How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Vermont

Forensic scientists are crucial to a well functioning criminal justice system, as they often are responsible for providing the evidence that determines a defendant’s guilt or innocence. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for forensic scientists is good. The 13,000 forensic scientist jobs in the U.S. in 2010 are expected to increase by 19 percent, by 2020.

Job specialties for forensic scientists in Vermont include the following:

  • Forensic Scientist
  • Ballistics Expert/Technician
  • Ballistician
  • Crime Lab Technician
  • Laboratory Analyst
  • Crime Scene Analyst

Duties of a Forensic Scientist in Vermont

The job of a forensic scientist may include any of the following tasks:

  • Identify, classify and analyze crime scene evidence
  • Perform tests on blood, hair, fiber, tissue, etc.
  • Determine significance of evidence to an investigation
  • Perform firearms/ballistics tests
  • Keep records/prepare reports
  • Operate and maintain lab equipment
  • Testify in court as an expert witness

Many forensic scientists elect to specialize in a particular area such as ballistics, biochemistry, DNA, fingerprints, DNA or handwriting.

The Right Education for a Job as a Forensic Scientist in Vermont

The first step toward getting a forensic science job in Vermont is to earn a bachelor’s degree. There is one school in Vermont that has a bachelor’s degree program in forensic science from which nine students graduated in the 2008-09 school year.

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In addition to a solid background in chemistry, biology and math, forensic sciences must have knowledge of scientific rules/methods, the English language, word processing, record keeping and report writing. The following personal characteristics are also needed for a successful career:

  • Persistence
  • Patience
  • Critical thinking
  • Detail-oriented
  • Active listener
  • Able to tolerate stress
  • Ethical
  • Independent
  • Self-controlled

Employers of forensic scientists include government offices and insurance companies. Although entry-level salaries are often low, there is a potential for significant increases with five or more years of experience. Salaries also vary with location. Forensic scientists in large metropolitan areas earn considerably more than those in more rural areas. The current average median salary of forensic scientists in Vermont is $62,130.

Forensic Science Certification in Vermont

Working forensic scientists can increase their potential for advancement and salary increases by attaining professional certification.

The American Board of Criminalists offers certification in comprehensive criminalistics, as well as in special disciplines such as drug chemistry or trace evidence analysis. Candidates must successfully pass a three-hour, 220 multiple-choice-question examination to qualify.

The American Board of Toxicology offers a “Toxicology Specialist” certification to individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a natural science and at least three years professional experience in forensic toxicology. Candidates must be currently employed as forensic toxicologists and pass a written examination on the principles and practice of analytical toxicology.

Vermont Forensic Laboratory

Vermont Forensic Laboratory (VFL), a division of the State of Vermont Department of Public Safety, is the only forensic laboratory that serves Vermont’s entire criminal justice system. Evidence is brought to the lab by law enforcement departments, state attorney’s investigators, public defenders and game wardens. Opened in 1947, the lab was originally staffed entirely by sworn law enforcement officer. However, a conversion began in 1968 and by 2009 all personnel were civilians.

The VFL offers a full range of evidentiary evidence analyses, including:

  • CODIS (DNA databases)
  • Drug Analysis (chromatography and spectrometry)
  • Fingerprint Analysis
  • Firearms/Ballistics
  • Photography
  • Serology
  • Trace Evidence Analysis (paint, fibers, etc.)

The Vermont Forensic Laboratory is located at 103 S. Main St., Waterbury, CT 05671-2101; Tel: 802-244-8788. The American Society of Criminal Laboratory Directors – Lab Accreditation Board, accredits the lab. Individuals interested in working as a forensic scientist at the VFL must register with the Dept. of Human Resources. Their website lists all available state jobs and accepts online applications for open positions.

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