Career Options in Forensic Science
Whether it's in a lab setting or at a crime scene, forensic science appears in many different career environments that might not appear to be related. The gathering and analysis of evidence uses many different working parts, and qualifications vary depending on your career preference. Take a look at these job descriptions and see if you find an interesting fit for you!
|Job Title||Median Salary (2016)*||Job Growth (2014-2024)*|
|Private Detective and Investigator||$48,190||5%|
|Detective and Criminal Investigator||$78,120||-1% (decline)|
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Career Information in Forensic Science
Biological technicians will process samples, which might include blood and other fluids located at a crime scene and taken as evidence. Some biological technicians work in the field, so they may be asked to collect a sample directly from a fresh crime scene. In the lab, technicians may perform experiments and tests with a wide variety of equipment. Along with a bachelor's degree, aspiring technicians should spend plenty of time in a laboratory to gain experience before entering the job market.
Similar to their biology counterparts, chemical technicians can help process chemical data and evidence from crime scenes. Lab analysis can directly impact the investigation of a crime, and the technicians who work under the guide of a chemist are responsible for ensuring that analysis is carried out with no errors. Their findings can be presented in charts and reports, which may then be shown in court. Combined with some training on the job, chemical technicians need an associate degree.
As part of a criminal investigation unit, fire investigators will visit crime scenes involving explosions or other fire-related incidents. They will personally collect evidence to submit to labs for testing and analysis. Using the results, fire investigators will testify in court if a trial happens. Fire investigators can also make arrests. Educational requirements vary for fire investigators, but just as important is previous work in firefighting or police. EMT training helps to secure a career as well.
Medical scientists can work in toxicology, which is critical when investigating the content of someone's blood when involved in an accident or crime. Scientists must uphold a number of contamination and safety standards, which is vital to ensuring the security of any evidence that goes through their lab. Medical scientists most likely have a Ph.D., in some kind of life science such as biology. They can also pursue a medical degree but choose research instead of practicing medicine.
Private Detective and Investigator
Though they are not official members of the police, private investigators may find themselves collecting forensic evidence. In the process of obtaining evidence, they must be very mindful of all laws, since they lack any authority given to members of a police investigation team. Some private detectives work in computer forensics, which involves the recovery of documents not easily obtainable in a computer. Most of the time, private detectives have work experience in the military or policing, and also possess a high school diploma. Many states also require licenses.
Detective and Criminal Investigator
Detectives are in charge of crime scenes, and can specialize in certain types of crime, including homicide or arson. Much of their job involves paperwork, since evidence must be carefully documented and tracked throughout a case proceeding. They must ensure that each piece of evidence moves securely to its destination without any tampering, and will testify in court regarding any forensic evidence found at crime scenes. Educational requirements are inconsistent; some jurisdictions mandate a college degree, while a high school diploma and training at an agency's academy is enough.