Forensic Scientist Job Description

There are many different applications of forensic science, and a number of disciplines fall under the umbrella of forensic science. In general, though, a forensic scientist is best known for the role they play in the justice system. They are responsible for collecting, identifying, classifying and analyzing physical evidence involved in criminal investigations. Many are specially trained to perform tests on weapons or substances, which include but are not limited to hair, tissue, fibers (e.g. clothing) and body fluids to find out how the presence of these substances could be significant to an investigation.
Many forensic scientists specialize in a specific area, like ballistics (analyzing bullets and other projectiles and their impact), fingerprinting, handwriting, biochemistry or DNA analysis.

Forensic scientists are often called upon to testify as expert witnesses when it comes to evidence or crime lab techniques. This requires the forensic scientist to be able to break down scientific jargon into everyday language for the lay person and explain complex chemical reactions, medical conditions and scientific instruments so they can be more easily understood.

Forensic scientists have the weighty responsibility of properly collecting, storing and protecting evidence. They follow chain-of-custody regulations, which help ensure evidence is not tampered with, requiring that a time, date, location and signature are given any time a piece of evidence is transported into or out of a lab.

Once a forensic scientist has examined the evidence, they prepare a report to document their findings and observations. These findings are vital, since they can be used to put a criminal behind bars or set an innocent person free who had previously been accused of a crime.

The goal of the forensic scientist is always the impartial use all evidence available to discover the raw facts in a case, and subsequently, the truth, according to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

A forensic scientist may provide their valuable information and expert opinions to investigators, lawyers, judges and juries. Their findings may serve either the defense or the prosecution, as they are unbiased. Forensic scientists may work closely and in conjunction with other experts, like medical examiners, who determine cause of death. They also work closely with police officers, sheriff’s deputies, prosecutors, defense attorneys, FBI, CIA and DEA agents, immigration workers and crime scene investigators.

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Forensic Scientist Salary

The prospect of earning a generous salary attracts many people into the field of forensic science. However, it is important to take into account that the amount of salary you will bring in as a forensic scientist will vary with your specialization, geographic location, level of education and years of experience.

The most up-to-date information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the average hourly earnings of a forensic science technician was $21.79 per hour. Forensic science technicians ranked third in hourly earnings out of a list of eight different science technician careers tracked by the federal government. They earned significantly more per hour than chemical technicians; environmental science and protection technicians, including health; biological technicians; agricultural and food science technicians and forest and conservation technicians.

The average annual earnings of forensic science technicians were determined to be $49,860, but the top 10 percent of forensic science technicians earned more than $80,330. Even the lowest paid 10 percent did not do too poorly, bringing in less than $30,990, according to the Bureau’s calculations.

Five industries employ the most forensic scientists, which include local government; state government; psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals; investigation and security services; and medical and diagnostic laboratories. Out of those five industries, investigation and security services paid the highest mean wages at $58,420 a year and medical and diagnostic labs paid the second highest annual mean wage on average at $53,670, the Bureau calculated.

The five top-paying industries overall for forensic science technicians, while not employing near as many people, are the federal executive branch (OES designation); architectural, engineering and related services; investigation and security services; management, scientific and technical consulting services; and medical and diagnostic laboratories. Pay in the federal executive branch blows the others out of the water when it comes to pay with a $90,150 annual mean wage. The second top paying industry by annual mean wage is architectural, engineering and related services at $59,040, the Bureau noted.

The five states where forensic science technicians were paid the most were, in order from most to least, were: Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Kansas, Connecticut and California, the Bureau asserts.

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How to Become a Forensic Scientist

Forensic science has revolutionized the way crimes are solved today, because without the technology that can trace DNA, find fingerprints or match hair, it is hard to find conclusive evidence tying a criminal to a case. This means that the role of a forensic scientist is crucial, because they are in charge of processing all physical evidence found to make that link.
If working behind the scenes in a crime lab interests you, you need to be prepared to get the skills needed to enter this career.

Career Training

In order to be fully prepared for this profession, you need to do your research to know what it demands. The American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS) recognizes 10 specialities within the field of forensic science, so for a concentration in a particular area, you should learn more about what is available. Otherwise train for a general degree to learn all aspects of the field.

1. In high school, prepare by already taking as many science courses as possible, particularly in biology and chemistry.

2. You must attend university, and it is generally recommended to get a criminal justice degree such as a forensic science degree, but degrees in biology, chemistry, a physical science or criminalistics should also suffice. With a forensic science degree, you can study online at places like American Intercontinental University or Kaplan University, and you should be sure to take courses in physics, criminalistics, organic, physical and biochemistry, and get significant lab time.

3. Decide if you want a concentration to focus on specialties like fingerprinting, DNA, toxicology or firearms. Bachelors can be earned with concentrations in these areas, or additional certificates can be gained afterwards.

4. Consider getting a graduate degree in forensic science or criminalistics, since many labs now require a masters degree.

Job Description
You will spend your days evaluating, analysing, testing and assessing the physical evidence gathered from the crime scene to recreate the crime, determine the victim and aggressor and help make connections about scenarios and suspects to assist in the capture of the criminal.

You will use state of the art equipment to perform analyses on hair, fiber, weapons, fingerprints, shoeprints, bodily fluids or any other substances found at the scene to collect as much information as possible to help crack the case.

You will then document and present this information to law enforcement and may even be called on to testify in court as an expert witness.

It is meticulous and steady work that is seeing a rise in the number of jobs available due to the ever-increasing amount of technology and developments in the field.

To start off, you may only see a low salary compared to other careers in criminal justice of about $25,000-$40,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but a professional with more experience can earn up to $80,000.

Forensic science is the way of the future and plays a significant role in solving crimes these days, so training as a forensic scientist is the right move to make now to jump on the bandwagon and see the field grow.

Article Source: Forensic Scientist