Popular TV shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation have captured the public interest in the science of crime scene processing and analysis. Although the true role of forensic science professionals looks different from what is portrayed on TV, forensic investigations is definitely an exciting and dynamic field.
Here are a few career paths this degree could open up:
Forensic Science Technician
Many students pursue a forensic science degree with the goal of becoming a forensic science technician. It’s a robust field to enter considering that it’s expected to grow by 14 percent through 2028, which is much faster than the average rate of growth.1 In addition, you can pursue this career with just a bachelor’s degree. There are many different types of technicians, each with a different specialty. These include serology, DNA analysis, chemistry, trace analysis, firearms and toolmark, questioned documents and toxicology.
Forensic science technicians support criminal investigations by gathering and studying evidence. This field has become extremely specialized, with some technicians working in the field while others only work in the laboratory. At crime scenes, technicians take photographs, make sketches, record observations and collect evidence. Forensic scientists are also responsible for ensuring that evidence is preserved and the protocols for proper chain of custody are followed. However, only some technicians spend time at the crime scene itself. Other technicians work in the lab, where they perform biological, chemical and microscopic analyses on the evidence.
To be successful in forensic investigations, you will need a strong attention to detail. Even the most minute of details could prove instrumental in constructing a case against a perpetrator. It’s also helpful to have good interpersonal skills as a forensic scientist, as technicians frequently consult with other professionals to exchange information.
A forensic chemist is a specific type of forensic science technician. Forensic chemists specialize in the identification of unknown controlled substances. Their time is spent in a laboratory, where they run tests to identify unknown drugs found at crime scenes and collected off of persons.
Forensic chemists run a wide range of tests to identify substances, including tests involving gas chromatography, mass spectrometry and high-pressure liquid chromatography analyses. Just like other forensic science technicians, forensic chemists must not let the smallest of details escape their notice. They must carefully document their tests, findings and author written reports because they will be called upon to testify in criminal cases.
Forensic anthropologists specialize in the study of human remains. In order to enter this field, you will need to earn your master’s degree or doctoral degree. In addition to these academic qualifications, it’s necessary to have a strong stomach. Forensic anthropologists must examine and handle human remains. The goal is to determine how the individual died, such as whether it was a homicide or suicide, or whether the person died of natural or accidental causes.
The typical job tasks of forensic anthropologists include the following:
- Properly handling human remains
- Cleaning skeletal remains
- Evaluating the remains for indicators of trauma
- Running tests to compile biological information about the remains
In addition, forensic anthropologists are required to write scientific reports about their findings. They communicate with investigators and may be required to give testimony in criminal court cases.
These professionals spend most of their time working in a lab. Their primary function is to analyze evidence rather than collect it. However, they may be called out to the field in some cases. For example, if a decomposing body is found, a forensic anthropologist may need to conduct some analyses on scene before the remains can be transported to the lab.
Some people with a background in forensic science decide to take a different career path and go into writing. Scientific writing is a specialized type of journalism that involves researching, writing and editing news and feature articles pertaining to scientific fields. Some science writers work for technical trade publications, while others write for a mass audience of popular science enthusiasts. Many science writers publish books on the side while continuing to write for publications.
Scientific writing is a fascinating career choice for people with academic credentials in the field. However, in addition to understanding the subject material, it’s necessary to have strong writing skills. If you think you might like to pursue this career path, consider taking electives in language and communication while you work on your forensic science degree.
Grand Canyon University supports our students’ academic success and career aspirations by delivering rigorous, industry-aligned curriculum and extensive student support services. If you have a passion for criminal justice, you can apply for the Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science degree program. Offered by the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, this program is an intensive exploration of the scientific foundations of evidence analysis and crime scene processing. Click on Request Info to begin your journey at GCU.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.