A forensic scientist is responsible for helping law enforcement at every level collect and analyze the different physical evidence that may be left at a crime scene. Out of these technicians, you will find that they follow one of two paths usually. They are either going to be more involved with crime scene investigation (CSI), or laboratory work. Both are extremely important and are necessary to tie evidence to offenders and provide solid proof without a doubt of what transpired.
What Do Forensic Scientists Actually Do?
If they are at the crime scene, they will usually start by walking through the scene and getting a good idea of how they want the evidence to be collected. Then they will take pictures while they are gathering evidence and of the crime scene. They can also go through and make sketches of the crime scene as well. The whole time they will be taking detailed notes about the crime scene and what they have found, then they will catalog all of the relevant physical evidence and send it on over to the crime lab for further analysis.
If it is a forensic scientist that works in the lab, they will start with analyzing and identifying the evidence that was found at the scene of the crime. Then they will go through and look for possible ties between the criminals and the evidence that was found. They may also need to go talk to other experts in fields such as toxicology or something of that nature to help with their findings. They will then take all of the scientific findings that they have come up with and try to reconstruct the crime scene and what transpired there.
There are a lot of tools that both of these kinds of forensic scientists will use to help them with their job. The CSI unit will use a lot of black lights, tweezers, and other special items that can be found in a kit that was specially made to help them with finding physical evidence. The laboratory scientists will use a variety of technology and microscopes to help them determine the facts of the case. Regardless of which type of forensic scientist you are, they also always keep detailed reports of anything and everything that they do as they are doing it.
The Work Environment There are just over 13,000 forensic scientists as of 2010. Also, 90% of those forensic scientists work with a state or local government. They mostly work in either police departments, crime labs, morgues, or medical examiner & coroner offices. A lot of the time there will be travel involved with the work that a forensic scientist does, because they have to go from scene to scene and also communicate with other experts. There is also going to be a lot of stress simply because there are a lot of things that are disturbing to see at crime scenes and through physical evidence.
Stress can also be a factor because of the work schedule that a forensic scientist will have to endure with their chosen profession. Although forensic scientists that work in labs usually work standard work hours, they also have to be on call in order to provide their services in an emergency type situation. If you are not a lab forensic scientist, you may get called to a crime scene in the middle of the night, you just never know when your services are going to be needed the most.
How To Become A Forensic Scientist
Many people want to know how to become a forensic scientist, but there really is a lot of skills and qualifications you must posses in order to do so. Lets start with the educational requirements. Also you have to remember that some of these requirements are going to differ depending on which employer you are looking to get hired by. A majority of the forensic scientists that you will see have met all of the requirements to become a police officer and go through the academy. Those that want to compete for jobs at larger law enforcement agencies should have a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or another natural science. There are some agencies though that are rural and may hire with lower educational requirements.
In addition to the educational requirements, you are also going to need a certain set of skills to have success as a forensic scientist. Composure is a big one, you are going to see some stuff that the average person should never see, and you need to maintain that composure and do your job correctly and accurately. You should also have great communication both written and verbally, as that is a large part of the job. Last but not least, you need to have attention to detail and be able to problem solve.
The next requirement that you will have to deal with is on the job training. Each forensic scientist will go through a lot of on the job training before they will be allowed to work on cases by themselves. There are training programs for the analysis of DNA and other evidence, and there are programs for firearms training as well. It will be at least a couple of years on the job before a forensic scientist gets through all of this training.
Forensic Scientist Salary
In may of 2010, the average annual salary for forensic scientists was $51,570. That money is obviously going to change depending on where you live and what the cost of living is in that particular area. Also, the more experience and training that one has, the more they are going to make as a forensic scientist.
From 2010 to 2020, the job growth for forensic scientists is supposed to be 19%. That is 5% more than the average for all of the occupations combined. There is no doubt that this is one of the more sought after positions because of the amount of job growth, and there seems to be no reason to doubt that growth in the future. Forensic scientists are always going to be needed and it is an extremely rewarding career.