How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Oregon

Last year there were 200 forensic technicians employed in Oregon, with more than half of them working in the five crime labs operated by the State Police, the only full-service labs of their kind in Oregon. Forensic scientists work in a laboratory environment to analyze and produce evidence that points detectives, prosecutors, and defense attorneys in the direction of justice. Candidates who are interested in learning how to become a forensic scientist in Oregon must have a qualifying education and/or experience.

The average annual wage of forensic technicians in Oregon was recently calculated at $58,140. Some common employers of forensic scientists in the state include:

  • Forensic Evidence Unit’s Crime Lab of the Eugene Police Department
  • Gresham Police Department’s Crime Lab
  • The Forensic Services Division’s Crime Lab of the Salem-based Oregon State Police has five laboratories located across the state in:
    • Portland
    • Bend
    • Pendleton
    • Central Point
    • Springfield

Preparing for a Career in Forensic Science

As the largest employer of forensic scientists in Oregon, State Crime Labs require all applicants to have at least a bachelor’s accreditation, holding a forensic science degree or a degree in other relevant subjects including:

  • Genetics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Biochemistry
  • Natural Science
  • Toxicology
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There are several colleges and universities that offer degrees in these subjects located throughout Oregon, with additional forensic science schools online. Because these positions are highly competitive, it is recommended to check with prospective employers on how best to improve a candidate’s chances for being hired. The Oregon State Police’s Forensic Services Division recommends that candidates have hands-on laboratory experience in addition to education, preferably in a nationally accredited forensic lab.

Forensic Scientists Solve 33-Year-Old Portland Murder Mystery

In a recent demonstration of the capabilities of forensic science, a 33-year-old Portland murder was solved using DNA analysis. In 1976 skin cells from underneath a murdered 80-year-old woman were scraped from beneath one of her right fingernails and preserved for decades in the state’s Crime Lab. Using money obtained from a federal grant, retired detectives working with forensic scientists were able to use modern DNA analysis to determine those skin cells belonged to a convicted burglar and murderer who had died in custody in 2003, and who at the time of the murder happened to be living 441 feet from the murder victim’s apartment door.

With modern technology and the hard work of forensic scientists, identifying the murderer in this case could have been accomplished much easier and potentially saved the lives of two of his future victims. However forensic scientists working this case can still rest assured they brought closure to the victim’s family members, and will be able to produce courtroom evidence that in the future does identify dangerous criminals and get them off the streets.

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