Jobs in Forensics

Are you looking to learn more about jobs in forensics? If so this article is for you! We have what you need to get you started.

The medical and law enforcement sectors are among the fastest-growing career options in the United States. General forensic jobs are a cross between these two sectors, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 31 percent increase from 2010 to 2020. The percentage of growth varies between sub-specialties, and the average salary is around $55,000.

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Some positions in forensic science only require former law enforcement experiences, such as evidence custodians who ensure proper procedure is followed during collection and analysis. Some positions require a doctorate of medicine, including forensic pathology and associate medical examination. Most entry-level positions require a bachelor’s degree in any of the natural sciences.

Candidates have a better chance of securing employment with a bachelor’s or graduate degree in forensic science. Chemistry is a popular choice for those pursuing a forensic science career. The General Knowledge Exam and other professional certifications offer other pathways.

Arson & Fire Investigator

Following fires, an arson investigation is conducted by trained professionals. These fire investigators gather evidence to determine the causes of such blazes. During the course of a fire investigation, an arson and fire investigator may take photographs, interview witnesses, look for fingerprints and try to identify accelerants. They may also consult with other experts such as chemists, police officers and structural engineers. Arson and fire investigators must be able to keep detailed records because their findings may be an integral part of any prosecution for criminal wrongdoing; the investigators themselves may even be required to testify.

Becoming an Arson & Fire Investigator

Many fire departments require investigators to have at least a high school diploma. Most positions also have a prerequisite condition of prior related work experience. Consequently, many arson and fire investigators must advance through the ranks of fire departments and law enforcement agencies. Once the position of fire investigator is attained, the individual receives more on the job training and may be required to attend classes continuing his or her investigation. Individuals interested in this position should be US citizens, have a valid drivers license and be able to pass a criminal background check

Ballistics Expert

In the United States, crimes involving a firearm are becoming increasingly prevalent. According to the FBI, nearly 70% of murders involve a gun, 40% of the nation’s robberies, and were seen in a fifth of all aggravated assaults. It’s clear that crime scenes and evidence need to be processed by someone with a background understanding in how firearms operate. This is where a ballistics expert answers the call.

Ballistics experts perform a forensic analysis on any and all materials related to a firearm. They need to have a background in forensics and a strong knowledge of firearms, bullets, and their construction. They are able to use both the knowledge and background to piece together the actual events behind a crime scene.

Ballistics experts are normally hired by the state or federal governments. There may be occasions where they work in third-party observatories to impartially analyze the evidence. They often make a respectable salary, averaging around $50,000 a year. Yet their knowledge and expertise are truly priceless to law enforcement officials tasked with bringing criminals to justice.

Blood Spatter Analyst

 Growth in the number of forensic analysis positions is expected through 2020, and this includes specialty positions. The position of blood spatter analyst became popular in recent years through the success of television shows, such as Dexter. While the people who work in such positions usually do not enjoy the drama of high-profile cases, they do start off making around $42,000 per year with a lot of room for advancement.

Workers in this field analyze blood evidence on-site and in the lab. They may collect trace evidence, take photographs, and/or create simulations and reports. With experience in the field, analysts can expect significant opportunities for salary growth. Some observers reported top salaries of around $160,000 for blood spatter analysts who perform independent investigations, serve as expert witnesses and share their experiences in educational settings. For entry, workers need a degree in forensic science or criminal justice.

Computer Forensics

The Bureau of Labor statistics predicts faster than average growth in the field of information technology. Computer forensics jobs are currently most available with law enforcement and government agencies, but there is a growing need for these professionals in healthcare organizations, financial corporations, accounting and law firms, and private corporations. The average salary for computer forensics positions is $89,000.

The position involves a wide range of activities, including ethical hacking, procedures to protect data confidentiality, oral and written communication to legal teams or courts, protection of digital evidence, and searches conducted both on-site and in the lab. Individuals applying for such positions require knowledge of encryption, a variety of operating systems, network systems, server administration, and data retrieval software. A degree in forensic science coupled with advanced knowledge of information technology is needed for the position. Some universities now offer degree programs dedicated to computer forensics.

Crime Lab Analyst

As a sub-specialty of forensic technicians, the crime lab analyst works primarily in the employment of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. These individuals spend the majority of their time analyzing evidence in the lab and creating reports that are used in the prosecution of alleged criminals. They also communicate findings to investigative teams to confirm or deny proposed theories.

