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How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Tennessee

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Forensic scientists are intricately involved in the criminal justice process across Tennessee. Last year these specialists assisted in resolving many of the state’s crimes:

  • 409 murders
  • Nearly 2,000 rapes
  • Over 1,000 cases of arson
  • 8,170 robberies

Using the most advanced techniques and technology, forensic scientists work in a laboratory environment to examine clues gathered by detectives and CSI agents at crime scenes. Researching the process and learning how to become a forensic scientist in Tennessee will illuminate the need for higher education that will prepare candidates to make a competitive bid for forensic science jobs.

Some of the primary employers of forensic scientists in the state include:

  • Murfreesboro Police Department’s Crime Scene Unit
  • Hamilton County Forensic Center serving Chattanooga
  • The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Services Division operates three regional crime labs:
    • Central Laboratory in Nashville
    • Regional Laboratory in Knoxville
    • Regional Laboratory in Memphis

Preparing for Forensic Science Jobs in Tennessee

Every forensic agency has its own hiring requirements, but having the right education is a common prerequisite across the state. For example, to become a forensic technician with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, candidates need to possess a high school diploma as well as either two years of highly relevant work experience or an associate’s degree from an accredited college.

To become a special agent-forensic scientist with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, candidates need to have at least a four-year forensic science degree or any other bachelor’s degree in the following:

  • Chemistry
  • Natural Science
  • Physical Science
  • Mathematics
  • Medical Technology
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Biochemistry

Fortunately there are colleges and universities located across Tennessee that offer degrees in these fields, with additional opportunities available through online schools.

Working as a Forensic Scientist in Tennessee

The three state crime labs located strategically across the region have certain specializations which provide an idea of the variety of tasks in which forensic scientists participate:

  • Nashville Crime Laboratory: Here forensic scientists work in:
    • Firearms identification unit
    • Latent print unit
    • Microanalysis unit
  • Memphis Regional Crime Laboratory: Forensic scientists participate in:
    • Serology/DNA unit
    • Evidence receiving unit
    • Violent crime response team
  • Knoxville Regional Crime Laboratory: In this lab forensic scientists participate in:
    • Drug chemistry unit
    • Toxicology unit:
      • Blood alcohol
      • Breath alcohol
      • Drug toxicology

Recent Forensic Work Identifies Robbery Suspect

In a recent case that demonstrates the importance of forensic scientists, a Clarksville pizza store robbery suspect was identified after forensic scientists discovered his fingerprints on a stolen safe-deposit bag. Detectives caught up with the alleged perpetrator and conducted an interview that determined his fingerprints were not coincidentally on the bag, and subsequently placed him under arrest.

This is an example of a relatively easy forensic case. Experts must regularly resort to DNA analysis and trace evidence examination to determine any leads in a case or secure a conviction. When they are not working in the lab, forensic scientists may also be called to the witness stand to provide expert testimony in criminal cases.

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