Forensic science is one of the fastest-growing fields in the U.S. with a predicted job growth of 20 percent by 2018. Most forensic science jobs are within the criminal justice system, including state/local government, the FBI, the DEA and the U.S. military. However, private laboratories and educational institutions also employ forensic scientists.
West Virginia is home to six schools with forensic science degree programs, including master’s degree programs, which graduate approximately 85 students every year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, forensic scientists in West Virginia earn an annual mean wage of $37,800. However, persons who live in the northeastern end of the state and work in the greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area, tend to earn roughly twice as much, or an annual mean wage of $74,500
Basic Requirements for a Forensic Science Job in West Virginia
There are currently over 50 forensic scientists employed in West Virginia.
The general requirements that must be met for a forensic science job are:
- Bachelor’s degree in forensic science or a natural science from an accredited four-year college/university
- Successfully pass a background check
- No criminal record
- No use of controlled substances
West Virginia State Police (WVSP) Forensics Laboratory
Located in South Charleston, the fully accredited WVSP crime lab offers full-service analyzes of evidence collected from criminal investigations free of charge to all law enforcement/criminal justice agencies in West Virginia. Services provided include:
- Drug Identification – Identification and analysis of controlled substances
- Toxicology – Analysis of blood alcohol content; examination of blood and urine for presence of drugs
- Trace Evidence – Identification and comparison of hair, fiber, paint, glass, etc.
- Biochemistry – Analysis of biological substances
- Latent Print – Analysis, comparison and verification of friction ridge skin impressions
- Firearms/Toolmarks – Identification/comparison of firearms, ammunition components and Toolmarks; distance determinations
- Questioned Documents – Analysis and comparison of questioned documents
Information regarding employment with the WVSP forensics laboratory is available from the state employment office, 304-766-2600.
West Virginia State Police Digital Forensic Unit
The WVSP digital forensics laboratory is located on the third floor of the Marshall University Forensic Science Center in Huntington, WV. The state-of-the-arts facility specializes in mobile forensics in order to fill the needs of WV law enforcement officers in relation to digital evidence, cell phones or internet-based crime. The lab utilizes “imaging” which creates an exact duplicate of the digital information for analysis. The lab currently processes about 30 pieces of evidence every week; roughly 80 percent of the evidence is related to child exploitation.
Marshall University Forensic Science Center DNA Laboratory
The Marshall University Forensic Science Center in Huntington, is not just a top-notch facility for forensic science students, but it also provides critical assistance to the West Virginia criminal justice community. The nationally accredited DNA laboratory accepts samples from state and local law enforcement/criminal justice agencies which are analyzed and compared on CODIS, the national DNA database. The labs staff, all of whom have master’s degrees in forensic science, process testing samples for both criminal and civil (paternity testing) cases. The center is also involved in various innovative DNA projects.
West Virginia University Forensic Science Initiative
West Virginia University, located in Morgantown, has entered into a cooperative agreement with the Department of Justice to provide free training and continuing education to law enforcement officers in West Virginia. The university offers both online and onsite courses as well as educational workshops. The more than 31 online courses include such subjects as:
- Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems
- Chemical Spot Tests for Illicit Drugs
- Ethics in Forensic Science
- Forensic Entomology
- Forensic Photography
- Forensic Toxicology
- Introduction to Bloodstain Pattern Analysis
- The Science of Fingerprints
- Integrated Ballistics Identification Systems
- Shooting Reconstruction
Forensic science students are allowed to assist with the continuing education program which gives them the opportunity to learn about a variety of specializations.