Forensics, or forensic sciences, is an all-encompassing term which describes the study and science related to matters of legal and/or criminal interest. A career in this field is highly flexible, allowing individuals to work in laboratory, investigative, and legal settings. Furthermore, forensic experts are always in demand, making this an attractive path for career advancement. Unsurprisingly, a wide variety of natural and social science disciplines have subspecialty areas that fall under the label of ‘forensics.’
The American Academy of Forensic Sciences, which consists of over six thousand professionals specializing in forensic sciences, defines a number of areas, including criminalistics, computer and digital forensics, forensic engineering, general forensics, forensic jurisprudence and law, forensic dentistry, odontology, and medical examination, forensic pathology and biology, physical anthropology, behavioral profiling and criminal psychology, forensic pharmacology and toxicology, and document examination. Needless to say, other areas such as entomology (the study of insects) and forensic accounting, also exist. As the reader might expect, each of the disciplines has its own educational, degree, and certification requirements. For example, medical examiners and forensic pathologists are fully-degreed medical doctors who have a residency in pathology and further fellowship studies in medical examination. By contrast, a field such as criminal psychology and behavioral profiling may be more accessible, requiring a college major in psychology and two or more years of study at the masters degree level. The requirements for other areas, such as laboratory forensics, as well as digital and computer forensics, are more in flux.
Many free online courses are a great way to jump into forensics, get a taste of the disciplines, and even to earn credits towards a degree or certification. For example, the U.S. government now offers classes through the DNA initiative, focusing on both the legal, regulatory and technical challenges surrounding DNA evidence. Classes include the collection of evidence, DNA amplification and extraction, laboratory safety, and population genetics. For individuals interested in general forensics, the US National Forensic Science Technology Center offers free online forensic courses on general areas, including firearms evidence, missing persons, trace evidence. Finally, for students interested in pursuing a career in computer and digital forensics, the Computer Forensic Training Center Online offers free forensic courses on forensic software tools, admissible computer evidence, as well as other knowledge required for the Certified Computer Examiner test.
Many other free online courses are available online from government, non-profit, and for-profit entities. With some sifting, one can find many low cost or free resources to kick off a successful career in this exciting field. Good luck!
Once you’ve realized your interested in the world of forensics, there are a wide variety of Free Online Forensic Courses to take to further your education and interest.