How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Pennsylvania

At times, forensic scientists can be the only ones standing between a conviction and a criminal walking free. Through dedicated work and with professional skill, Pennsylvania’s forensic scientists work on a daily basis analyzing and examining hundreds of pieces of evidence annually in a controlled laboratory environment. When not working in the lab they may be required to testify on behalf of the defense or prosecutor regarding the evidence they have processed. Candidates who are interested in learning how to become a forensic scientist in Pennsylvania should keep in mind this is a very competitive field, and the more education and experience one has the better.

Forensic scientists in the state work closely with agencies such as:

  • Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Forensic Services Labs
  • Philadelphia Police Department’s Crime Lab
  • Allegheny County Crime Lab in Pittsburgh
  • Allentown Police Department

Forensic Science Schools and Education in Pennsylvania

Although every agency employing forensic scientists across the state will have its own hiring requirements, the State Police Forensic Lab proves to be a good point of comparison for candidates evaluating the education they will need to be competitive when vying for forensic science jobs in Pennsylvania.

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Here forensic scientists are civil servants who have a minimum of 16 credit-hours in chemistry, plus at least a four-year forensic science degree, or a bachelor’s certificate in another closely related field such as:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Genetics
  • Criminalistics
  • Criminal Anthropology
  • Natural Science

Candidates can choose among a number of colleges and universities offering these subjects across Pennsylvania as well as online. To improve the odds of being hired it is also recommended that candidates have some experience working in a laboratory environment, especially if it is approved or accredited by a national forensic or lab association.

Working in Pennsylvania

The State Police’s Forensic Labs offer a snapshot of the variety of work in which forensic scientists are involved across Pennsylvania. The lab is divided strategically into six sections that each have their own specializations:

  • Lima Regional Laboratory, specializing in:
    • Firearm examination
    • Serial number restoration
    • Tool mark examination
    • Automated fingerprint identification
  • Bethlehem Regional Laboratory, specializing in:
    • Integrated ballistic identification systems (IBIS)
    • Clandestine drug laboratory analysis
    • Serology analysis
  • Harrisburg Regional Laboratory, specializing in:
    • Ballistics
    • Alcoholic beverages analysis
    • Document examination
    • Latent print identification
    • Trace evidence analysis:
      • Soil examination
      • Gunshot primer analysis
      • Fiber analysis
      • Paint analysis
      • Vehicle lamp examination
      • Explosive residue analysis
  • Erie Regional Laboratory, specializing in:
    • Firearm identification
    • Serial number restoration
    • Fingerprint identification
    • Clandestine drug laboratory analysis
  • Greensburg Labs:
    • There are two laboratories in Greensburg, one that specialize in DNA and the other which specializes in:
      • Fingerprint identification
      • Ballistics
      • Blood tests for drug and alcohol, toxicology
      • Shoe and tire latent print examinations
      • Trace evidence analysis
  • Wyoming Regional Laboratory, specializing in:
    • Controlled substance analysis
    • Blood alcohol analysis
    • Serology:
      • Hair identification
      • Bloodstain pattern analysis
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