Mid Level Salary
Forensic science is not a discipline or branch of science, but is a catch-all for many distinct disciplines. It is broadly grouped into three: Medical, laboratory and field science.
Forensic medicine is a broad medical subject which includes forensic pathology, psychiatry, psychology, forensic medicine and odontology (dentistry). Laboratory sciences include chemistry, biology, toxicology, ballistics, fingerprints, questioned documents and marks and impressions. Field sciences include crime scene investigation which incorporates areas such as fire and explosion scenes and clandestine drug laboratories.
What do they do?
While forensic science is a broad term, it contains many disciplines that involve supporting and resolving legal issues through scientific investigation. As a forensic scientist, you might work more on either criminal cases or civil cases, but your work will generally involve analyzing evidence and testifying in court. While it's possible to focus on general forensics, you might specialize in one area; for example, you could choose to focus your work on biology, toxicology, pathology or chemistry. Your expertise might be used to determine information such as a time or cause of death.
You might travel to crime scenes to collect and analyze evidence, or you might work primarily in a lab setting. Attorneys could rely on your evidence to make cases in court, so it's essential to be detailed and careful to maintain the integrity of your evidence. Your work could help determine a suspect's innocence or guilt, and it could even eliminate the need to hold a trial. You could find employment at police departments, morgues or government agencies, or you could work as an independent consultant.
Typical day in the life of a Forensic Science
On a typical day a forensic scientist, depending on whether he or she specializes in crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis, might perform some of the following duties:
- Visiting crime scenes in order to plan how and what evidence to collect
- Collecting, cataloging and preserving criminal evidence that may be used to solve cases
- Photographing or making sketches of crime scenes
- Reconstructing crime scenes
- Examining, testing, and analyzing evidence including tissue samples, chemical substances, physical materials and ballistics
- Meeting with ballistics, fingerprint, handwriting, document, electronics, medical, chemical or metallurgical experts to discuss and interpret evidence
- Reconstructing crime scenes in order to figure out if and how pieces of evidence are related
- Writing and presenting summaries of findings
- Testifying as an expert witness on evidence or laboratory techniques in trials or hearings
Pros about this career
- Many different fields and specializations (toxicology, firearms, biology, etc.)
- Work contributes to legal justice
- The use of forensic evidence in criminal cases is expected to expand
Cons about this career
- Can be exposed to harmful chemicals
- May need to work on disturbing legal cases
- Pressure to present accurate, detailed analysis for legal decisions
- Attention to detail
- Analytical and interpretative skills
- A methodical approach
- Patience and concentration, as laboratory work can be routine and detailed
- Teamwork and working independently
- Presentation skills, as you need to be an effective verbal and written communicator, e.g. court reports.
- Technical abilities
- Critical thinking
- Clear vision