Discover Your Path in Forensics

An interest in forensic science can lead to a challenging and rewarding career. We’ve created a comprehensive list of careers currently in demand in the field of forensic science. Learn the general practice of each role, common places of employment, skills and duties, job trends and salary insights.

Arson Investigator

Part detective, part scientist, an arson investigator examines how a fire started and determines if malicious intent is involved. Professionals in this field find careers in the public sectors of federal, state, and local law enforcement. They can also be hired by attorneys and insurance companies involved with legal cases.

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Skills & Duties

  • Collect and analyze evidence from scenes of fires and explosions
  • Reconstruct fire or explosion scenes for additional examination
  • Keep detailed and protect evidence for use in a court of law
  • Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings

Ballistics Investigator

Ballistic Experts are a specialized sector of forensic science technicians. These analysts are responsible for examining any evidence from a crime scene that is related to firearms and ammunition. They analyze and evaluate the crime scene to determine the importance of things like gunshot residue analysis, bullet trajectory, bullet casings and fragments, and live ammo. Professionals in this field find careers in federal, state, and local law enforcement laboratories. 

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Skills & Duties

  • Catalogue and analyze any evidence from firearms found at crime scenes
  • Provide expertise and specialized information in the analysis of ballistics evidence
  • Adhere to strict protocols involving custody of evidence, testing procedures, and report generation
  • Document every step of testing and results found
  • Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings as an expert witness

Computer Forensics Examiner

Computer forensics is a field that has seen significant growth in the last two decades. A computer forensic examiner is a specialist whose work focuses on recovering intelligence and information from electronic devices that can assist law enforcement, analyzing electronics during criminal investigations to determine if any evidence can be collected, and even pioneering new technologies and techniques to advance the field of computer forensics.

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Skills & Duties

  • Knowledge and application of computer forensic concepts, especially in a law enforcement capacity
  • Knowledge of "hard skills" (computer forensics) and "soft skills" (legal issues)
  • May recover and/or maintain integrity of hard disk evidence and digital devices
  • Recover information from partially damaged or whole: disks, memory cards, hard drives, and other electronic devices
  • Evidence analysis and evaluation to determine if there are any relevant contents that speak to a crime having been committed.
  • Evidence recovery in a variety of system types (Windows, Linux, OS)
  • Produce forensic reports based on analyses for agency directors and supervisors
  • Testify in court proceedings about computer forensic techniques, evidence management procedures, and data recovered

Crime Scene Investigator

Through a case’s lifetime, crime scene investigators (forensic science technicians) assist criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence from the crime scene. These investigators specialize in being on the ground at the scene or in processing the in the laboratory. The demand for crime scene investigators will grow much faster than the national average as scientific and technological advances continue to emerge. Professionals in this field find careers in the public sectors of federal, state, and local law enforcement. There are also attorneys and insurance companies involved with legal cases that will invest in a Crime Scene Investigator.

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Skills & Duties

At the Crime Scene:

  • Analyze scene to test relevant evidence
  • Document all evidence found by taking photographs at the scene
  • Keep detailed notes of specifics like position and location of evidence found
  • Collect and catalogue evidence found
  • Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings

In the Lab:

  • Execute and check scientific analysis of evidence found at crime scene--e.g. DNA testing
  • Analyze digital media to explore possible links
  • Reconstruct the crime scene
  • Coordinate with other specialists like toxicology experts to assess evidence

DNA Analyst

DNA Analysts examine evidence from the crime scene which could include trace amounts of DNA and unique biometrics. Collecting biological samples such as hair, blood, skin tissue, and saliva from crime scenes or from individuals, analysts use strictly regimented laboratory protocols and may be called to provide crucial testimony in court as to the DNA results. Analysts work in FBI-approved crime labs, directly for law enforcement agencies, for attorneys, or for health insurance companies. 

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Skills & Duties

  • Recover and analyze evidence from crime scenes or from individuals 
  • Follow strict protocols and keep detailed records for use in a court of law
  • Properly document chain of custody of material and properly store before and after analysis
  • Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings and/or write detailed result findings
  • Maintain quality and accuracy of lab equipment by performing routine checks

Forensic Accountant

A forensic accountant is responsible for examining business and tax records as to identify any irregularities that can make a difference in criminal and/or civil cases. Part tax detective and part accountant, forensic accountants audit business books in order to detect any evidence of financial crimes such as corruption and embezzlement.

