As an expert in specialized tests and methodologies, a forensic toxicologist is asked to determine the presence or absence of chemicals within the human body. Testing during autopsies will include the analysis of tissue samples and bodily fluids. These techniques utilize clinical chemistry along with forensic disciplines to assist in criminal investigation and determine any contributing factors in the manner or cause of a death. Most forensic toxicologists are employed by local and state law enforcement agencies, followed by private drug testing facilities and the federal government. A bachelor’s degree in forensic science, toxicology, chemistry, or a related field is a standard minimum to enter the field at an entry level, although pursuing a graduate degree is suggested path for this competitive field.
Skills and Duties
- Perform toxicology tests to determine presence or absence of chemicals and drugs in the: hair, blood, tissue, breath, and other tissues and fluids in the body
- Evaluate contributory or determining factors in the cause of death and manner of death
- Use of chemical and bio-medical instruments
- Provide expert testimony in court
- Work with law enforcement, investigators, medical examiners, and coroners to establish the role of drugs, poisons, alcohol, and other substances related to cause of death
Salary InsightsAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for forensic scientists is around $56,750 as of 2016, with a salary range between $33,860 to $97,400¹,
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that employment of forensic scientists is expected to grow 17% by 2026, which is quicker than the average of all U.S. occupations¹.
¹ Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Forensic Science Technicians, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm (visited October 27, 2017).