33 Unique Career Paths in Forensic Science

Although forensic scientists are known for the roles they play in the justice system, the studies within a forensic science degree might lead you to other careers where you can study and analyze data. You study biology, and you might study ballistics. You could study handwriting, fingerprinting, biochemistry or DNA analysis. You also might decide to take on some environmental or animal studies or go into nuclear medicine. Although some of the career paths listed below are aligned with forensic sciences, you might find some other ideas that could expand your horizons in this list of 33 career paths in forensic science.

Technical Careers

Forensics Scene

  1. Agricultural Technician: If you like working around animals or if you grew up on a farm, consider taking your forensic skills to the fields.
  2. Biological Technician: Set up, operate, and maintain laboratory instruments and equipment, monitor experiments, make observations, calculate and record results and possibly analyze organic substances such as blood, food, and drugs.
  3. Broadcast Technician: Use your technical skills to set up and maintain electrical equipment used in nearly all radio and television broadcasts, concerts, plays, sound recordings, and movies.
  4. Chemical Technician: Applied chemical professionals work in a variety of industries, ranging from industrial chemicals, paints, fuels, and metals to agricultural products, food processing, and pharmaceuticals.
  5. Conservation Technician [PDF]: Forest and conservation technicians compile data on the size, content, and condition of forest land. They also may gather basic information, such as data on populations of trees, disease and insect damage, tree seedling mortality, and conditions that may pose a fire hazard.
  6. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers: Sonographers operate special equipment, which collects reflected echoes and forms an image that may be videotaped, transmitted, or photographed for interpretation and diagnosis.
  7. Nuclear Medicine Technologists: Nuclear medicine technologists operate cameras that detect and map the radioactive drug in a patient’s body to create diagnostic images.
  8. Nuclear Technician: If you want to work with nuclear equipment, this job provides that opportunity. Operate equipment used for the release, control, and utilization of nuclear energy to assist scientists in laboratory and production activities.
  9. Protection Technician: Although this link leads to protection technicians for the environment, you also can become a protection tech for fire services, electronics, nuclear industry and more. You’ll perform lab and field tests to monitor the environment and to investigate sources of problems in all cases.
  10. Radiologic Technician: Radiologic technologists and technicians perform diagnostic imaging examinations like x rays, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and mammography.

Criminal Justice

Forensic Portrait

  1. Counterterrorism: Homeland Security, among other agencies, seek forensic experts for a number of jobs and activities. This organization’s work is to battle terrorism, including building information-sharing partnerships with state and local law enforcement that can enable law enforcement to mitigate threats.
  2. Crime Laboratory Analyst: Crime lab analysts work primarily in crime laboratories, analyzing evidence. They perform scientific examinations of blood, drugs, firearms, and toxicological samples. Crime lab analysts also assist in autopsies.
  3. Crime Scene Examiner: This position is responsible for complex crime scene investigations and testifies in court regarding the findings and processing methods used at the scene.
  4. Criminalist: The criminalist brings evidence back to the laboratory where examinations will be conducted. Often, criminalists may conduct tests to determine firearms and toolmarks, trace evidence, DNA and serology and drugs, alcohol and toxicology in powders, pills and liquids and body fluids.
  5. Digital & Multimedia Sciences: The forensic sciences utilize multitudes of instruments, chemical tests, measuring devices, and numerous specialty tools to assist in forensic examinations of digital and multimedia devices and output.
  6. Financial Forensics and Fraud Investigation: You can become in involved in fraud investigation at three different levels — financial, forensic accountant or consumer protection. A degree or experience in accounting is necessary for this job.
  7. Forensic Engineer: A direct line of work that emanates from forensic science is the study of materials, products, structures or components that fail or do not operate or function as intended, causing personal injury or damage to property.
  8. Forensic Odontologist: Evidence derived from teeth can help to identify a victim, or can also identify an assailant who uses biting as a weapon. Forensic dentistry or forensic odontology is the proper handling, examination and evaluation of dental evidence.
  9. Medical Examiner: Depending upon location, a medical examiner usually is a medically qualified government officer whose duty is to investigate deaths and injuries that occur under unusual or suspicious circumstances, to perform post-mortem examinations, and in some jurisdictions to initiate inquests.
  10. Pathology/Biology: Autopsies are where this action takes place, as pathologists study disease by gathering samples from autopsies and examine the tissues removed.
  11. Criminal Profiler: Work for agencies such as the FBI to help investigate and psychologically detail profiles for unknown criminal subjects or offenders for investigators.
  12. Suspension and Debarment Investigation: Investigate criminal behavior among government contractors and grantees at different levels.
  13. Toxicology: Toxicology is the study of symptoms, mechanisms, treatments and detection of poisoning, especially the poisoning of people.
  14. Wildlife Forensics: Wildlife forensics is a relatively new field of criminal investigation. Its goals are to use scientific procedures to examine, identify, and compare evidence from crime scenes, and to link this evidence with a suspect and a victim, which is specifically an animal.

Other Jobs

Pygmy Whale Necropsy

  1. Environmental Scientist: Use your detective skills to discover sources of pollution and other environmental problems and come up with solutions.
  2. Expert Witness: Become an authority in your field as a forensic scientist, and you may find work as an expert witness.
  3. Food Science: This field is concerned with all technical aspects of food, beginning with harvesting or slaughtering, and ending with its cooking and consumption. Investigation and analysis is required for food safety.
  4. Geoscientists and Hydrologists: Instead of studying and analyzing firearms and body fluids, forensic scientists can turn to the earth to study the composition, structure, and other physical aspects of earth, rock, and water.
  5. Handwriting Analysis: Use your forensic knowledge about handwriting to create a business based upon your analytical skills.
  6. Maritime Law Enforcement: If you’re fond of water and boats, you can become involved in Admiralty law, or maritime law.
  7. Physical Anthropology: This line of work draws upon human anthropometrics (body measurements), human genetics (molecular anthropology) and human osteology (the study of bones) and includes neuroanthropology, the study of human brain evolution, and of culture as neurological adaptation to environment.
  8. Psychiatry & Behavioral Science: Profiling is part of this job, but this is a broader title that also takes in everything from law enforcement operations to the mindset of gangs and other group dynamics.
  9. Radio Operators: Receive and transmit communications using radiotelephone equipment in accordance with government regulations. A degree in forensic sciences can help you advance quickly as you analyze data.
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