services, Forensic Sciences Command (FSC), maintains several operational forensic science laboratories in the State of Illinois:

  • Command Headquarters: Springfield
  • Carbondale Lab
  • Chicago Lab
  • Joliet Lab
  • Metro-East Lab: Fairview Heights
  • Morton Lab
  • Rockford Lab
  • Springfield Lab
  • Springfield Lab (Toxicology)
  • Springfield Lab (CODIS)

The Forensic Sciences Command is responsible for: providing scientific analyses of physical evidences to criminals within Illinois’ criminal justice system; and providing training to command employees and to officers within the State’s law enforcement community.

Earning a Forensic Science Degree in Illinois

Illinois is home to a wide array of forensic science programs, both of the graduate and undergraduate variety. Some forensics science programs are part of criminal justice colleges, while other forensic science programs are an integral part of chemistry or biology degree programs.

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A common graduate program in Illinois is the Master of Science in Forensic Science, which is designed for students who possess undergraduate degrees in chemistry or another science field.  Some of these programs are organized within an institution’s College of Pharmacy, which provides students with a research-oriented course of study in both drug chemistry and toxicology.

As such, common coursework in a Master of Science in Forensic Science may include the following:

  • Foundations of Forensic Science
  • Forensic Analysis of Biological Evidence
  • Physical Pattern Evidence Analysis
  • Forensic Chemistry and Trace Evidence Analysis
  • Principles of Toxicology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

Illinois Forensic Science Trainee Program

Individuals who want to become a forensic scientist in Illinois must complete the state’s Forensic Scientist Trainee program upon completion of an undergraduate or graduate program.

Individuals who want to pursue this program must first possess an undergraduate degree in one of the natural sciences or in forensic science. Some of the acceptable degrees include:

  • Animal Science
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Botany
  • Chemistry
  • Medical Technology
  • Preliminary medicine
  • Geology
  • Zoology
  • Physics

All trainees are paid during this program and all receive training in one of the following specialties:

  • Forensic Biology
  • Documents
  • Drug Chemistry
  • Firearms/Toolmarks
  • Latent Prints
  • Microscopy
  • Toxicology
  • Trace Chemistry

The length of the training program depends on the chosen forensic discipline and the student’s ability to progress through the program. However, most training programs last between 18 and 24 months, with the exception of documents, which takes 36 months to complete.

After training has been completed, individuals can expect to be promoted to the position of Forensic Scientist I.

Trainees must be willing to travel and/or relocate to their assigned laboratory during their training period. After applying for the position of forensic scientist trainee with the State of Illinois, the Department of Central Management Services will determine if the applicant meets the minimum requirements to achieve eligibility to take the entrance exam and receive an invitation for a personal interview.

Only those candidates who pass the examination, personal interview, and a comprehensive background investigation are eligible to participate in the state training program.

Individuals can learn more about the FSC training program by calling 217-557-5884 or by visiting the Illinois State Police’s website.

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