Forensic engineers gather and interpret information to determine if elements within the field of engineering were manipulated or damaged or if they malfunctioned on their own. These professionals usually provide investigative assistance in their fields of expertise. At least a bachelor's degree and licensure is necessary for a majority of professional engineering jobs. Several years of experience is required to sit for the Professional Engineering licensing examination. Applicants to the 4-year bachelor's programs need a high school diploma, and a background in science, math and/or engineering is recommended.
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Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Engineering
Students in a bachelor's program in forensic engineering might be able to take specialized electives that provide a correlation between forensic science and engineering in addition to courses that cover general engineering topics. Courses that explain mechanical analysis and design help support the field of forensics and can be found in many engineering programs. Introductory classes teach the fundamentals of engineering that can also benefit the study of forensics. Depending on the field of engineering studied, courses that cover forensic processes include:
- Network forensics
- Digital forensics
- Structural analysis
- Engineering fundamentals
Popular Career Options
According to the National Association of Forensic Engineers (NAFE), professional engineers with the appropriate training and job experience in an engineering discipline can become forensic engineers. The need for forensic engineers can be found in private companies, as well as government agencies and programs. These specialized professionals can find jobs in the following industries:
- Automotive and transportation
- Energy and fuel sources
- Construction and fire safety
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) classifies forensic engineers as forensic science technicians, and it expects employment in the field to grow 27% during the 2014-2024 decade. Forensic science technicians made a median annual wage of $56,320 in May 2015, reported the BLS.
Though a bachelor's degree in engineering is often sufficient to begin a career, the specialized requirements of a forensic engineer could benefit from graduate studies in forensic science. Several schools offer master's and doctoral programs in forensic science that offer coursework and individual research opportunities that introduce students to forensics in the engineering industry.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, all states require professional engineers offering public services to be licensed. The amount of education required for licensure varies; however, students must graduate from an accredited engineering program and pass a written exam to obtain entry-level licensure. To earn a full Professional Engineering (PE) license, individuals must have a minimum of four years' experience working under a licensed PE and successfully complete a second examination.
Though optional, fully-licensed engineers can also qualify to join NAFE and become Board Certified Diplomates. Applicants need to be members of the National Society of Engineers, have several years' experience in engineering, including forensic engineering, as well as submit attorney recommendations and have provided expert courtroom testimony regarding forensic engineering. Member, Senior Member and Fellow diplomate levels exist and are based on a professional's experience in the field.
A bachelor's degree program in forensic engineering can prepare students for entry-level work as engineers to gain experience to earn their Professional Engineering license. Graduates also have the option to pursue master's or doctoral degree programs in the field.