forensic science jobs

Updated: Aug, 2021

Did you know that one of the fastest-growing career opportunities in the world is in Forensic science?

Our technology is ever-changing, and with those changes comes advancements in the way we collect and process evidence, conduct investigations, and care for human beings.

Over the years forensic science has become popular on television being featured on shows like Bones, Criminal Minds, and Forensic Files.

People have begun to pursue careers in the field of forensic science, as this field has become widely known in popular culture. Many different jobs involve forensic science, let’s take a look at some of the jobs in this field and educational requirements for these jobs.

What is the Definition of Forensics?

The word “forensics” comes from the Latin wordforensis”, which means to have a public debate or discussion.

Forensic science isn’t just one particular type a science but may involve many various branches of science like biology, chemistry, and physics. The focus of different kinds of forensic science jobs is recognize, identify, and evaluate physical or observational evidence in their specialty.

Forensic work is very important in today’s court system, and its results help to ensure that people in the United States are being treated fairly by our legal system.

Forensic Science helps to prove whether a crime has been committed, or any connections a person may have to evidence of a crime. It is very important that forensic scientist performs the techniques correctly using the methods approved by other scientists in the field.

Let’s look at some of the types of forensic science jobs available.

#1. Forensic Psychology Jobs

In order to be a forensic psychologist a person normally needs a PhD. in Psychology. Forensic Psychology is a research degree, and many psychologists have specialized in forensic or criminal justice. These psychologists provide clinical, threat assessment , patient interviews and cognitive assessment of people that are involved in the criminal justice system. (Source)

These assessments are not only important to the judicial system but are also a valuable way that our community (business, schools, etc.) are kept safe from violent reoffenders.

A forensic psychologist also help victims and patients in many ways, like they evaluate people for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), they may be involved with child custody issues and evaluations. They also can give counseling to victims, and provide reports on competency in civil, family, and criminal legal cases.

Often forensic psychologists are asked only one question, “Was there patient able to understand what they were doing was wrong at the time of the incident?”  

Then they must report back through to the court or through clinical reporting their evaluation of their patient and whether or not they knew what they were doing was wrong during the alleged incident.

The average salary for a forensic psychologist is $63,000, rising to upwards of $103, 000.

Find out more about forensic psychology jobs.

#2. Forensic Anthropology Jobs

When human remains are found it is the job of the forensic anthropologists to gather the evidence and then interpret the evidence to determine the person’s cause of death.

There are many different types of equipment they use like dental records, X-rays, DNA and MRI.

They also directly examine all direct evidence relating to the deceased person.

Sometimes forensic anthropologist recovers the bodies from the location in which they were discovered. Anthropologists also can consult on legal cases because their job takes on many different responsibilities. Their job description will vary by locations and the needs of the forensic team they are being hired into.

Employment in this field earns an average of about $53,000 per year, although this can vary greatly.

Learn more about forensic anthropology.

#3. Forensic Nursing Jobs

Forensic nurses have a unique job that combines some duties from law enforcement with patient care. Their job is to evaluate victims and make sure any physical evidence has been correctly collected, all while treating patients for their injuries. These nurses also will interview victims and look at any visual evidence to help decide if there may be domestic abuse of the victim. This includes both elder and child abuse.

Forensic nurses have to follow very specific guidelines to make sure the evidence collected from a victim remains admissible in court. Sometimes the forensic nurse is asked to testify in court during a hearing about documentation of a patient for their file or how they collected evidence.

There are several types of specialties in forensic nursing including psychiatric, medical and legal consulting, and fatality investigation.

The average salary for a forensic nurse is about $39 per hour, with the top 10% of nurses earning close to $150,000 annually.

Interested? Learn more about the day to day world of a forensic nurse.

#4. Forensic Linguistics Jobs

A forensic linguist applies their knowledge of language to present laws. They are used in many different judicial procedures including, criminal cases, investigations, civil cases, and suits. Forensic linguists may be called to help in cases where there are language barriers.

A forensic linguist understands the complicated language of written law, how our court system operates, and how to provide evidence that is acceptable in the court of law.

Forensic linguists can recognize patterns in questions and answers. They use their knowledge of language to create more effective interview questions. They help legal teams evaluate responses to interview questions to determine if the answers are accurate.

This is very useful when communicating across language barriers, translators and interpreters using more effective questioning techniques make interviews and proceedings much easier and accurate for all parties involved.

