How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Iowa

Forensic scientists in Iowa are responsible for applying scientific methods to the analysis of evidence collected from crime scenes and civil investigations and work on behalf of either the Criminalistics Laboratory or the State Medical Examiner.

The Division of Criminal Investigation, Criminalistics Laboratory, under the Iowa Department of Public Safety umbrella, is responsible for providing forensic science services to the local, state and federal agencies in Iowa. The Criminalistics Laboratory, which was created in 1969, consists of the following sections:

  • Drug Identification
  • Impression Evidence (footwear and tire tracks, latent prints)
  • Photography
  • Breath Alcohol
  • Arson
  • Crime Scene Processing
  • DNA
  • Questioned Documents
  • Toxicology
  • Evidence Processing
  • Firearms and Toolmarks
  • Trace Evidence

Forensic Science Colleges and Degree Granting Schools in Iowa

Iowa is home to a multitude of colleges and degree-granting schools that offer forensic science programs. In addition to undergraduate degrees in chemistry and biology, a number of institutions now offer programs in forensic science. These programs offer courses in not only biology, physics, and chemistry, but also in collection and processing of evidence, forensic practice and ethics, providing students with a strong foundation for a career as a forensic scientist.

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Common coursework in a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science program includes:

  • Introduction to Forensic Science
  • Evidence Collection, Identification and Processing
  • Forensic Chemistry
  • Forensic Biology
  • Calculus
  • Elementary Statistics
  • Microbiology
  • Genetics
  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Quantitative Analysis
  • Biochemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Chemical Instrumentation

In addition to a number of graduate programs in forensic science, such as a Master of Science in Forensic Science, many students pursue a graduate certificate upon completion of an undergraduate program.

A Forensic Science Graduate Certificate helps prepare Iowa’s students for careers in the forensic sciences and to serve the larger forensics community.

Common coursework for this type of program often includes:

  • Forensic Anthropology
  • General Pharmacology
  • General Biochemical Research Techniques
  • Advanced Survey of Analytical Chemistry
  • Advanced Quantitative Analysis
  • Analytical Separations
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Light Microscopy
  • Issues in Crime and Justice
  • Clinical and Diagnostic Toxicology
  • Principles of Toxicology

How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Iowa

Forensic scientists in Iowa, who are often referred to as criminalists, are responsible for collecting and preserving evidence and conducting a wide array of complex forensic analyses and examinations. These forensic professionals also conduct forensic examinations and analyses using a variety of electronic and digital source media and write laboratory reports on analyses conducted on physical evidence.

Individuals who want to become a forensic scientist in Iowa must possess a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, forensic science, biology, physics, or a closely related physical or natural laboratory science.

Candidates for forensic scientist jobs may also qualify by substituting one year of education for experience, with crime laboratory experience in one or more of the following:

  • Latent print identification
  • Firearms identification
  • Document examination
  • Forensic toxicology
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Forensic training
  • Trace evidence

All candidates for forensic scientist jobs in Iowa must also pass a thorough background investigation conducted by the Division of Criminal Investigation.

Further, certain positions may require additional training, certification and/or education:

DNA: College coursework in biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology

Chemistry: One year of experience in chemistry in a crime laboratory setting

Document Examination: One year of experience in document examination in a police or crime lab

Latent Fingerprint: One year of experience in latent print examination

Firearms Examination: One year of experience in firearms examination

Breath Analyzer Calibration: One year of experience in chemistry or toxicology and a working knowledge of electrical and mechanical troubleshooting

Computer Forensics: Two years of experience performing and conducting forensic examinations; certification through the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS):

  • Certified Computer Examiner (CFCE)
  • Certified Electronic Evidence Collection Specialist (CEECS)
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