Forensic science careers cover a wide range of disciplines that requires the knowledge and ability to use scientific principles and procedures in legal investigations. The work can be separated into three units: medical, laboratory, and field. Specialists from each category are often involved in the analysis of a case based on the kind of evidence uncovered from a crime scene. One of the more well-known forensic science careers is that of medical examiner. Generally, a medical degree with a focus on forensic pathology is required to work in this role.
There are basically two classes of medical examiners: forensic pathologists and anatomical pathologists. Forensic pathology is an expert branch of pathology that focuses on determining the cause of death of the deceased. They also have the knowledge and training to estimate the time of death, the type of weapon used and determine the identity of the deceased. Often, forensic pathologists must discern the effects of trauma and any pre-existing conditions on victims and perpetrators. They must also differentiate between deaths resulting from homicide or suicide.
Anatomical pathology is the study of organs and tissues and how they can provide clues to the cause of death or disease. With the advanced technology available, a tissue specimen can be obtained from almost any part of the body by using a variety of biopsy techniques. The process and procedures utilized by forensic and anatomical pathologists take place within a legal framework.
Forensic science technicians must have the skills to conduct analysis in multiple areas of criminal investigation, including DNA, firearms, and blood tests. Also called crime laboratory analysts, they may also examine evidence associated with ballistics, fingerprints, and trace evidence. Their findings are usually reported to criminal investigators and other law enforcement personnel. Not only are their results used as evidence to connect suspects and victims, but analysts are sometimes required to provide expert testimony on their findings in a court of law.
At minimum, a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, or some other science-related field, such as chemistry, biology, or toxicology is needed. Some crime laboratories may require technicians to have master’s or doctorates degrees. In the United States, individuals interested in careers as forensic science technicians are usually required to complete a comprehensive training program in order to work in most crime labs.
One of the most popular positions in the category of forensic science careers is that of crime scene examiner, sometimes called the crime scene investigator. These individuals are basically responsible for analyzing and processing various crime settings, including homicides, burglaries, and sexual assaults. Crime scene investigators are well-trained in the use of an array of devices and equipment to develop, secure, and package tangible evidence for storage. Generally, this evidence must undergo technical and scientific assessments and comparisons. Besides compiling comprehensive reports documenting their procedures and observations of crime scenes, crime scene investigators may also be required to provide expert testimony in court.
Forensic nurses have the skills and knowledge to apply nursing science and health care principles to legal proceedings. They often act as consultants to nursing, health and law-related organizations. Many forensic nurses are actively involved in the evaluation and treatment of victims of abuse and violent crimes. Some work in clinical environments to assist law enforcement in taking perpetrators into custody and convicting them. Many forensic nurses also have the responsibility to help clients, who have experienced traumatic and debilitating events, to regain their physical and emotional vitality.
Another field that falls under the heading of forensic science careers is that of forensic engineering. This profession consist of the architects and engineers who provide forensic consulting expertise to attorneys and insurance companies regarding structures, materials or, products that fail or malfunction. Persons interested in becoming forensic engineers are generally required to haves degree in fields, such as electrical, civil, or mechanical engineering. Some forensic engineers also have formal training in materials and traffic engineering. Forensic engineers operate much like crime scene investigators, except they do not have to deal with corpses. Like other types of forensic science careers, they may also serve as expert witnesses in death and wrongful injury cases.