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Skills & Duties

  • Review and audit financial records through forensic techniques and methodologies
  • Investigate suspected financial crimes or irregularities in financial records
  • Evaluate and identify monetary discrepancies in funds on behalf of government agencies, public companies, and private entities and corporations
  • Testify in court as an expert in this field, for civil and criminal cases

Forensic Anthropologist

A rare combination of forensic scientist, investigator, and human physiology expert, a forensic anthropologist assesses human remains for legal purposes, which is often on behalf of law enforcement. Professionals in the field have obtained a mastery of knowledge and application of the assessment and analysis of human remains.

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Skills & Duties

  • Processes skeletal evidence for law enforcement agencies
  • Gather information used to determine an individual's sex, physical condition, stature, unique features, and age at the time of death
  • Assess trauma to skeletal remains
  • Present expert testimony in court
  • Field work at crime scenes (human remains search, discovery, recovery, and excavation)
  • Follow clear protocols for collecting human remains and data pertaining to complete analyses

Forensic Autopsy Technician

A forensic autopsy technician is a professional who assists a forensic pathologist (e.g., coroner or medical examiner) who is performing an autopsy on a deceased individual. A forensic autopsy technician assists the forensic pathologist prior to, during, and after an autopsy with both physical and clerical duties that are involved in the autopsy process. Professionals in this field find careers with local, county, state, or federal agencies that have a coroner’s office, medical examiner’s office, or other type of forensic pathologist lab that performs autopsies for medicolegal or criminal investigative purposes.  

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Skills & Duties

  • Assisting forensic pathologist before, during, and after the autopsy
  • Moving body onto table before autopsy and doing the necessary preparatory work
  • Cleaning up after the autopsy and sanitizing the work area
  • Setting up, labeling, and marking collection containers used during autopsy
  • Weighing samples taken from body during autopsy; weighing organs
  • Accepting bodies into morgue/lab
  • Preparing toe tags
  • Contacting the relatives or next of kin of the deceased
  • Transferring the bodies to funeral homes/crematoriums
  • Assisting with evidence collection at crime scenes
  • Handling clerical duties required in autopsy processes

Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses help with investigations of various physical crimes such as sexual assault and violence, or accidental or purposeful deaths. Using their medical expertise within the criminal justice system requires knowledge and training in the collection of medical evidence and evidentiary procedures. Though most time will be spent in a hospital or emergency-room setting, some cases may require forensic nurses to testify as medical expert witnesses for criminal trials, requiring an ability to accurately describe the details and findings of the medical evidence collected, and provide a professional opinion based on the facts of the case. 

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Skills & Duties

  • Take physical samples of blood and tissue for testing and analysis
  • Inspect, measure, and document injuries
  • Collect other bodily or physical evidence related to crime.
  • Console and comfort victims of assault, violence, or criminal incidents.
  • Empathy and a good bedside manner are required in high-stress situations.
  • Investigative skills and knowledge of evidence collecting procedures.
  • Communication skills for cooperating with investigators and guiding the victim throughout the process.

Forensic Nurse Examiner

Forensic Nurses work in a dual role, serving as comforting caregivers to victims and reliable liaisons for investigators. These specialized registered nurses are trained to provide medical care to victims of a traumatic crime, while collecting vital DNA evidence, analyzing wound pattern, and psychological behavior. There are many fields that Forensic Nurses specialize in including domestic violence, sexual abuse, and child abuse cases. Most of these nurses practice in hospitals, doctors offices, or medical examiner labs.

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Skills & Duties

  • Attend to the patient's medical needs
  • Collect any DNA evidence found on the victim
  • Possess knowledge of forensic science and the investigative process 
  • Adhere to strict protocols involving custody of evidence and testing procedures
  • Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings as an expert witness

Forensic Psychologist

A relatively new and growing career at the intersection of law and psychology, a forensic psychologist applies their clinical expertise within legal and criminal investigative settings. Forensic psychologists lend their services to judges, lawyers, government agencies, or private legal practices, most often on a consultative basis. They can be hired to conduct mental competency evaluations for criminal cases or custody hearings or to assist a legal team by testifying as an expert witness.

