Are you a fan of the popular crime & detective series like CSI, Bones, Sherlock Homes or our Desi CID series? Are you feeling fascinated to become the next Dr. Salunkhe – a forensic scientist? Well, a forensic scientist is not a single job title. In this post, we will look into the various job roles and top 13 career paths in forensic science.
Careers in Forensic Science
What is Forensic Science?
Before proceeding with various job roles and career paths in forensic science, let’s understand what forensic science is. Forensic science is basically the use of the scientific methods and processes in crime solving. Alternatively, forensic science can be defined as the application of scientific knowledge and methodology to criminal investigations and legal problems. Forensic science allows objective evidence in the criminal investigations.
Forensic science is an interdisciplinary field that involves Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Mathematics. The primary objective of forensic science is the recognition, identification, and evaluation of physical evidence(s). Forensic science leverages a broad spectrum of sciences to obtain and validate information relevant to criminal and legal evidence(s). Therefore, the field of forensic science is an essential component of the modern judicial system and convictions.
Forensic Science Careers in India
Forensic science is still a much-unexplored career path in India unlike other fields of science. Forensic study and the practice is still a room to explore and it is quite interesting to pick up a career in forensic science.
Crimes do happen in India like other countries. But, the conviction rate in India is low due to various factors including lack of conclusive evidence. Murder, kidnapping, abduction, crimes against women, economic offenses, banking frauds, offenses against property are very prevalent in India. The recent bank fraud case of Nirav Modi is a shocking one. Likewise, the untimely & unfortunate death of actress Sridevi raised many speculations and conspiracy theories (little bit fuelled by our Media). Cybercrimes are also on the rise in India and other parts of the world. Forensic science does hold solutions to solving these cases and bring out the truth in front of the judicial system and public.
Forensic science is a crucial element for the modern-day judicial system. A forensic scientist coordinates with other law enforcing authorities to find out evidence and show the same to courts and helps in solving the case with legally acceptable evidence. In order to reach on to a firm conclusion, forensic science applies various scientific methods and principles in the investigation of criminal cases. Forensic science is used every around the world to protect public health, to enforce criminal laws and regulations and to resolve civil disputes.
Forensic science is a fast-paced and dynamic field that combines crime fighting with laboratory work. There are many career profiles within the broad and multidisciplinary field of forensic science. Now, we will look at the top career paths in forensic science.
Top 13 Career Paths in Forensic Science
Crime Scene Investigator / Forensic Science Technician
Crime scene investigators, also known as Forensic science technicians, assist in the collection of evidence, conduct analysis and help investigate crime scenes. More often than not, as a forensic science technician, you will be assisting a forensic scientist (senior pro). You will be solely responsible for evidence collection – biological samples (e.g. blood, hair), fingerprints/shoeprints. Additionally, you will also be involved in the maintenance of laboratory instruments/reagents, preparing reports, and assisting your senior colleague(s). Learn about being forensic science technician.
Forensic Ballistics Expert
The forensic ballistics experts are the experts in everything related to firearms (guns, pistols, bullets etc.). They help the crime investigators (police or detective) in identifying the trajectory of fired rounds to find a point of origin. Forensic ballistics experts identify the type of bullet was used, its caliber and even where it was manufactured. They also analyze if a gun was fired recently and whether or not a particular bullet was fired by a specific gun.
Additionally, forensic ballistics experts may be involved in crime scene mapping. With special software programs, photogrammetry and laser measuring tools, ballistics experts can determine the location from which a round was fired or the direction traveled, making the search for physical evidence easier. These crime scene maps can be used to create diagrams for police reports or courtroom presentations. Learn more about forensic ballistics experts.
Bloodstain Pattern Analyst
Bloodstain pattern analysts analyze patterns in blood to help glean important clues about various crimes. They conduct the examination of drips, spills, spatters and stains. Subsequently, they can also determine the type of weapon used, whether or not a struggle occurred, the direction of travel of a victim or suspect, who was the primary aggressor and whether or not wounds were self-inflicted. Know more about being a bloodstain pattern analyst.
Forensic DNA Analyst
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) contains the genetic coding that makes all humans (in fact, all living organisms). DNA analysis is a crucial part of the criminology and forensic science. DNA analysis can provide insights as-close-to-perfect identification as possible. Sometimes, DNA analysis is far more accurate even than fingerprint evidence. DNA analysts compare DNA samples taken from suspects, victims, crime scenes, and other objects to determine if someone was present at a crime scene. DNA analysts can also compare unknown samples to databases to identify potential suspects. DNA analysts work primarily in a laboratory setting, examining evidence gathered by police officers and crime scene investigators. Know more about DNA analysts.
