Jobs in Forensics

General Forensics Jobs

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.

Some positions in forensic science only require former law enforcement experience, 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.

Featured Forensics Programs

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 preform 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 is 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 televisions 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 predict 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 level.

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 a 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 in 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 to 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, few things are important as the integrity of evidence. Knowing this, there is a 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 depends 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 a sworn officer of the law.

Important personality traits for these types of technicians to have are superb observation skills, 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 profilers or as computer analysts 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

Criminalistics, a term stemmed from the German word kriminalistic, 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.

Criminology

 Criminology is literally the study of crime. While that may seem simple and a tad bit obvious, the study of criminology and the methods used by criminologists aren’t so cut and dry.

Criminologists look to study crime with the impartiality of a scientist. This is why it is considered a social science. Many criminologists look to find the source of crime through the paradigm of different fields; economics, sociology, and political science being the most popular.

Those who study criminology often have a some sort of criminology degree. However, as hinted at above, there isn’t necessarily a need for it. Most practicing criminologists work as researchers. A large preponderance of those remaining will return into academia and pursue their interest as a professor. The income that can be expected by an average criminologist hovers around $72,000 a year. However, there is a steady demand for those who can understand what makes criminals tick.

Evidence Technician

An evidence technician can perform a variety of evidence-related tasks. Their main job is to collect evidence at the crime scene, process any pertinent information related to the evidence and transport it to an evidence storage location. Some evidence technicians are tasked with monitoring the evidence storage facility itself.

Evidence technicians experience little to no risk while performing their job duties; however, they may come across hazardous materials that require them to take precautionary measures.

Most evidence technician jobs require a criminal justice degree. Some organizations however, may offer internships or entry-level experience for those who are seeking CSI jobs but have little to no experience.

While the salary varied by state and agency, evidence technicians made an average salary of $52,000 in 2011. The lowest salary for that year was $31,000.

Fingerprint Analyst

If a person is looking to become a fingerprint analyst, he or she will first need to obtain an undergraduate degree in some type of science-related field. After doing this, it is then helpful to take part in some type of internship that helps a person learn how to read fingerprints. Most employers of fingerprint analysts require a person to be certified as a Certified Latent Print Examiner.

The exact requirements that a person must meet in order to become this type of analyst is determined by a person’s employer. Some employers will accept an associate’s degree; however, many prefer a bachelor’s. Common degrees that are obtained by people who analyze fingerprints are those majoring in law enforcement, medicine, biology, and chemistry. Many courses that help a person become a fingerprint analyst can be completed online; however, on-the-job training is essential in this line of work.

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants spend their workdays investigating financial fraud and meticulously looking over financial records and documents searching for irregularities. They use their findings to assist law enforcement agencies with the prosecution of white collar crimes large and large criminal organizations.

Some of the crimes that are discovered using forensic accounting techniques include embezzlement, fraud and money laundering. A forensic accountant career is highly sought after by accounting majors and requires a great deal of advanced coursework and specialty training.

Forensic Accounting Salary

Forensic accountants mainly work for the federal government and other law enforcement agencies. Salaries for this position can range from $60,000 to over $120,000, depending on experience, location and employer.

Forensic accountants are in high demand. Law enforcement agencies are in need of individuals who have advanced accounting skills and a high level of attention-to-detail. Individuals who choose a career path in this field should have an advanced degree in accounting and should be knowledgeable of criminal justice procedures.

Forensic Anthropologist

Forensic anthropologists specialize in examining human remains and determining how a person died as well as vital statistics about the person including sex, age and possibly other information such as health status. Generally, forensic anthropologists work with skeletons and bones. Academically, forensic anthropology is a branch of anthropology not criminal justice, and graduate training at the doctorate level is usually required.

Forensic anthropologists generally work with coroners or medical examiners or directly with law enforcement but usually as consultants. Unlike some other forensic science jobs that are full time, it’s common for forensic anthropologists to be employed by universities or research facilities and consult on the side. Salaries can vary widely depending on location and other factors from as low as $50,000 to well over $100,000 for professors of anthropology in some areas.

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.

Forensic Ballistics Analyst Salaries

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

What is a 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.

What is the Required Education for this Position?

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.

What is the Salary?

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.

Salaries

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 Investigator Salaries

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

What is a 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.

Required Education

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.

Salary and Job Outlook

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.

Forensic Pathologist

A forensic pathologist is also known as a medical examiner and is a fully qualified physician who specializes in examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Forensic pathologists work mostly in laboratories but may also visit crime scenes and appear in court. They may work for the local, state or federal government or they may work in hospitals. Some pathologists also may work as consultants either as part of a larger organization or in their own private practice.

With a forensic pathologist salary of $150,000 to $200,000 per year and more, the profession offers higher earnings than many other areas of criminal justice, but the salaries are still low compared to what qualified physicians can make in other specialties of medicine. Furthermore, the work conditions can be challenging and the work itself stressful due to the violent and upsetting nature of the deaths investigated.

Forensic Psychologist

What is a Forensic Psychologist?

