How to Become a Forensic Scientist in South Dakota

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As the biggest crime lab in the state, last year the South Dakota Forensic Laboratory made 1,249 examination reports for 792 cases that involved over 6,000 items of evidence. Forensic scientists working in a controlled lab environment are directly responsible for analyzing and reporting on crime scene evidence that results in criminal convictions.

Forensic science jobs are available in South Dakota through a competitive application process that ultimately reveals the most qualified candidates. While researching how to become a forensic scientist in South Dakota, potential candidates should remember that the more they plan ahead the better they can prepare.

Forensic scientists work closely with the following agencies in South Dakota:

  • Sioux Falls Crime Lab serving Sioux Falls and Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office
  • Aberdeen Police Department
  • Watertown Police Department
  • Rapid City Police Department’s Evidence Section
  • South Dakota State Forensic Laboratory

Planning Ahead for Forensic Science Careers in South Dakota

Although every forensic agency has its own employment criteria, it is a common requirement that potential employees possess a four-year forensic science degree or another bachelor’s degree in a closely related subject such as:

  • Criminalistics
  • Natural Science
  • Genetics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Computer Technology

An entry-level forensic specialist position with the South Dakota Forensic Lab requires candidates to have the bachelor degree credential or an appropriate combination of education, experience, and training that is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in the above or closely related fields.

There are colleges and universities across South Dakota, as well as online schools, offering forensic science and related degrees for candidates interested in pursuing their careers in this field.

What to Expect as a Forensic Scientist in South Dakota

The South Dakota Forensic Laboratory provides a good example of most of the work forensic scientists in the state will encounter. The lab is divided into the following six sections:

  • Evidence Intake: Properly receiving and cataloging evidence is extremely important as tainted evidence can mislead prosecutors, damage critical clues, and will not stand up in court. It is also obviously important to catalog evidence correctly so it does not become lost, which can be an issue when there is a large backlog.
  • Forensic Biology: This section is responsible for recovering physical biological evidence from substances and then conducting a DNA analysis. This analysis will be compared against a national DNA database. Evidence may be obtained from:
    • Saliva
    • Semen
    • Blood
    • Other bodily fluids
  • Impression Evidence: This section meticulously combs through evidence to detect any signs of latent prints. These can be found in the form of:
    • Sole of the foot
    • Palm of the hand
    • Fingerprints
  • Firearms and Toolmark: Analyzing evidence such as spent bullet cartridges, bullets, ammunition clips, knives, and other tool weapons, this unit can determine with precision how and in what order specific weapons were used. This section also analyzes clothing for gunshot residues and conducts firearm tests.
  • Digital Evidence: With the growing use of computers in every-day life, these can prove to be valuable assets of evidence. This team assists in obtaining digital evidence for cases including:
    • Child pornography and enticement
    • Missing persons
    • Identity theft
    • Homicides
  • Trace: The trace evidence team examines every hair and fiber to determine any links to other places or to suspects. This section also assists law enforcement and fire officials in the examination of arson or suspected arson cases.

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