Forensic science is a term which refers to science as it relates to the law, and there are many forensic science jobs in a variety of specialties. Most forensic science jobs are either directly or indirectly related to law enforcement. A few specialties can be non law-enforcement related, such as forensic anthropologists, who may investigate a cause of death for someone who died thousands of years ago. Forensic science specialties are all closely-related to science and technology, with the exception of forensic accounting, a specialized type of accounting practice.
Crime Scene Analysts and Specialists
General crime scene investigators, analysts and technicians are familiar to the public through television programs like CSI. These forensic professionals usually work as part of a team which conducts a variety of on-scene and lab-based analysis of crime evidence. Nearly every municipality and many other law enforcement agencies employ crime scene investigators, analysts and technicians. Specialties within this general field include bloodstain pattern analysts and ballistics experts. The majority of analysts and specialists work for law enforcement agencies. Others may work as consultants, including offering expert testimony in trials or providing analysis for legal defense teams. Another specialty which can pay a higher salary are forensic DNA analysts.
Polygraph Examiners and Forensic Psychologists
Polygraphs or lie detector tests aren’t generally admissible in court but they do play a role as part of many legal proceedings, both in civil and criminal investigations. Polygraph examiners also provide exams to help make employment decisions for sensitive positions, including jobs that involve financial matters or government positions requiring a high level of discretion. Forensic psychologists provide analysis and services beyond the television staple criminal profiler. They can work in a variety of justice settings, from courts to the correctional system. Forensic psychologists also investigate child abuse allegations, help victims, and provide assessments in civil cases and family law.
Other Specialties in Forensic Science
Forensic anthropologists frequently work for colleges, universities or museums. They may examine human remains from “cold cases,” and sometimes very cold cases, as in the case of remains found at archaeological sites. Forensic accountants often investigate white collar crimes of embezzlement or fraud. They also perform important duties for large businesses or industry oversight organizations. Forensic pathologists or medical examiners are physicians with the expertise of performing autopsies to discover the cause of death. A subspecialty in this area are forensic toxicologists, who are experienced in determining levels of drugs or toxic chemicals in the body.
Not every person who is employed in forensic science works directly for a law enforcement agency. Some specialties, including forensic anthropologists like television’s “Bones,” seldom work directly for law enforcement. Forensic accountants also usually work for accounting firms, or they may be employed by large corporations or government agencies. An expert in DNA analysis could also wear several different hats while working for a lab, ranging from conducting DNA for a family genealogy investigation, to occasional work analyzing evidence from a crime scene. Education for careers in this field can range from some college and technical training to medical school or a Ph.D. for medical examiners, psychologists, and anthropologists.