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Forensic Professional Organizations & You

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Hello Forensic Science Students!

To help prepare you for your future in  forensic science, consider joining a professional organization during your undergraduate career. Professional organizations are often comprised of  professionals in the field who live within a certain geographical area or specialize in a certain field. The purpose of professional organizations are to bring those with a common interest  together to network, promote collaboration, stay aware of new developments in the field, and share research. There are often members-only benefits such as certifications, registration discounts to conferences and meetings, access to newsletters and journal publications, funding opportunities like scholarships and grants, and workshops, classes, and other professional development events. It also looks good on a resume! As a student, being engaged in a professional organization can open doors for future jobs and internships, as well as give you access to research funding and exposure. Many professional organizations also offer discounted student membership dues.

All of our faculty in the Penn State Forensics Science Program are members of professional organizations. We encourage you to ask them questions about their experiences and how they have benefited from membership. Below you will find an information sheet listing professional organizations that accept student members and some to keep in mind for after graduation. Some organizations require that you have a member sponsor your application - don’t be afraid to ask faculty to be your sponsor. If you have questions about applying to professional organizations, feel free to ask our staff in 329 Whitmore

Forensic Science List of Professional Organizations 

Organizations by Focus

The Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners: (AFTE) Provisional membership is available to students. The application fee is $135.00 for Provisional Membership $35 of this amount is a non-refundable application fee. Upon acceptance the remaining $100 will be applied toward the first years’ membership dues. If for any reason you are not granted Membership, the remaining $100 will be refunded.

Association of Forensic DNA Analysts and Administrators: (AFDAA) Student memberships are available. You will be required to attend one meeting and provide one reference/sponsor (an existing member). Your sponsor will need to complete the Reference Information page. The application fee is $20 for students.

North American Forensic Entomology Association: (NAFEA) Associate membership available for students. Membership dues are $20.

Society of Forensic Toxicologists inc.: (SOFT) Student affiliate membership available for those pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in a field related to forensic toxicology. Dues are $15.

New York Microscopical Society: (NYMS) Student memberships are available for $20 annually if over the age of 18 and $5 if under the age of 18.

The Society for Applied Spectroscopy: (SAS) Students may apply to their regional chapter of SAS, to SAS as a whole or to chapters for specific subfields of forensic science. SAS student dues are $30. Regional dues are often further discounted.

American Chemical Society: (ACS) Undergraduate Student membership is available for those actively working toward an undergraduate degree in chemistry or in a related academic discipline. Dues are $28 without C&EN magazine or $56 with C&EN magazine subscription.

Association of Women in Forensic Science: (AWIFS) Women of all ages are welcome to apply to volunteer for AWIFS. There are no dues, but applying to volunteer does not guarantee placement in any program. As a volunteer with AWIFS, you will have access to a network of female forensic professionals in a range of disciplines and at various levels of their careers.

American Academy of Forensic Science: (AAFS) Student affiliate memberships are available. Both at the time of application and at the time the application is being considered for approval, an applicant for Student Affiliate status must be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program that would support a forensic science career. Dues are $55. Applications are accepted July through October. An AAFS student membership also includes a membership to the Young Forensic Scientist Forum.

Regional Organizations

Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists: (NEAFS) To be considered for an associate membership, complete an application and have a sponsor complete the Sponsors Referral Form. This application must be accompanied with a fee of $55.00. The fee consists of a non-refundable $5.00 application fee and a $50.00 membership fee.

Northwest Association of Forensic Scientists: (NWAFS) Associate membership available to students. Applications are due by August 1st.

Midwestern Association of Forensic Scientists: (MAFS) Student membership available. Application must be signed by head of department. Student dues are $10.

Southern Association of Forensic Scientists: (SAFS) Student affiliate membership is a limited three year membership available to any student enrolled in an accredited four year college or university, whose major field of study leads to becoming a forensic scientist. Application due by June 1st. There is a $10 application fee.

Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists:  (SWAFS) Student membership available for a maximum time limit of three years or upon graduation, whichever is reached first. Students may not vote but may earn points for attendance, workshop presentation or papers at meetings and contributions to the SWAFS Journal.

American Forensic Association: (AFA) Student Memberships available for $25 per year.

New Jersey Association of Forensic Scientists: (NJAFS) Student Affiliate $10 Annual Fee. $5 application fee.

California Association of Criminalists : (CAC) Any college-level student, intern, laboratory technician, or volunteer employed in a forensic science laboratory pursuing a course of study or a career in a forensic science. Any application for Affiliate Membership must be submitted with the recommendation of a Full, Associate, Retired, or Life member of the Association. Dues are $30.

International Organizations

International Association for Identification: (IAI) Student Membership is available to full-time college students at an accredited college with a major in a forensic science related field or law enforcement. To be considered as an applicant for Student Membership a person must be full-time. Student applicants must include a letter or transcript from their educational institution stating the number of credits currently being taken. Student dues are $45 a year.

International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts: (IABPA) Associate membership available for those who have not completed an IABPA-Approved 40-hour Basic Bloodstain Pattern Analysis course but who desires to become a member of the IABPA for general interests. Dues are $40.

International Crime Scene Investigators Association: (ICSA) Associate membership available. Dues are $25.

Organizations to Consider Post-Graduation

Scientific Working Group for the Analysis of Seized Drugs (SWGDRUG)

Mid-Atlantic Association of Forensic Scientists (MAAFS)

American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD)

American Society of Trace Evidence Examiners (ASTEE)

The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT)

The American Society of Questioned Document Examiners(ASQDE)

The American Board of Forensic Document Examiners(ABFDE)

The American Board of Criminalistics(ABC)

The American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT)

Council of Forensic Science Educators (COFSE)


Specialized positions within the forensic science field often require certifications from professional organizations in order to validate expertise. Memberships to professional organizations may be a requirement for some examinations or come with the benefit of a reduced exam price. Since work experience is often necessary to qualify for examination, a recent graduate would not be eligible to test for most certifications. Below is a short list of certifications and professional organizations who certify to keep in mind when beginning your career. Note that this is not a complete list of forensic certifications; only the most commonly requested are listed below. Additionally some state departments have their own certification classes and exams that may be offered at no or little cost to you once employed by the state government.

International Association for Identification (IAI) Latent Print Certification

IAI Bloodstain Pattern Analysis Certification

IAI Crime Scene Certification

The Association of Firearm & Tool Mark Examiners (AFTE) Certification

American Board of Forensic Toxicologists (ABFT) Certification

American Board of Criminalist (ABC) Certifications

  • ABC Certifies in; Drug analysis, Crime scene reconstruction, Firearms and toolmarks, Molecular biology and DNA, Fire debris and explosives, Photography, Trace Evidence and Safety