Forensic psychologists are professionals who use their know-how of psychology and law to provide assistance in the legal system. They commonly perform psychological assessments on witnesses and defendants in legal proceedings, act as expert witnesses on psychological issues, and counsel individuals in court cases. Many forensic psychologists also create intervention methods and courses of treatment for inmates, and provide recommendations to parole boards about risk assessments. Forensic psychologists commonly work for government organizations, correctional facilities, psychiatric institutions, and community health centers.

Required Education

Individuals aspiring to become a forensic psychologist either complete a master’s degree or doctoral degree in forensic psychology. Those who take on a stronger role in the legal system commonly need a doctoral degree. Many forensic psychologists also gain certification from the American Board of Forensic Psychology.

Salary

Forensic psychologists typically earn between $35,302 and $120,086 per year, with the median pay around $61,440.

Forensic Scientist

What is a Forensic Scientist?

Forensic scientists are scientists who apply their scientific know-how to the legal field. They are involved in many different parts of criminal cases, and they help determine the scientific facts to discover the truth. Forensic scientists provide information and expert opinions and they work in a variety of environments, such as crime scenes, laboratories, medical examiner officers, hospitals, and police departments.

Required Education

Aspiring forensic scientists must complete at least a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or related area. Degree requirements include courses in science, mathematics, forensic science, forensic anthropology, criminal justice, public speaking, and investigative procedures. Some individuals pursue advanced degrees and gain professional certification.

Salary and Outlook

The salary range for forensic scientists is between $35,449 and $77,341, with the median salary at $49,512. Job opportunities are expected to be favorable for forensic scientists, with a growth of 20 percent by 2018.

Forensic Science Technician

What is a Forensic Science Technician?

Forensic science technicians assist with crime scene investigation by gathering and examining physical evidence. They go through crime scenes to decide what and how evidence should be gathered. They take photographs, make sketches, and maintain written records of their findings. Forensic science technicians commonly work in police departments, medical examiner offices, and crime laboratories. Many specialize in laboratory analysis or investigation of crime scenes.

Required Education

Forensic science technicians typically need a forensic science degree at the bachelor’s degree level. Forensic science degree programs commonly include broad coursework in biology, chemistry, and mathematics.

Salary and Job Outlook

In May 2010, forensic science technicians earned a median pay of $51,570 per year. The lowest 10 percent made under $32,900 and the top 10 percent made more than $82,990. The employment of these professionals is expected to rise by 19 percent by the year 2020.

Forensic Serologist

A forensic serologist is a type of forensic technician who primarily examines blood but looks at other bodily fluids as well including semen and saliva as a means to reconstructing a crime. Like other forensic jobs that involve examining crime scene evidence, forensic serologists primarily work in labs although they may visit crime scenes to collect evidence or examine blood spatter patterns. Often a forensic serologist may specialize in either crime scene analysis or laboratory work. Forensic serologists may also appear in court to discuss the evidence they’ve analyzed.

A serologist who works primarily in a laboratory will work more regular hours than a serologist who visits crime scenes. Forensic science technicians may make anywhere from around $33,000 to upwards of $83,000 per year with a median salary of around $52,000 per year.

Forensic Technician

Forensic technicians collect evidence from crime scenes, record their findings and transport them to an evidence storage area. After they have collected evidence, they examine it in crime laboratories, analyze their findings and make a report to the investigative team.

A forensic employee often specializes in one area of forensics. Some of these areas include fingerprinting, ballistics and handwriting. They often testify in cases and assist the prosecution with the trial.

In 2011, the average salary for a forensic technician was $56,000. This salary varied depending on location and years of service.

Individuals looking for a career in forensics need to have a degree in science. Many technicians go on to complete special training in forensics prior to beginning their career and most organizations offer on-the-job training for every new hire.

Forensic Toxicologist

A forensic toxicologist tests blood and tissue samples for traces of alcohol, drugs, poison and other substances. In criminal cases, this helps to determine what may have been in the system of either the victim or the suspect and can help to reconstruct a picture of how a crime was committed. Forensic toxicology generally requires a background in chemistry or biology. The work tends to be done in a laboratory with regular business hours although there may be on-call hours or shift work if the technician needs to report directly to a crime scene. Forensic toxicologists must be precise and detail-oriented; they also must work well under pressure.

The salary for the forensic toxicologist is around $35,000 – $65,000 per year although in some cases it is possible to make more than this.

Latent Print Examiner

A latent print examiner is a type of forensic science technician who specializes in examining fingerprints. Latent print examiners generally must be certified by the International Association of Identification. They usually work in laboratories and work with both prints obtained from crime scenes that may be partial, smudged or otherwise difficult to work with as well as prints obtained from suspects in custody. In some cases, they may be comparing these prints to see if enough points of identification can be found to declare a match. They may also testify in court giving their expert opinion on latent fingerprint findings.

Employment opportunities for latent print examiners are available in state law enforcement and in some large cities. In the field of forensic science technician as a whole, annual salaries range from about $33,000 to $83,000 with a median salary of around $52,000.

Check out our Top Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs for 2015

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