How to Become a Forensic Scientist in Wisconsin

There are currently 130 forensic scientists working in Wisconsin and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that number will experience a 19 percent increase by 2020. Most forensic scientists in Wisconsin are employed by the state; however, other potential employers include medical facilities, colleges/universities and private research or analytical laboratories.

Requirements for Becoming a Forensic Scientist in Wisconsin

A bachelor’s degree in forensic science or a natural science is a requirement for getting a job as a forensic scientist. A Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry is recommended for persons interested in specializing in toxicology, the analysis of bodily specimens for the presence of poison or other harmful chemicals. Individuals wishing to focus on analyzing and comparing DNA samples from blood, sweat, saliva, semen or other bodily fluids would be wise to major in a field like biochemistry or molecular genetics.

“AFIS Specialist” is the only scientific job at the Wisconsin crime labs that does not require a bachelor’s degree. These technicians use the Automated Fingerprint Identification System to search, catalog, match and store fingerprints, palm prints, latent prints and other demographic data as well as to interface with the FBI database. The job requires a high school diploma (or its equivalent) and FBI certified AFTS training which is offered online by a number of schools.

Schools for Forensic Science in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has at least 23 four-year colleges/universities offering bachelor’s degrees in the natural sciences and at least three of these have programs in forensic science. The primary state university has campuses in 13 cities making it convenient for people living almost anywhere in the state to attend.

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At least one university offers three forensic science certificates that can be earned in addition to a bachelor’s degree. They are:

  • Certificate in Death Investigation
  • Certificate in Forensic Toxicology
  • Certificate in Forensic Science

The three core courses that must be taken to earn any of these certificates are:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Introduction to Forensic Science
  • Criminal Evidence and Investigation

Several additional courses in the specialized area of the certificate must be completed to earn a certificate.

Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Laboratories

The Wisconsin Department of Justice (WDJ) crime laboratory division is dedicated to maintaining technical proficiency, using the most current scientific methods and utilizing state-of-the-art technology in relation to felony criminal investigations. Crime lab personnel also provide training to law enforcement officers and other related professionals in the processing and collection of crime scene evidence.

The WDJ operates crime labs in Milwaukee, Madison and Wausau. They cover different geographical areas and perform scientific tests in various specialized areas. The laboratories in Milwaukee and Madison both perform testing and analyzes in the following specializations:

  • Controlled Substances
  • DNA
  • Fingerprints
  • Footwear/Tires
  • Forensic Imaging
  • Toxicology

Technicians in the Milwaukee lab also examine/analyze trace evidence while the laboratory in Madison has both DNA database and AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) capabilities. The limited-service lab in Wausau specializes in:

  • Controlled Substances
  • Fingerprint Analysis
  • Forensic Imaging

The Madison and Wausau labs provide crime scene assistance when needed.

Forensic Science Salaries in Wisconsin

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, forensic scientists in Wisconsin earn an annual mean wage of $55,070 and somewhat higher ($60,920) if employed in the Greater Milwaukee Metropolitan Area.

Entry-level forensic scientists working for the Wisconsin Department of Justice crime labs earn an hourly wage of $17.07 to $21.57 or an annual salary of $35,647 to $45,037 while senior forensic scientists earn an hourly wage of $22.25 to $46.45 or an annual salary of $46,452 to $76,647.

A list of open positions with the Department of Justice can be found on the Wisconsin Human Resources website or call the Bureau of Human Resources at 608-267-9030 for more information.

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