How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Montana

Montana’s State Crime Lab, which is part of the Forensic Science Division of the Montana Department of Justice, is responsible for providing timely, quality forensic services to Montana’s criminal justice system. The Crime Lab was awarded accreditation by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board in 2011, joining other national and international laboratories that hold this esteemed, voluntary accreditation.

The Montana Crime Lab, which serves all local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in the state, from Billings and Missoula to Great Falls, Butte, Bozeman and Helena, is organized into a number of specialties within the forensic science discipline:

  • Trace Evidence
  • Toxicology
  • Serology/DNA
  • Pathology
  • Latent prints and Impressions
  • Firearms and Toolmarks
  • Drug chemistry
  • Breath alcohol

Forensic Science Colleges and Degree Granting Schools in Montana

A comprehensive, well-rounded college or university education in forensic science is the first step for individuals learning how to become a forensic scientist in Montana. A bachelor’s degree in forensic science provides students with the skills and knowledge needed to apply scientific principles to matters defined by civil and criminal law.

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Grounded in the sciences, including chemistry, biology, and physics, a degree in forensic science is rather multi-disciplinary, as it provides students with a strong, scientific background aimed at the recognition, identification and evaluation of physical evidence.

Forensic scientist jobs in Montana require a specific education and experience background, which includes a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biological science, or a closely related field. Further, most candidates for forensic scientist jobs must complete at least 20 semester credit hours of chemistry and at least 60 semester credit hours of natural science.

Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science

A Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science, for example, is designed to prepare students through an education in criminalistics and through the scientific study of evidence. This type of degree is typically reinforced by laboratory classes aimed at the many areas of forensic investigation. Further, students of many Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science programs often choose a specialization or concentration on which to focus their undergraduate education, including forensic biology or forensic chemistry.

Typical core coursework in such a program includes:

  • General Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Genetics
  • Physical Evidence Lab
  • Patterned Evidence Lab
  • Blood, Bodily Fluids and DNA Analysis Lab
  • Forensic Biology
  • Quantitative Analysis
  • Biochemistry
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Investigation

Certificate in Forensic Studies

Another common course of education in forensic science is a certificate in forensic studies or forensic science. Students who have completed an undergraduate degree in one of the sciences, such as chemistry or biology, often seek a certificate as to achieve the necessary education to prepare them for a career in the laboratory. Further, some students seek this type of program to learn more about the field and work toward a bachelor’s degree. Students can expect to complete a curriculum derived from the observation of forensic scientists and their role in the criminal and civil justice systems.

Common coursework in this type of forensic science certificate program includes:

  • Survey of forensic science
  • Forensic science and technology
  • Ethics in Forensic Science
  • At least one course in Anthropology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Studies, Pharmacy, Physics, Mathematical Sciences, Criminology, Psychology, and Science.
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