Crime lab technicians earn an average of $55,660, and there are currently over 12,000 people carrying this job title. Some of their responsibilities include administration of polygraph exams, ballistics and firearm identification, analysis of inorganic and organic substances, and toxicology screening.

New analysts will be most competitive with a degree in chemistry or forensic science and a crime lab internship. Graduate degrees are sought by employers offering the highest pay. Candidates receive on-the-job training to handle physical evidence and perform a variety of special duties.

Crime Lab Technician

The number of crime lab technician positions is expected to increase by 19 percent between 2010 and 2020. People in this position earn an average salary of $41,000, and they enjoy the excitement of playing an important part in criminal investigation teams at the local, state, or national levels.

Crime lab technicians work primarily with evidence that has already been collected. They process it in the lab using microscopes, chemicals, and other lab equipment. Some lab technician positions require going into the field to collect evidence or performing analysis in the field. Crime lab technicians must possess some background in forensic science, and they often obtain familiarity with rules of evidence through on-the-job training. The primary requirement for these professionals is a degree in laboratory science, such as microbiology, chemistry, biology physics, or molecular biology. A bachelor’s degree in forensic science is offered at many universities.

Crime Scene Investigation

 Working as a crime scene investigator is possible as lab technicians, crime scene technicians, and even forensic scientists and criminalists. When you are interested in working as a CSI, it is often required that you obtain a degree in Chemistry, Biology, and even the criminal investigation itself.

A Crime Scene Investigator is capable of earning anywhere from approximately $38,000 annually to over $102,000 depending on your job title, where you are working, and the responsibilities you have while on the job.

A CSI is responsible for researching and understanding various techniques and tools available today to trace criminals and identify suspects in any type of criminal case. Working with blood samples, evidence and individuals involved at the scene of the crime are often responsibilities of the criminal investigators who are working on the case. It is also important to understand different methods of tracking suspects and identifying them in the case of missing people or homicides.

Crime Scene Photographer

 In the criminal justice system, a few things are important as the integrity of evidence. Knowing this, there is selective importance on those who can ensure that the crime scene remains pristine in some way. This task falls to none other than the crime scene photographer.

A crime scene photographer’s job is to literally photograph the crime scene. It’s an imperative role of a criminal investigator to have these photographs on hand. Often, they will be used in trial to help the prosecutor make their case. Or, they will be reviewed in order to comb for more evidence once the scene was made officially clear.
Crime scene photographers almost exclusively work with law enforcement. They are often under salary by the federal government or with the state. This means they often will receive benefits on top of their salary, which averages out at $54,000. It’s an honorable profession that’s totally imperative.

Crime Scene Technician

Becoming a crime scene technician is a very good choice to make because the field of crime scene investigation is one that is growing. In order to become this type of technician, a person will benefit from having certain personality traits. He or she will also need to meet certain educational requirements.

The exact requirements that a person must meet to become a crime scene technician depend on the geographical location in which he or she will be providing services. Most people who employ these types of technicians require that a person hold either a two or four-year criminal justice or forensics degree. Many agencies also prefer that crime scene technicians be sworn officers of the law.

Important personality traits for these types of technicians to have are superb observation skills, the ability to communicate well with other people, and in some instances, they will need to have a strong stomach due to the scenes that they will have to investigate. Many times, these types of technicians investigate murder scenes which can be very bloody.

Criminal Investigations

If you have an interest in working in forensic science, consider a career in criminal investigations. Working in forensic science can include a position as a crime laboratory analyst, a crime scene examiner, or a forensic engineer. It is also possible to work as psychological profiler or as computer analyst if you choose to work with criminal investigations and forensic science.

When you obtain a career in forensic science and when working with criminal investigations, you may be responsible for taking fingerprints, working to reconstruct various crime scenes, and even collecting and analyzing any type of DNA evidence samples you may find when investigating crime scenes themselves. Interpreting any results from laboratories you receive, examining bullets and other weapons at crime scenes, and working to investigate potential suspects may all be tasks that you are required when you are on the job depending on your official title and your personal responsibilities.


Criminalistics, a term stemming from the German word criminalistic, is an applied science. It is a field comprised of two subject areas (chemistry and biology) popularly known as “pure” sciences. Criminalists heavily emphasize the laws and key principles of the two sciences while performing lab work, for example: examining, collecting, and even preserving physical evidence from the offense in the crime laboratories.

Criminal justice, the study of crime prevention, is the way in which officers of the law learn how to cope with people who break the law. A criminal justice degree can better prepare students for a wide variety of professions; thus the the level of education required for this particular field will be contingent on the desired career path of the student. While the vast majority of criminal justice professionals become officers of the law, many aspirants do often obtain law degrees and later become lawyers and judges.

