Tips on making a Career Change to Forensic Science or Social Work
August 20, 2004 11:46 AM   Subscribe

CareerChangeFilter? I'm a publications editor at an art museum and enjoy it very much, but for a few years I've kicked around the idea of making a major career change. The two areas I'm interested in are forensic science and social work. ("What do we want?" "More!" "Where do we want it?" "Inside!")

My academic background is strictly liberal arts (BA and MA), though in college I definitely enjoyed (and did well in) the biology, psychology, and anthropology courses I took to meet requirements. The research I've done suggests that I'd be far more likely to be able to get into a Master's of Social Work program (specifically, to become a therapist) rather than a Master's of Science in forensics or criminalistics. But are there forensic technician jobs (specifically crime scene and/or crime lab) that would only require, say, some sort of certificate or Associate's degree, rather than a BS or MS? (By the way, I hasten to add that my interest in forensic science long predates the popularity of the abysmally-written C.S.I.!) Any MeFites with experience working in forensics or as therapists? Thanks.

Oh, yeah: I currently live in L.A., though have been pining to move back to Chicago; I would also consider relocating to a few other parts of the country -- such as the northwest, or other parts of the midwest -- if that makes any difference in terms of programs or job opportunities.
posted by scody to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've always wanted to edit publications for an art museum, actually. i will trade you legislative graphic designer, deal?
posted by luriete at 12:35 PM on August 20, 2004

I only have an anecdotal response. My sister recently got a Criminal Justice Masters degree. She had an almost impossible time getting into the forensics classes because they were packed, mostly with people who are big CSI fans and looking for an interesting job. That said, if you want to live in the Midwest, it's easier to get jobs even in the "popular" fields because people from the coasts are less likely to relocate. However, I think that unless you basically apprentice at a forensics job, an MS is pretty standard. A pal of mine and I went on a tour of the Vermont forensics lab once which is a field trip worth doing no matter what you decide to do for a job.
posted by jessamyn at 12:42 PM on August 20, 2004

I'm a therapist - a PhD psychologist, to be specific. I've always thought that the MSW was a *great* degree, with a lot of flexibility in it. Licensed MSWs (LCSW in California) can work in hospitals, clinics, community settings, and in private practice if they want.

As far as jobs go, one neat thing about the MSW, AFAIK, is that it seems the MSW hasn't been offered by free-standing professional schools (or at least as much as PhDs, PsyDs, and Counseling degrees - this last leads to an MFT in California). This is a good thing because this means there aren't as many MSWs around as other degree types. What this means is that you'll be better positioned for *jobs* that require an MSW. On the other hand, if you want to be a private practice therapist, you'll be competing with all the gazillion other practitioners with other degrees out there.

My snarky remark about the overabundance of mental health practitioners is controversial within the field, by the way. Job surveys tend to suggest that tend to be more therapists in highly desirable urban areas - if you see yourself relocating to a more rural area, apparently there are many good opportunities to practice. The National Association of Social Workers is probably a good place to get some info about opportunities and programs. Most likely there are state associations as well.

Also, licensure issues vary considerably from state to state. That's certainly something you'll want to learn about before you relocate.

I don't know anything about forensics other than I think it would be a really cool thing to do (but that may be a function of only learning about it from TV). Oh, one other degree that I think is really worth investigating is the MPH - Masters in Public Health - for epidemiology, community education, infection control, etc. It's the closest thing to forensics that I know about.
posted by jasper411 at 12:53 PM on August 20, 2004

Go to this link and contact the guy who runs it- Ted Yeshion.
He teaches Forensic Science at several schools, and has 30 years or so experience as a crime scene investigator. He can answer any questions you may have about FS, and he is an all around great guy.
For extra added points, call him Rock Star Ted.
posted by oflinkey at 5:16 PM on August 20, 2004

I am sorry, I think Ted was actually a crime scene reconstructor.
posted by oflinkey at 5:17 PM on August 20, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for the feedback and links!
posted by scody at 10:24 PM on August 20, 2004

"licensure issues vary considerably from state to state" Do NOT underestimate the truth of this statement. Example: I looked into getting an MFT in Virginia. However, the average time that it takes to accumulate the contact hours necessary to obtain a license is 7 years.

During my research, a woman I know who is a LCSW and part owner of a small practice told me that her organization would never consider bringing on anyone who didnt have 5 - 7 years of licensed experience, i.e. 12-14 years of experience after having earned the degree.

That's a LONG time to spend before getting to the point of private practice...
posted by Irontom at 4:26 AM on August 23, 2004

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