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Forensic Soil Analysis: Education Requirements and Career Options

Forensic soil analysis is generally a very technical field of study that requires a degree in biology, chemistry or forensic science. Continue reading for an overview of the training, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Forensic soil analysis involves collecting, investigating, testing and analyzing soil samples to be used as potential evidence in a crime scene. The bachelor's degree programs available to help prepare for this career vary and can include concentrations in forensic science, a natural science or geology; for career advancement, a master's degree might be required. These analysts must also sometimes appear in court in order to explain case details pertaining to soil samples.

Essential Information

Forensic soil analysis is just one component of forensic science, a technical field that usually involves the collection, examination and in-depth analysis of evidence found at a crime scene. In order to pursue a career in forensic soil analysis, a bachelor's degree in one of the natural sciences is a minimum requirement. However, several schools offer undergraduate degrees specifically in forensic science. Forensic soil analysts may also opt for a master's degree in forensic science. Job titles in this field include forensic science technician or forensic geologist.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in natural sciences, geology or forensic science
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 14% (for forensic science technicians); 6% (for geoscientists)
Median Salary (2018)* $58,230 (for forensic science technicians); $91,130 (for geoscientists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Options

Professionals in forensic soil analysis have many career options available, including crime scene investigation and forensic pathology. Studies in crime scene investigation could be helpful, or candidates for these types of jobs might have a professional background in law enforcement. A 4-year degree would typically be sufficient to begin working in this field, though a master's might be preferred in some cases and might be needed for career advancement purposes.

Forensic soil scientists are often required to gather, examine, test, classify and store soil samples. Their work can involve performing diagnostic tests on the soil's properties to determine a connection to a criminal investigation. They prepare documentation and report their scientific findings to the proper authorities. Forensic soil scientists may also be called on during court cases and asked to testify about soil evidence or laboratory methods. Forensic science soil technicians often work closely with other scientists, such as DNA experts and coroners.

Forensic Science Technician

A forensic soil technician who works as a crime scene investigator is responsible for collecting and analyzing soil at a crime scene in order to gather more information about the nature of the crime or the suspects involved. Working closely with law enforcement, crime scene investigators can play an integral role in determining key evidence at a crime scene. A bachelor's degree in forensic science or natural sciences is required to perform the duties of a forensic soil technician who works as a crime scene investigator. Some crime scene investigators may also choose to become sworn police officers.

While the BLS does not track employment outlook specifically for forensic soil analysts, it did report that employment for all forensic science technicians would likely grow by 14% during 2018-2028. In May 2018, the BLS found that the median salary of a forensic science technician was $58,230.

Forensic Geologist

Unlike a crime scene investigator, a forensic geologist performs all of their work in a laboratory setting. A forensic soil geologist in a laboratory is responsible for the technical analysis of soil evidence that is collected at a crime scene and brought to a laboratory for detailed examination. Forensic geologists should have at least a bachelor's degree in forensic science or natural sciences.

The BLS reports that the job growth outlook for geoscientists is 6% during 2018-2028. This may or may not be applicable to the specific niche field of forensic soil analysis. In May 2018, the BLS found that the median salary of a geoscientist was $91,130. Those working for state government agencies earned considerably less; per the BLS, the mean annual wage for these employees was $76,670 as of May 2018.

Career options in forensic soil analysis include forensic pathology, forensic geology and crime scene investigation; for the latter, a background in law enforcement might be useful. Forensic geologists, on the other hand, are not present at a crime scene and carry out all of their duties in a lab. According to the BLS, the job outlook for geoscientists from 2014-2024 is expected to see faster than average growth, which may indicate a favorable growth for the forensic soil analysis field as well.

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