Toxicologists study the presence and effects of toxins on living creatures, in particular, humans. Forensic toxicologists help investigators identify causes of death to include poisons, chemicals, and intoxicating substances. They typically work on either post-mortem, human performance, or drug testing (drug testing for sports, probation, etc.) cases. Forensic toxicologists screen bodily fluids, hair, and nails for any substances that may be present in either the victim or the suspect. They use microanalysis and their knowledge of biology and chemistry to quantify these substances. Read more about forensic toxicologists.
Forensic Documents Examiner
Forensic documents examiners compare handwriting samples; determine the origin of documents and detect fraud. They hold key importance in solving “white collar” crimes like scams and monetary frauds. Forensic documents examiners use their expertise to identify forgeries of contracts, checks, bank statements and other documents and electronic records. They also determine the validity of a signature through handwriting analysis and even find out the relative age of a document. Quite often a forensic documents examiner work in liaison with digital forensic experts and forensic accountants. Read more about forensic documents exam career.
Digital Forensic Expert / Forensic Computer Investigator
With increasing digitalization, use of computers and cybercrimes, digital forensic experts and forensic computer investigators are gaining more importance in today’s world of forensic science, criminal cases and criminology.
These experts reconstruct and analyze digital information to aid in investigations and solve computer-related crimes. They look into incidents of hacking, trace sources of computer attacks, and recover lost or stolen data.
Digital forensic experts and forensic computer investigators collect data from all sorts of places, including damaged and wiped hard drives, cell phones, tablets and other computing devices. The digital evidence they uncover can be essential for a successful prosecution of electronic crimes. Forensic computer investigators may work for law enforcement agencies or on a contractual basis, and their earning potential is quite large due to the increasing demand.
With the increase of white collar crimes (bank fraud, money laundering, wire fraud, public corruption, kickback schemes, tax frauds, cyber-terrorism etc.), forensic accountants have become very important. Forensic accountants provide investigative services to both public and private employers. They scour documents, electronic records, mail trails, and financial records to locate evidence of fraud and other financial crimes. Know more about forensic accounting career, educational qualifications, and jobs.
You would be amazed at what you can glean from a body or skeletal remains. Age, weight, sex, height and even diet: all of this and more can be determined from skeletal remains.
Anthropology is the combined study of all aspects of humanity – culture, societies, psychology, and biology. Forensic anthropology is an indispensable discipline in identifying not only victims of crime but in determining whether they are victims to begin with.
Forensic anthropologists specialize in identifying human remains, and study decomposed physical remains and skeletal systems. The forensic anthropologists can determine the age, sex and weight of a victim, as well as the types of injuries he or she received and the potential cause of death. Read more about career in forensic anthropology.
Forensic psychologists provide psychological services and analysis. Forensic psychologists usually work with jails, prisons, forensic labs, rehabilitation centers, police departments, law firms, schools, and government agencies. Forensic psychologists work in both criminal and civil cases. Forensic psychologists play a vital role in understanding the psyche of the criminal, motive of crime and also sometimes in the nature of sentencing.
They investigate allegations of child abuse or rapes, evaluate victims, witnesses and suspects for veracity and competency, and help judges determine whether a suspect can stand trial. Additionally, the forensic psychologists also perform the important work of evaluating law enforcement candidates during the hiring process. Know more about careers and jobs in forensic psychology.
Forensic pathologists are also known as medical examiners. The field of forensic pathology focuses on determining the cause of death by examining a corpse. A post mortem is performed by a medical examiner, usually during the investigation of criminal law cases and civil law cases in some jurisdictions.
They can also help investigators learn the type of weapon used and an approximate time that the victim died. By determining the cause of death, pathologists play a crucial role in learning whether or not a crime even occurred, to begin with. Read more about careers and jobs in forensic pathology.
Odontology is the science of teeth. Odontologists study the teeth, how they are structured and develop, and the various diseases that affect them. Forensic odontology is the application of odontology in criminal cases.
At times DNA analysis and/or fingerprint analysis could be impossible (due to clean crimes, mass casualty or sample contamination). In those cases, forensic odontologists use the unique dental features we all have to identify human remains. With their extensive knowledge of the makeup of the human mouth, odontologists are able to collect dental evidence from a variety of sources and use it to identify both victims and suspects. Know more about forensic odontologist career.
Polygraph examination is a useful tool in solving crimes and detecting deception from suspects and witnesses. Polygraph examiners are specially trained to conduct examinations using the “lie detector” and provide analysis of the results. Though polygraph reports are not always admissible in the court as solid evidence, they can throw light (clues) in complex crime situations. Know more about polygraph examiner careers, education and jobs.
In the next part of the Forensic Science Careers series, we will look into the required education, top colleges & courses, and required skills to become a forensic scientist. Additionally, we will also discuss the job prospects, top recruiters, and salaries in the forensic science field in India.
Author: Tanmoy Ray
I am a Career Adviser & Admission Counselor at Stoodnt. I did my Masters from the UK (Aston University) and have worked at the University of Oxford (UK), Utrecht University (Netherlands), University of New South Wales (Australia) and MeetUniversity (India).