When you think of forensics, what comes to mind? Likely your favorite crime drama, such as CSI or Law & Order (I’m a fan of the show Psych myself!). But the real field of forensics is not limited to observing evidence with a magnifying glass. It encompasses anything having to do with questions of law or applying scientific techniques to investigations. If you like analyzing information, drawing conclusions from evidence, and want to work in public service, a career in forensics may be for you! Let’s take a look at some specialties and how to prepare for them. Career Specialties
- DNA Examiner – Studies DNA from criminal cases to determine what evidence is relevant and should be used in trials. Click here to meet a DNA Examiner!
- Documents Examiner – Reviews handwriting samples to determine the age of documents and validity of signatures, such as with forgeries.
- Toxicologist – Helps identify causes of death due to poisons and other chemicals in criminal cases. Also identifies levels of drugs/alcohol in blood of a suspect or victim.
- Forensic Computer Investigator – Collects data and other evidence from electronic devices used in online criminal activity. Click here to meet a Digital Investigator!
- Forensic Psychologist – Performs a range of counseling and investigative services for all areas of the criminal justice system. Evaluates victims, witnesses, and suspects to inform judges of who should stand trial. Interviews law enforcement candidates.
- Forensic Anthropologist – Examines human remains; can conclude specific stats about a victim, including types of injuries and cause of death.
- Forensic Engineer – Deals with examining machinery and structures; for example, if foul play was involved in a bridge or building collapse.
Education Believe it or not, a general Forensic Science bachelor’s degree is not always ideal for pursuing one of the above specialties. It may be better to major in a related field, such as one of the sciences, engineering, psychology, or even medicine, to understand the foundation of your career niche. Then, take a few courses in criminal justice to become familiar with the system and its processes. Apprenticeships can also take the place of internships or even years of school, such as seen in the Forensic Engineering field. Some specialties will also require graduate school (i.e., Masters in Psychology to become a Forensic Psychologist). Make sure to research what is required for your desired field by going to your career community page. Other Qualifications Key skills used in the field as a whole include critical thinking, attention to detail, problem-solving, research, and communication skills. Other non-conventional skills such as endurance through repetitive tasks and perspective-taking are also highly sought-after. What experiences should you seek out in college to prepare for your career? Look for internships at police departments and other government agencies. Other on-the-job training can give you a boost too, such as working as a lab assistant or fingerprinting technician. Job Search Resources – Outside of Handshake, these industry-specific websites should be your go-to’s:
- American Academy of Forensic Science
- Crime Scene Investigator Network
- The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors
Further Research – There is more to explore! Read up on careers or join professional associations:
- The Balance Careers
- Forensics Colleges
- Forensic Magazine
- American Academy of Forensic Science
- International Association for Identification
- American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors
For more information on this career and others in criminal justice, schedule an appointment with your career coach! Reach out to Samantha Karpiloff (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Allen Rossetti (email@example.com). Sources: The Balance Careers (Articles 1, 2, and 3); Candid Career