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Skills & Duties

  • Conducting clinical assessments, treatments, and evaluations for legal cases
  • Offering professional opinions for child custody and mental competency hearings regarding defendants and the elderly
  • Working with law enforcement to establish criminal profiles and behaviors
  • Testifying as expert witnesses or hired as consultants to define psychological terms or disorders for a judge or jury during trial
  • Assisting legal teams with jury selection process by using psychological methods
  • Interviewing patients and evaluating people’s competency to stand trial

Forensic Scientist

Forensic scientists are a cross between forensic laboratory technicians and law enforcement investigators; with many specialties and subfields within the field of forensic science, one can find a unique and broad range of career options as a forensic scientist. Employees in this field will find themselves in charge of the collection of evidence, examination of evidence, analysis of physical evidence, as well as specialties such as document examination, biological analyses, crime scene reconstruction, toxicology, trace evidence, photography, bloodstain analysis, and even medicolegal death investigation.

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Skills & Duties

  • Crime scene investigation
  • Crime scene reconstruction
  • Evaluation of physical, biological, and other evidence
  • Photographing crime scene
  • Collection of evidence, proper labeling of evidence, and securing evidence for law enforcement and laboratory testing
  • Testing and analysis of evidence (based on forensic specialty)
  • Interviewing
  • Biological Analyses
  • Physical Analyses
  • Communicate with law enforcement, investigators, federal agents

Forensic Toxicologist

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.

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Skills & 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

Legal Nurse Consultant

Legal nurse consultants are the liaison between the legal and health care worlds. These professionals are specialized registered nurses who are trained to provide advice in legal cases involving crimes like medical malpractice, personal injury, medical fraud, and insurance fraud. They conduct research relevant to the case to provide counsel to the lawyers or healthcare…

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Skills & Duties

  • Conduct medical examinations
  • Determine medical requirements of a victim or defendant
  • Project the cost of the care
  • Research medical histories and backgrounds
  • Effective communication skills to convey important information between fields
  • Adhere to strict protocols involving custody of evidence and testing procedures
  • Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings as an expert witness

Medical Examiner

Medical examiners (ME), also referred to as coroners, examine cadavers in order to determine the cause of death. Trained in the field of forensic pathology, a medical examiner will deduce the manner of the deceased, be it natural, intentional, or accidental, and are often summoned by a court of law to present their findings in criminal hearings. For this reason, a medical degree and background in anatomical studies, toxicology, biology, to name a few, is required to analyze organs, tissue, and other bodily samples. A supplemental degree in the criminology field is further to the benefit of aspirers of the ME profession.

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Skills & Duties

  • Perform autopsies on cadavers
  • Examine injuries and evidence on the body
  • Examine crime scenes
  • Collect lab samples for inspection
  • Record statements from witnesses
  • Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings

Pathologists’ Assistant

Also referred to as a “PA,” a pathologist assistant is a certified professional who assists a supervising pathologist in diagnosing diseases and determining the cause of an illness or death of an individual. Professionals in this field typically choose one of two specialty areas to work in: surgical pathology or autopsy pathology. PAs will prepare and assist with postmortem exams, along with intricate dissection of human tissue for analysis purposes. The path to becoming a pathologists’ assistant can be lucrative, but requires a high level of education, typically a master’s degree in health science with a strong background in chemistry, biology, and math.

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Skills & Duties

  • Examine tissue samples
  • Prepare biological tissues for testing
  • Determine what the supervising pathologist should examine for the diagnosis of a patient
  • Process lab specimens; examine specimens; dissect specimens; photograph specimens
  • Review medical history of the deceased patient
  • Gain legal approval for performing an autopsy (specific to autopsy pathology PAs)
  • Assist in postmortem exam or autopsy (specific to autopsy pathology PAs)
  • Coordinate specimens for organ transplantation or for research (specific to autopsy pathology PAs)