Forensic science is a fast-paced field that combines crime fighting with laboratory work. The profession has seen unparalleled interest over the past decade, making it a great time to look into what careers might be available. Think you might be interested in a job in forensic science? Let’s take a look at the career options available in this field after you graduate with a forensic science degree.
Types of Jobs
Smaller investigative departments may have a single forensic scientist that takes on a number of roles throughout the day. In most cases however, different jobs are done by different people. Here are some of the forensic science options you can consider:
- Criminalistic: A person who works in criminalistics is what most people associate with a forensic scientist. They must be able to reconstruct a crime scene from all of the physical evidence collected and documented, and interpret the results in order to figure out who, why, and how the crime was committed.
- Digital/Multimedia Scientist: Also known as computer forensics, this career path entails analyzing the contents of a computer, camera, surveillance video, mobile phone in order to find more evidence or to support existing evidence. They also will compare different audio files to locate a match if the suspect has tried to disguise their voice.
- Toxicologist: A forensic toxicologist screens bodily fluids, hair, and nails for any substances that may be present in either the victim or the suspect. They typically work on either postmortem, human performance, or drug testing (drug testing for sports, probation, etc.) cases.
- Engineering Scientist: Analyze accidents, environmental contamination, and crime scenes to determine how, when, and why things happened (a car running off the road, a building collapsing, etc.). They are often called upon as expert witness to describe their findings that determine who is responsible for the actions that took place.
- Odontologist: An odontologist in a forensic setting requires you to analyze bite marks, tooth fragments, and jaws to existing x-rays or photographs to help identify a victim or suspect. You may also need to conduct dental x-rays on both living and deceased subjects.
- Pathologist: A forensic pathologist conducts autopsies in order to determine time of death, how they died, and their identity. They may also arrive at the scene of the crime to investigate the person’s medical history and what they were doing at the time of their death.
- Physical Anthropologist: Forensic anthropologists tend to focus on identifying human bones and discover who they were and how they died. They also typically have some background in archaeology, since they sometimes must assist in digging up bones from a crime scene and not damaging them any further.
- Behavior Scientist: Also known as a forensic psychologist, they assess the suspect or victim to determine their mental health. Their analysis is used to decide if the victim or suspect is fit for court, and if the forensic psychologist recommends further actions (treatment plans, testing) they will document it in their report to be submitted to court.
- Document Examiner: This position allows you to analyze handwriting and signatures in order to determine authenticity. You will also restore, decipher, and assess if there are missing pieces and pages documents and report your findings.
Your Daily Tasks
You can work in any of the above fields or serve as a general forensic scientist. In most cases, you will be called upon to work as part of a team. Forensic scientists work with crime scene investigators, police forces, detectives, coroners, and more to solve cases. The depth of your role could vary from day-to-day, depending on the specifics of a case.
Typical tasks will include analyzing different specimens from blood, bullet fragments, and different clothing fabrics. It is all about drawing parallels between events and using evidence to connect all of the pieces together.
You could work in the field to collect evidence and analyze a crime scene, yet you should expect to work primarily in a lab at the beginning of your career. Since investigations are often under time restraints, your work hours may not be typical. A growing industry in the forensic science field is forensic computer examiners or digital forensics analysts. This type of job includes collecting and analyzing data to solve cyber-crimes such as electronic fraud, online scams, and identity theft. While less hands on than work in the field or a laboratory, these forensic computer examiners must adhere to the same strict procedures of gathering and maintaining the integrity of evidence.