Forensic science utilizes scientific principles to support or negate theories surrounding physical evidence found at a crime scene. As such, forensic scientists analyze evidence gathered or received from crime scenes and present their findings based the results of their analyses.
Forensic science work generally involves one or more areas of science:
Chemistry: Involves the study of paint, chemicals, and similar substances and compounds
Biology: Involves trace and DNA evidence, including blood, hair, fibers, etc.
Drugs/toxicology: Involves testing for the presence or absence of drugs, alcohol and poisons in blood, urine, and tissues samples
It may also involve specific subspecialties of forensic science, such as botany, anthropology, and odontology (dentistry).
The job duties of a forensic scientist may vary according to the field of interest or specialty, but they all have one thing in common: they identify and interpret physical evidence collected from a crime scene.
Forensic scientists generally perform their work inside the forensic or crime laboratory, where they are responsible for comparing and interpreting the physical evidence that was retrieved by crime scene investigators at the scene of the crime. In specific circumstances, forensic scientists may be required at the scene of a crime, usually when the methods or techniques surrounding the collection or preservation of the physical evidence are in question.
Common responsibilities of forensic scientists include:
- Carrying out laboratory examinations and analyses submitted by law enforcement agencies and medical examiners
- Serving as expert witnesses in a court of law
- Carrying out tests using scientific techniques, such as infrared spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, and scanning electron microscopy
- Ensuring all laboratory protocols and regulations are followed
- Inputting data into computer programs and utilizing relevant computer database information
- Overseeing the maintenance and calibration of laboratory equipment
- Preparing written reports based on evidence analysis
- Coordinating the activities related to crime scene collection, preservation, and transportation
- Serving as a liaison between the forensic laboratory and crime scene investigators
- Developing, maintaining and updating work quality standards, standard operating procedures, and similar methods and procedures
- Coordinating work with other members of the forensic team and with outside agencies
The most common requirement found on any forensic scientist job description is a bachelor’s or graduate degree in forensic science, biology, chemistry, or a related field. Although specific degrees are generally not required in this field, many employers look for programs that have been approved by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences’ Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).
Further, depending on the forensic science specialty, many employers seek candidates who possess specific coursework, such as microbiology, organic chemistry, and physics.
More detailed information in: