Forensic scientists work in a laboratory environment. They aid in crime scene investigations and laboratory analysis. They work to collect evidence, analyze it, and use the evidence to solve crimes. In order to become a forensic scientist, a person needs a bachelor’s degree in this field, as well as on the job training in forensic science.
Why Become A Forensic Scientist
Forensic scientists have a wide range of duties. They work with law enforcement professionals and local and state law jurisdictions.
At a crime scene, forensic scientists analyze the crime scene to collect evidence. They take photographs of everything they see. They make sketches of the crime scene. They record observations such as where evidence is located. They gather evidence, including finger prints, bodily fluids, blood splatters, weapons, sketches, and more, and take it back to the laboratory for sampling.
Back at the lab, they use specialized technology to perform chemical analysis on the evidence they collected. They use the results to determine criminal activity, motives, and come to conclusions about what may have happened at a crime scene. They consult with law enforcement, detectives and others about their findings.
This is a great career field for those who enjoy biology and chemistry, want to help in law enforcement and detective work, want to put their science skills to applied work in a laboratory rather than theoretical approaches, and enjoy problem solving.
Forensic Scientists should possess the following qualities and skills:
Attention to detail
Problem solving skills
Critical thinking skills
Forensic Scientist Work Environment
Forensic scientists spend much of their time in a laboratory. They work with specialized equipment that is used for research and investigation. This medical equipment can help them with law enforcement and criminal cases. Many times forensic scientists are in the field, gathering evidence. They must wear proper clothing so as to not disturb a crime scene.
They often work odd hours, such as days, nights, or weekends. This is because they are often called to the scene to survey the crime, collect evidence, and spend many hours and late nights conducting research and trying to put pieces of the forensic puzzle together.
Forensic Scientist Salary
The median annual pay for forensic scientists was $57,850 in 2017. Please note that there are many things that can affect salary. One of the factors that goes into determining salary is what industry a person is involved in.
Medical and diagnostic laboratories pay a median annual salary of $40,000. On the other end of the spectrum, testing laboratories tend to pay a median annual salary of $62,000. These are some things to think about when considering salary.
Forensic Scientist Career Outlook
Employment for forensic scientists will increase by 17 percent from 2016 to 2026. This is a significant increase in employment compared to other jobs in the United States. Overall 3,000 new jobs will be added to this sector during this 10 year period.
Governments will be hiring additional forensic scientists both at the state and local levels. Technology has made it possible for forensic scientists to do more advanced things in their fields. This means that now forensic scientists are being hired more often, for more reasons. They will be used in law enforcement, the legal system, medical laboratories and more. The advancement of science allows forensic scientists to be a great benefit to society.
Forensic Scientist Degree
Forensic scientists need a bachelor’s degree in order to enter into this field. It is good to look into science programs such as biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and other related fields. Some undergraduate schools may even offer a program in forensic science.
During these programs you will take lecture courses in science as well as have laboratory classes. It takes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Many forensic scientists decided to pursue a master’s degree in forensic science. These programs further prepare you for work in this field. Forensic science programs included advanced knowledge in this field, coursework, as well as working in the field on a crime scene. They may include specializing in a certain aspect of the field such as DNA, toxicology, and more.
Forensic Scientist Coursework
In a program in forensic science, you will take classes that will allow you to foster an advanced understanding of this field. Below we have outlined a few of the courses you can expect to take during a forensic science program. There are other courses you may take as well.
Introduction to Forensic Chemistry: This course introduces students to laboratory techniques that will help them understand concepts, practices and the language involved in forensics. They will be involve in laboratory techniques and procedures. They will learn proper and safe laboratory practices, forensic investigation and lab techniques.
Introduction to Criminal Law: Students learn the beginnings of criminal law. They learn about why criminal law exists, the many rules of criminal law and how these laws came to be. Elements of all crimes are studied, including actions, motives, and causation. An important class for anybody wanting to work in forensics, as many forensic scientists work closely with law enforcement.
DNA Analysis: This course combines lecture with technical training. Students analyze DNA in a forensic context. Lectures cover the techniques used to study DNA. In lab, students use techniques such as DNA isolation and quantification.
Forensic Scientist Career Path
If you are becoming interested in forensics, one of the questions you may be asking yourself is, “What advancement opportunities are available to me inside of this career?” Luckily, there are many paths you can take with a career in forensics. In this section, we cover just one of many pathways to success you can take with your career as you advance.
Crime Lab Director
A crime lab director is involved with managing a crime lab as part of the overall forensics team.
Their responsibilities include supervising forensic scientists in their lab. They take on caseloads, help with examining evidence, and help to make sure that cases are solved.
A doctorate in forensic science is preferred, although some many have a doctorate in chemistry, biology or another natural science.
Directors are the managers of their team. This is a great position for somebody with several years of advanced forensic experience.
Related Forensic Scientist Careers
Forensic science is just one of many fascinating careers within the world of science. If you are interested in forensics, there are many other careers you may be interested in as well. Here we’ve included just a few careers that are related to the field of forensic science.
Private Investigator: Private detectives and investigators search for information as a part of legal and financial cases. Some of their services involve finding missing people, verifying background and criminal information, and investigations.
Chemist: A chemist has received their doctorate in chemistry. They study substances at molecular levels. They work with specialized laboratory equipment. They study how chemicals interact and develop new products based on their chemical findings in the lab.
Medical Laboratory Scientist: A medical laboratory scientist collects samples of bodily fluids, tissue, and other substances. They take these samples to their laboratory and conduct tests on them for medical purposes.