Forensic Artist

The forensic artist is an important part of a criminal investigation. Most people think of forensic artists as either sketching the face of a suspect based on eyewitness accounts or producing drawings of the proceedings from a closed court room, but forensic artists may also do age progressions on missing individuals, produce images reconstructing faces from morgues for public identification and produce charts or other visuals used in trials.

Many forensic artists are full-time police officers or have other law enforcement jobs and do the sketches as part of their other work. However, there are a few full-time forensic artist jobs available in large cities and with federal agencies. Such full-time artists can earn from $30,000 to $50,000 per year and more. There are also freelancing opportunities. Both full-time and freelance forensic artist jobs are extremely competitive.

Forensic Ballistics Analyst

Individuals who are interested in forensic science jobs have a variety of specialties to choose from. One of the more popular positions that is highly sought after by college graduates is the forensic ballistics analyst.

A forensic ballistics analyst examines ballistics and firearms that have been recovered from a crime scene. They determine angles of various projectiles and report their findings to the investigative team. Their testimony is often the difference between an innocent verdict and guilty verdict within the court room.

Those seeking a degree as a forensic scientist should have a bachelor’s degree in science and a background in criminal justice. Individuals should find a criminal justice school that offers a degree in forensic science.

In 2010, forensic ballistics analysts earned between $24,000 and $60,000 per year. Individuals with more experience can expect a salary of up to $85,000 per year.

Forensic Examiner

A forensic examiner applies forensics to help in legal matters. They evaluate physical evidence to provide scientific findings, and they testify in court cases. They collect a variety of evidence at crime scenes, such as hair, fingerprints, and blood samples. They also take photographs. Some forensic examiners specialize in a specific area, including DNA, accounting, ballistics, pathology, fingerprinting, or toxicology.

Forensic examiners typically complete bachelor’s degree programs in forensic science or related area. Students in these programs commonly complete courses in statistics, mathematics, chemistry, and biology. Many programs also include laboratory components. A lot of forensic examiners gain voluntary certification to demonstrate their expertise and gain an advantage in the field.

The average salary for forensic examiners is around $75,000 per year. Actual pay varies on a variety of factors, such as employer, education, and experience.

Forensic Hypnotist

Forensic hypnotists are used in cases where individuals are unable to remember what happened during a specific time period. Normally, this is when someone has been traumatized and cannot remember specifically what happened to them.

Forensic hypnotists attempt to retrieve the information after they hypnotize the individual. They use special psychological techniques that have been practiced for years.

Forensic hypnotists are rarely used largely due to widespread objections raised by individuals in the legal community. Information that is gained while an individual is hypnotized is not admissible in court.

Forensic hypnotists are not retained as full time employees with law enforcement agencies. They are often hired on a case-by-case basis and are paid for their services only.

Most successful forensic hypnotists have an established practice and are well-known throughout the community. They often provide services to a number of different organizations outside law enforcement.

Forensic Investigator

A forensic investigator is tasked with investigating every piece of evidence that is found at a crime scene. Forensic investigators combine the skills of a criminal investigator and forensic scientist to investigate and interpret evidence in a laboratory.

The forensic investigation job often starts at the crime scene where forensic investigators will take pictures of evidence and the surrounding environment and gather samples to take to the lab. At the lab, they will examine evidence and make an interpretation as to how the crime happened and who the suspects are.

Forensic Investigators earned an average of $52,180 in 2011. The amount of salary is normally determined by location, union contract and employer. Those interested in a career in the forensic investigation field should have a background in both criminal justice and forensic science. Obtaining a degree in one of these areas of study is essential.

Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses apply nursing practices to the legal field. They provide specialized care and support to victims of trauma or crime and gather evidence in the process. They have specialized knowledge of the legal system and they are able to identify, assess, and document injuries to use the information in legal proceedings. Many forensic nurses consult with legal professionals and provide medical testimony in court.

Individuals wanting to become a forensic nurse must complete an approved registered nurse program. Many then specialize by completing forensic science courses or gaining a certification in forensic nursing. The International Association of Forensic Nurses offers board certification. Some aspiring forensic nurses complete master’s or doctoral degrees in forensic nursing.

Forensic nurses typically earn between $54,385 and $78,643 per year and the median pay is $65,065. The forensic nursing specialty is the fastest growing nursing subfield in the country.

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