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How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Nevada

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The Forensic Laboratory of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) provides forensic science services in Nevada. Because Nevada does not have a state forensics laboratory, the LVMPD Forensic Laboratory provides services to all law enforcement agencies within the state, from Reno to Henderson. Services provided by the LVMPD Forensic Laboratory include:

  • Controlled Substances
  • DNA
  • Trace Evidence
  • Latent Prints
  • Toxicology
  • Questioned Documents
  • Firearms and Toolmarks
  • Footwear

Note: Because the LVMPD Forensic Laboratory is the only full-service crime laboratory in Southern Nevada, which is home to about 70 percent of Nevada’s population, a number of law enforcement agencies throughout the state and the City of Henderson have petitioned the State of Nevada to build a Forensic Science Center in Southern Nevada. In addition, a private group, called the Friends of Henderson CSI, launched a fundraising project with a goal to raise $37 million through donations alone to build the Henderson Crime Lab. To date the funds have not been raised to begin this project.

Forensic Science Schools in Nevada

Although many individuals who want to learn how to become a forensic scientist in Nevada seek a bachelor’s degree in this field, a large number of forensic scientists are now seeking graduate degrees in this field, as well, mainly due to the highly scientific and technical nature of this profession and of the desire to compete with other highly qualified professionals.

As such, a graduate degree such as a Master of Science in Forensic Science is a popular degree for those students seeking a strong theoretical and practical background in all areas of criminalistics and for those seeking a meaningful research experience in forensic science.

Students pursuing master’s degrees, such as the Master of Science in Forensic Science, can expect to learn the foundational principles of forensic science. These programs are typically reserved for those individuals with a solid background in the natural sciences and for those who currently hold a bachelor’s degree in a natural science or in forensic science.

Coursework in this type of graduate program often includes the following courses:

  • Professional Communication
  • Advanced Microscopy
  • Biochemistry
  • Research Design and Statistics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Recent Advances in Forensic Biology
  • Forensic Chemistry
  • Forensic Toxicology
  • Legal and Ethical Issues in Forensic Science

Graduate programs in forensic science likely include a master’s thesis research program, which includes writing a thesis and giving a research seminar.

Entering the Forensic Science Field

New forensic scientists through the LVMPD Forensic Laboratory can expect to begin their professional career by serving as forensic scientist trainees.

Forensic scientist trainees receive supervised training in the scientific analyses of physical evidence and the interpretation of test results. Upon one year of successful training, forensic scientist trainees are expected to advance to the class of Forensic Scientist I. Training as a forensic scientist trainee includes a formal training program that involves the completion of written and practical exercises and competency tests.

Forensic scientist trainees can expect to be assigned in one of the specialties of forensic science, including: Biology/DNA; controlled substance analysis; documentation examination; firearms and toolmarks; latent print examination; toxicology; or trace evidence analysis.

Candidates for forensic scientist trainee positions in Nevada must possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in a physical or natural science or a field related to a forensic specialty. Further, DNA analyst trainees must possess at least 6 cumulative semester hours in biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, and statistics or population genetics and chemistry trainees must possess at least 24 college credits in chemistry or the equivalent.

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