Forensic Scientist: Career Definition, Job Outlook, and Training Requirements
Forensic scientists work with law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system. Read on to explore the tasks associated with being a forensic scientist, specialty areas of forensic work and potential degree programs you can complete. Salary and job outlook information are also provided. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Are My Duties As A Forensic Scientist?
As a forensic scientist, you're responsible for helping detectives, investigators and attorneys better understand what took place at a crime scene. You may do this by comparing crime scene evidence to evidence found on a suspect. You may also be called upon to provide expert testimony as a court witness. Your main responsibility is to collect and analyze chemical and physical evidence that may be integral to an investigation.
The materials that you and other forensic scientists typically study include bodily fluids, hair, fingerprints, fibers and tissue. According to your specialty, you may also analyze handwriting samples or perform tests on any firearms, shell casings and other material found at a crime scene. You may find yourself performing DNA analysis, which has increasingly played an important role in confirming the identity of suspects at a crime scene.
How Is My Job Outlook?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic scientists had an annual mean salary of $55,040 in May 2010 (www.bls.gov). Most worked for local governments. As a forensic scientist employed by federal agencies, you'll typically earned higher wages than those employed by state and local agencies. In May 2010, forensic scientists who worked in the federal government had an average annual wage of $96,290, compared to those who worked in state government at $53,610 a year.
The BLS also reported that job prospects look favorable and this occupation is expected to grow by 20% between 2008 and 2018. The top paying states for forensic scientists are Illinois, Virginia, California and Connecticut.
What Are My Training Requirements?
To work a forensic scientist, you may complete a bachelor's degree program in forensic science. Along with a strong math and science curriculum, you may want to take courses in criminal justice, forensic anthropology, investigative procedures, forensic science, public speaking, biostatistics and microscopy.
Also, some of these programs offer a forensics laboratory internship. Accumulating laboratory experience as an intern can help you prepare for the work expected of a forensic scientist. For example, you'll develop your communication skills as you learn to prepare and share reports of your findings with others. These skills are also needed to present clear testimony as a witness.
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