The average salary for forensic linguistics is just over $60,000 per year, and can reach $100,000.

Learn more about forensic linguistics.

#5. Forensic Odontology Jobs

When there is a disaster, or a mass casualty situation Forensic dentists are the people who step in and positively identify the remains of people via dental records. There are data points forensic odontologists provide including any evidence or information determined for a dental exam. This data can accurately determine a child’s age, specifically, identify an individual, and is often reliable when other identification methods have failed. These identification methods can also include false teeth, partials, braces, etc.

Forensic dentists can also be useful in identifying cases of domestic and child abuse. Injuries the fade like bruises may impact the teeth and jaws in a more specific way.

Forensic odontologists must know the proper chain of command for handling, evaluating, and storing dental evidence. They may be asked to testify about the evidence to law enforcement or in court proceedings.

Most positions that involve forensic odontology are paid by the hour because it is a specialty service. Wages are typically between $250 to $800 per hour. If someone is working full-time in this position, then they could earn up to $185,000 per year.

#6. Forensic Analyst Jobs

In this job, you apply the scientific method and knowledge to analyze criminal evidence. An analyst will collect any physical evidence that is found at a crime scene. Then they will properly analyze and preserve this evidence for storage.

Evidence may include:

Plant and soil samples
Ballistics evidence (gunshot residue, bullet fragments, etc.)

The television show CSI depicts forensic analysts accurately when investigating a crime scene.

It is important for analysts to maintain the proper chain of custody; this makes the evidence analyzed allowed in court. A forensic analyst is not biased; they simply correctly gather and analyze evidence then present their findings to the court.

The average wage is between $55,000 – $84,000 per year.

#7. Forensic Biology Jobs

Forensic biologist inspects crime scenes to uncover potential evidence. They collect saliva, hair, blood and other bodily fluid samples. They then analyze these samples at their laboratory for DNA evidence. They then write their findings in technical lab reports that are applicable in our judicial system.

The forensic biologist also piece together how incidents may have occurred through studying how living system interact with the environment around them. Sometimes biologist will work on civil cases when DNA evidence is critical to the case or the outcome of the situation.

The average wage for forensic biologists is about $47,500 and can reach upwards of $94,000.

#8. Forensic Ballistics Jobs

A ballistics technician examines the firearms, ammunition, and gunpowder residue involved in an investigation. It’s their job to collect evidence, replicate situations, and look at the impact of bullet fragments, shell casings, clips, and anything else related to the firearms in the investigation. They also analyze weapons to see if they are the ones used at the crime scene.

They have a very detailed process to determine if the same gun fired more than one bullet. Technicians put results into national ballistic databases to help identify weapons in the US and all over the world.

The average wage is currently about $56,000 annually and can be upwards of $85,000.

#9. Forensic Medical Examiners and Pathologists

This is the person who examines the body of the deceased and determines the cause of death. Medical examiners investigate any death that may be considered not natural, and even deaths from natural causes if they impact the public interest.

Sometimes they also investigate the circumstances that also led to the death, if it is necessary. Sometimes forensic medical examiners serve their local area as a coroner, but actually, those are two completely separate roles.

Forensic Pathologist looks at disease along with examining organs, tissues, cells, and bodily fluid to determine what happened if a person dies suddenly, unexpectedly or violently.

The average salary for someone working in this forensic science career is $100,000 per year.

#10. Forensic Investigators

It’s the job of the forensic Investigator to gather physical evidence related to crimes. They then examine the evidence and work with local medical examiners to collect more data related to the crime.

Sometimes forensic investigators interview witnesses of the crime, family members and friends of the victim, and friends of the suspect in the crime. Their goal is to determine the victim’s cause of death, and if there were any crimes involved to present the evidence within our judicial system.

Most of these positions work in local law enforcement offices. The annual salary for this job is about $56,000 per year, with higher wages available in urban areas.

Are You Ready to Get to Work?

Are you interested in a career in the Forensic Science field? The first step is to locate and contact colleges, universities, or training centers that can help you prepare for your job. 

It may take some work, and it does require a time investment, but a career in forensic science is also highly rewarding. You may find that what it looks like on TV doesn’t always match what happens in real life, but that’s okay – your passion can lead you to an exciting career.

Next up … try your luck by playing some forensic science games.