Criminal Justice Articles

Where do Forensic Scientists work?

Forensic science is a branch of science dealing with forensics. It is especially related to the law and legal system, which explains why most forensic scientists work in these areas. There's a general misconception that the scientists just work inside the lab, but they actually often work in other areas. Even those that work in the laboratory work in different areas, as there are different areas or expertise in forensic science.

There are many forensic scientists that work outside the laboratory as members of law enforcement or crime scene investigation teams. Their training allows them to identify specifics in the scene that other investigators might miss. They can also perform tests in the field that other untrained investigators can't do. Those working in the field usually make significantly less than those working in the lab.

Forensic scientists often work in a laboratory, but they typically have a specialty, or area of expertise. There are those that work with ballistics, and those that work on DNA or trace evidence. These scientists usually have an advanced degree such as a doctorate, with intense training in their area of expertise. When the situation arises, they work in other areas, but they mainly stick with their area.

These individuals also work as consultants who provide expert testimony. They're called into the courtroom to testify on different ideas. They're also called in to refute the testimony of other expert witnesses. A consultant might come in when another witness claims that a person died at a specific time. They do research and go on the stand with their evidence to prove that the person died at a different time.

Forensic scientists also work in colleges and universities as professors. The job of these workers is to train the future generation of forensic scientists. Many work in the field or the lab for several years before working as teachers. There are some who start teaching as soon as they finish their doctorate, without ever working in the field.

There are some also working for FEMA as disaster relief specialists. Disasters happen around the world, from hurricanes in the United States to tsunamis in the South Pacific. The specialists help identify troubled areas and find solutions. They're also called in to help when there's a large death toll, because they can find the cause of death quickly and identify those who didn't die of natural causes.

Different law enforcement agencies also utilize forensic scientists. These individuals work in law enforcement areas such as the sheriff's department, the district attorney's office, and for the medical examiner. There are even those working as medical examiners because they are trained in both forensics and medicine. The Drug Enforcement Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also use forensic scientists. In addition, they work for the post office, Fish and Wildlife, and the CIA. They're often used in situations where the cases are quite big and involve multiple jurisdictions. For example, they handle those dealing or trading in illegal merchandise such as ivory or Nazi memorabilia.

Schools Offering Forensic Science Courses: