Your success in a forensic training program can benefit greatly from forensic internships, volunteer programs, and research programs during your time in school. Such opportunities can provide you with an introduction to the forensic careers available and help you get hands-on experience working beside an experienced crime scene investigator. These experiences can pay off in the form of a better education and lead to rewarding forensic jobs. It will be to your advantage to begin investigating some of the following opportunities early in your forensic education.
While graduate or undergraduate internships offered by forensic science colleges may pay you a stipend, most do not. College-sponsored internship opportunities require that students are currently enrolled in, or a recent graduate of, accredited forensics programs. Many internships can be coordinated by the college or university you are attending, but there are also some internships with state and federal agencies for which you can apply. You may also want to check with private forensic labs to see if they have internships available. Web sites for some of the state and federal programs include:
Forensic science volunteer programs
When you join a volunteer program, you will not receive any salary or compensation, but you will learn valuable lessons that can be applied to your forensic training. The volunteer programs will likely be related to basic criminal justice or law enforcement, as opposed to actually "practicing" any forensic science. Such programs will, however, give you an introduction to the criminal justice field and acquaint you with some forensic scientists. As a forensic science volunteer, you will also provide valuable help to law enforcement professionals and the community.
To find an opportunity, contact your municipal police department or county sheriff's office and inquire about volunteer programs. They will likely have a program that will provide you with experience as a registration aide, victim assistor, data entry clerk, or another job. Though this work may not be specifically related to forensics, you will gain a valuable introduction to the world of criminal justice.
Forensic science research programs
To join a forensic science research program, you should check with private laboratories and businesses in addition to traditional colleges and universities. There are many options available in the private sector. Research programs, as well as volunteer programs and forensic science internships, might provide some college credit that can be applied to your degree. Some of the following research groups are not only for forensic science students, but also serve accomplished members within the field. You should contact the following associations to find out about upcoming research programs for which you can apply.
Imagine what real experience in forensics labs might mean to you as you pursue the jobs that will be available. By enrolling in forensic internships or participating in volunteer or research programs, you can get real-world, real-life experience that will be quite valuable in your forensic education and career quest.