Forensic Scientist Job Description

Forensic scientist job duties can range widely depending on their field of interest. For example, forensic serologists analyze bodily fluids such as blood, semen, saliva, and urine. Most of their time is spent in the laboratory. Crime scene investigators collect evidence at crime scenes that are indoors, outdoors, underground, in the rain, sunny and dark. While medical examiners travel to both crime scenes and perform other duties inside their facility. It truly depends on the position the forensic scientist is in, to describe their job.

Forensic scientists prove the existence of a crime or make a connection to a crime through information and expert opinion to investigators, judges, lawyers, and juries to help determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. Let’s go over the most common types of forensic science jobs, describing typical duties and study.

Criminalists

Criminalists work in forensic labs, analyzing, identifying and interpreting physical evidence collected from crime scenes. Wildlife forensic science falls into this category too, where generally the victim is an animal. Generally crime scene investigators collect evidence and pass it onto a criminalist, who in turn analyzes, compares, identifies, and interprets the items in various ways. Recording such data on paper or in a database is necessary and critical to proving the truth based on scientific evidence. Items from crime scenes can range from fibers to fingerprints to glass fragments. A knowledgeable background in a variety of these sub-fields can be to ones advantage. Interpreting can mean that the criminalist must verbally back their conclusions in court, so a strong communication and speaking background is necessary.

Digital Forensic Scientists

Digital and Multimedia forensic scientists use digital photography to aid them when documenting crime scenes and injuries, mug shots, and autopsy photos. One might find themselves photographing crime scenes all day, while another person might sit in front of a computer in an office working on computer imaging of crime scenes, suspect composites and victim characteristics for possible identification. Digital forensics is still being heavily researched and publicized, as many find careers in both fields. Other times, one might work in a digital forensic laboratory doing chemical tests, measuring devices, and using tools that help them do things like defraud a fraudulent piece of evidence, such as an audio tape that has been tampered with.

Forensic Engineers

Engineering science involves lots of problem-solving, as an engineer applies the principles of math and science to the purpose of the law. Many times, forensic engineers are called upon to deal with cases involving failure analysis, accident reconstruction, cause and origins of fires or explosions, design review, quality of manufacturing or construction, and more. The scope of the work may range from entire communication networks to the molecular composition structure of a specific component. Buildings, aircraft, bones and surgical implants are just some of the structures examined by forensic engineers.

To learn more about Forensic Engineering, click here.

General

The general section includes mostly new forensic scientific specialties. This is a very large category, as job duties can include things such as filed investigation, clinical work, computer investigation, education, research, and laboratory investigation. Some of the fields forensic scientists are in include coroner (non-pathologist), marine biologist, nurse examiner, photographer, polygraph examiner, social worker, forensic consultant, artist/sculptor, admin and more.

Jurisprudence

Jurisprudence forensic scientists are also called attorneys, lawyers or judges. The lawyer who uses expert testimony in criminal and civil cases must be knowledgeable of the law that governs the admissibility of the forensic evidence it relates too. They must also be qualified to apply the law to present and challenge forensic evidence in depositions and court proceedings. Judges must understand it all.

Forensic Odontology

Forensic dentistry is also known as Odontology, and involves the application of dental science when identifying human remains and bite marks. Dental identification can sometimes be all that’s available when trying to determine the identity of human remains from natural disasters, cold cases, unknown persons, and other catastrophic events. Some days they must participate in autopsies. Postmortem dental exams usually involve charting dental and cranial features, x-ray documentation and written reports regarding the findings. The findings are then compared or applied to investigations by law enforcement. Bite mark analysis may include collecting saliva for DNA profiling and matching. Digital forensic science can be applied here too. Odontologists can also be called into court to give expert testimony.

Forensic Pathologists

Forensic pathologists are not as skilled and quick as the ones portrayed on TV. However, it is an interested and popular field of practice. Pathology is the study of disease. They do this by performing duties such as autopsies where they examine the tissues they remove. Their job is also determining the cause of a person’s death, oftentimes becoming involved in the investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death. Visiting death or crime scenes can be a daily task. Other duties may include collecting evidence such as bullets from a body, examining and documenting the bullet on paper and through photographs, before sending it to the forensic laboratory for analysis.

Forensic Anthropologists

Forensic anthropologists are called to identify individuals who are deceased, and usually mutilated in some way (plane crash, person with a mental illness, etc.). Specializing in human skeletal biology, physical anthropologists determine other things such as gender, age, race, health status, and marks of trauma.

Forensic Psychologists and Psychiatrists

Forensic psychologists and psychiatrists work on criminal and civil cases. They can also work in family and domestic relations law. Oftentimes, forensic psychologists and psychiatrists spend their time interfacing with lawyers and judges, and are trained in giving expert testimony.

Questioned Documents

Document examiners discover and prove the facts concerning documents and related material, such as ink, paper, toner and ribbons. Examining these items can be a tedious process as one tries to see the similarities, differences, chemical and physical components when analyzing documents. Document examiners oftentimes work closely with criminalists.

Toxicology

Forensic toxicologists study the harmful effects of chemicals or drugs on living systems. Knowledge of chemistry and pharmacology tends to come in handy everyday. Performing tests on body fluid and tissue samples received from the forensic pathology, assisting with the interpretation of the findings, utilizing gas and liquid chromatographic techniques and traditional qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis are just some of the techniques and methods used by forensic toxicologists. Generally, they are found working with all other types of forensic scientists, law enforcements and lawyers to help solve real-life problems.

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