ILLINOIS STATE POLICE
Division of Forensic Services
Forensic Sciences Command

 
Knowledge Through Excellence
in Forensic Science
 
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FAQs

 


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What does a forensic scientist do?

The entire run of scientific disciplines come into play in currently popular television shows like Forensic Files (A&E), Crime Scene Investigator (CBS) and The New Detectives: Case Studies in Forensic Science (Discovery Channel). If you are unfamiliar with these shows, think of famous book detectives like Sherlock Holmes or Miss Jane Marple who use science to catch bad guys and keep good guys out of jail. Forensic scientists work in sophisticated crime laboratories each day on real investigations to examine, identify, evaluate, and objectively describe evidence from actual crimes. The work of forensic scientists produces clues to track down criminals, free the innocent, and convict the guilty. People who join the Illinois State Police as a forensic scientist trainee become part of this exciting and rewarding profession.

What forensic science disciplines do you practice?

Drug Chemistry
Presence of controlled substances and the identification of marijuana.
Trace Chemistry
Identification and comparison of materials from fires, explosions, paints, and glass.
Toxicology
Presence of drugs and poisons in tissue, blood, urine and other body fluids.
Microscopy
Identification and comparison of hairs, fibers, woods, soils, building materials, insulation and a broad group of miscellaneous materials referred to as "particulate unknowns."
Biology/DNA
Presence and comparison of physiological fluids and dried stains such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid and saliva.
Latent Prints
Identification and comparison of hidden impressions from sources like fingers, palms, feet, shoes, ears, lips or the tread on vehicle tires.
Firearms & Toolmarks
Examination and comparison of fired bullets, discharged cartridges, guns, gunpowder patterns, and marks left by erased serial numbers in metal or by burglary tools like a pry bar or screwdriver.
Questioned Documents
Side by side comparisons of questioned handwriting and hand printing, ink, paper, writing instruments, printers, photocopiers, additions, eradications, obliterations, watermarks, and impressions.

What does the job pay?

The State of Illinois, Department of Central Management Services, not the Illinois State Police (ISP) sets the forensic scientist trainee's starting salary. Trainees are paid to learn and satisfactorily progress to become a competent, independent forensic scientist.. Click here for a listing of salaries. The correct salary plan ends in the letter 'B.'

If invited to interview, what should I bring to the session?

The letter inviting you to interview will detail what you must bring with you.

What is a Forensic Scientist Trainee job interview like?

The DFS, FSC tends to use three-person interview teams. Whenever possible, the Command conducts interviews at its headquarters in Springfield. Interview teams ask all applicants the same questions.

What is day-to-day work like for a Forensic Scientist Trainee?

The Forensic Scientist Trainee is assigned full-time to the statewide training program. The successful completion of the training program requires a mastery of theoretical knowledge, a mastery of analytical skills, a demonstration of technical competency, and the ability to interpret and translate complex scientific terminology. Daily activities are dedicated to the completion of a discipline-specific training program. The daily training activities are comprised of lectures, quizzes, independent study, practical exercises, written and practical criterion tests, mock trials, and supervised casework. A trainee will spend the entire day in one or a combination of such activities.

How do forensic scientists tend to increase in rank and salary?

Forensic scientists are covered by an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union contract. Assuming satisfactory performance, union negotiated progression through forensic scientist job titles follows this course:

    • Hired as a Forensic Scientist Trainee - Promoted to Forensic Scientist I upon successful completion of their training program.
    • Works as a Forensic Scientist I for two years. Promoted to Forensic Scientist II.
    • Works as a Forensic Scientist II for two years. Promoted to Forensic Scientist III.
    • Works as a Forensic Scientist III for the remainder of career, or accepts promotion to a management job title.

Can I pick the discipline in which I will be trained?

Before we offer you a job as a forensic scientist trainee, we consider your discipline preference, our needs, and the scientific field in which we feel you are best suited to work. If we offer and you accept a job in a discipline that is not your first choice, after five years you can ask to be cross-trained and we will consider your request, but can not guarantee approval.

Can I pick the laboratory where I will work?

The contract between AFSCME and the State of Illinois controls how the ISP fills vacant jobs. Senior level employees can ask to transfer to open positions. When we offer you a job, you will be told which laboratory you will train at, and which laboratory you will be assigned to upon completion of your training program. As you gain seniority, you will have the opportunity to bid on open positions at other laboratories.

Will the ISP help finding a place to live?

All laboratory administrators know their area service providers for apartments, townhouses, and homes. These local agents can help you find a good place to live.

Will the ISP help pay moving expenses?

New employees are responsible for their moving costs to their assigned training laboratory.

What benefits are available to a forensic scientist trainee?

  • Holidays: Twelve paid holidays per year.
  • Vacation: Ten paid days per year.
  • Personal Days: Three paid days off for matters that arise unexpectedly.
  • Sick Leave: One day accumulating for each month's service.
  • Maternity/Paternity Leave: At the birth/adoption of a child, 20 consecutive working days off for the mother, and 15 consecutive working days off for the father.
  • Military Leave: The time required to comply with United States Armed Services and National Guard duty.
  • Family and Medical Leave: Up to 12 unpaid months off for conditions covered by The Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Insurance: Coverage under Illinois' health, life, vision and dental insurance programs, and paycheck deductions at low group rates for similar coverage for your family. Additional information can be obtained at: www.cms.il.gov/cms/3_servicese_ben_choice/BenefitPlans.htm
  • Workers Compensation: If you are injured or become ill as a result of your employment.
  • Unemployment Compensation: Partial payment for loss of wages.
  • Retirement Program: After six months, membership in the State Employees Retirement System, with eligibility to draw benefits after completion of eight years of service. Additional information on the state's retirement and pension program can be obtained at: www.state.il.us/srs/SERS/home_sers.htm.
  • Deferred Compensation: Option to set aside salary which will be free of present federal and state income tax when invested in interest earning accounts. Additional information can be obtained at: www.cms.il.gov/cms/2_servicese_ben/defcomp.htm
  • Sick Leave Bank: Assistance meeting emergencies from catastrophic illness or injuries.
  • Wellness Program: Assistance obtaining a healthy lifestyle through professional advice related to nutritional, physical, mental and emotional matter.
  • The Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) offers the Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) Program comprised of the Medical Care Assistance Plan (MCAP) and the Dependent Care Assistance Plan (DCAP). http://www.state.il.us/cms/3_servicese_ben_choice/Pre-TaxPrograms.htm

How does the ISP recruit Forensic Scientists?

Forensic Scientists and laboratory system administrators target job fairs at most Illinois college/universities with programs in natural science and forensic science. These volunteer recruiters also seek out seniors and graduate students in many Illinois border state schools, and minority colleges/universities. The ISP maintains a Forensic Science web site, and links this to a number of internet job search companies. The ISP also advertises its Forensic Scientist jobs in publications with specific student and scientist readership. The ISP will mail job information and an application to anyone requesting them.

 

Jill R. Rizzs
Colonel

Kevin P. Poehls
Lt. Colonel

Arlene K. Hall
Commander

Timothy A. Tripp
Bureau Chief

Jan L. Johnson
Acting Bureau Chief

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