How do I Become a Serologist?

Patricia Ohanian Lundstrom

Serologists are forensic science technicians who specialize in the analysis of blood and other bodily fluids, such as semen and saliva. Someone desiring to become a serologist may find work in law enforcement agencies or crime laboratories. A bachelor’s degree in chemistry typically is required for entry-level positions. Serologists may further their marketability with additional experience in disciplines like genetics, molecular biology, or pathology.

A serologist might be called to a crime scene.
A serologist might be called to a crime scene.

To become a serologist, you typically will need a strong background in the sciences. In-depth investigation of forensic specimens involves more than simple chemical analysis. A serologist also needs to be comfortable with such things as critical thinking skills and mathematics as it relates to statistics. Knowledge of chemistry is a base skill, but additional experience in biology, toxicology, or even criminal justice may enhance the marketability of a serologist.

Serologists specialize in the analysis of blood and bodily fluids.
Serologists specialize in the analysis of blood and bodily fluids.

Not all scientific labs make use of their serologists in the same way. Some forensic labs may not even include a serologist on staff. For instance, blood and fluid analysis may be performed by a forensic biologist or biochemist. In smaller facilities with fewer employees, a serologist may be responsible for more than one function, such as forensic photography or toxicological analysis. Therefore, any job opportunity should be carefully researched to see if the job duties match an individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Many experts suggest that experience and expertise are the keys to a successful career. It is not unusual for an individual desiring to become a serologist to pursue a specialization. Within the realm of blood analysis, for example, it is possible to specialize in blood-spatter patterns or identifying toxins in the blood. There may be continuing education courses available at universities or through professional organizations. Due to the need for extensive hands-on training, this education is not normally available as an online option.

Another way of obtaining experience is to work in an internship program. Crime labs and medical examiners' offices may have internships available. Colleges and universities may also work with private labs or research facilities to offer students field experience.

Many lab analysis functions depend upon the use of high-tech equipment. The knowledge and ability to work comfortably and efficiently with this equipment typically is an important skill for someone who wants to become a serologist. A thorough knowledge of current industry software and instrumentation can be a key to marketability in the field.

As the use of forensic evidence in criminal cases increases, so, too, does the need for experts in the field. Ultimately, a master’s degree or further certification may be helpful in advancing to a higher salary or position. A PhD typically is required to teach serology or to be involved in independent research.

Entry-level serologists require a bachelor's degree in chemistry.
Entry-level serologists require a bachelor's degree in chemistry.

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