Forensic Scientist Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Forensic Scientist, or Forensic Science Technician, identifies, collects and examines physical evidence found at a crime scene. Their main duties include analyzing and interpreting blood spatter patterns, making observations of crimes based on autopsies and taking photographs and videos of victims and crime scenes.

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Forensic Scientist duties and responsibilities

Analyzing evidence is a big responsibility that involves lots of tasks. Testing evidence is only one part of the job—Forensic Scientists must also preserve evidence, ensure that materials are not contaminated, safely transport or send materials and perform quality control tasks to safeguard a lab’s integrity. Other Forensic Scientistduties and responsibilities include:

  • Providing expert testimony in court to explain laboratory findings
  • Maintaining and ordering new lab equipment
  • Interpreting test results
  • Publishing reports to explain forensic data
  • Maintaining files and recording lab findings
  • Performing quality checks on lab supplies, chemicals, etc.
  • Calibrating lab equipment
  • Cleaning lab supplies and equipment

What does a Forensic Scientist do?

Forensic Scientists collaborate with law enforcement to investigate certain crimes and analyze evidence to determine what happened at the crime scene. Many Forensic Scientists complete a majority of their tasks in a laboratory, collecting and studying evidence provided to them by Crime Scene Investigators. They analyze a wide variety of evidence pieces, like fingerprints, hair, bullets, blood and photographs to help law enforcement solve the crime. 

Forensic Scientists may also arrive on the scene to perform investigative tasks and take notes to help them make more accurate conclusions. They may also be responsible for putting together evidence reports and arriving at court to provide an expert testimony.

Forensic Scientist skills and qualifications

A successful Forensic Scientist candidate will have lots of technical prerequisites that demonstrate their capabilities. This is a technical field that requires an array of skills and qualifications. As you create your Forensic Scientist job posting, you may highlight skills such as:

  • Communication skills
  • Critical-thinking and analytical skills
  • Math and science skills
  • The ability to solve problems
  • Integrity and accountability
  • Time management skills
  • Organization skills
  • Technical writing skills

Forensic Scientist salary expectations

Forensic scientists are well paid. According to data collected from roughly 60 employees and Indeed users over the past three years, we’ve found that the average Forensic Scientist salary is about $65,000 per year. There’s a big swing between minimum and maximum salaries, though—forensic scientists can receive as little as $22,000 per year and as much as $131,000 annually. The salary offered depends on factors like years of experience, education level and the job’s location.

Forensic scientist education and training requirements

Forensic Scientists have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a field like natural science, biology or chemistry. More experience or senior-level technicians may have a master’s degree or even a PhD in one of these fields. It’s also common for Forensic Scientist to have additional training or certifications in these fields, or to come from a background in an area like pharmacy or toxicology.

Some Forensic Scientists will have a certification in forensic toxicology. This program requires a bachelor’s degree and at least three years of experience in the field.

Forensic Scientist experience requirements

Forensic Scientists can find entry-level work right out of college, especially if the candidate has experience in a lab. Most candidates will complete on-the-job training as they gain real-world experience working crime scenes and processing real evidence in labs. Some Forensic Scientists may have experience in a related field, like pharmaceuticals or crime scene investigation.

Job description samples for similar positions

Forensic Scientists work in a niche field that’s not like many others. This can make crafting a job description difficult. If you haven’t found what you’re looking for in this sample, check out some templates for similar roles:

Frequently asked questions about Forensic Scientists

 

What makes a good Forensic Scientist?

An effective Forensic Scientist must have a strong attention to detail to spot subtle differences and markings on certain evidence materials. They should also have impressive problem solving and critical thinking abilities to form logical conclusions of what happened at the crime scene based on the evidence provided to them. 

Since they regularly collaborate with other departments and law enforcement employees, they must have great communication skills to present their findings and conclusions in a convincing manner both to Criminal Investigators and to officials at court. 

 

What is the difference between a Forensic Scientist and a Criminal Investigator?

Though they both work together on different crime scenes, Forensic Scientists and Criminal Investigators both hold different job titles with responsibilities that are vital to solving important crimes. Criminal Investigators are usually the first to arrive at the scene of the crime and often call in a Forensic Scientist to help them piece together parts of a crime that they can’t figure out on their own. 

Criminal Investigators usually bag evidence, file paperwork and follow up on leads, while Forensic Scientists often take the evidence back to their lab and study the items more closely to help the Criminal Investigator better understand what took place at the crime scene. 

 

What are the different types of Forensic Scientists?

Some Forensic Scientists may perform more general tasks for different crime scenes, while others may choose to specialize in a certain forensic science field. Forensic Computer Examiners, also known as Digital Forensics Analysts, specialize in computer-based crimes, which involves collecting and analyzing data to help solve crimes related to computer scams, frauds and identity theft. Fingerprint Technicians work in crime labs studying fingerprints to determine who was at the scene when the crime occurred. 

 

Do Forensic Scientists have different responsibilities in different industries?

Most Forensic Scientists hold similar responsibilities of analyzing crime scene evidence to help Investigators make more accurate conclusions. Forensic Chemists or Forensic Biologists may work solely in a laboratory, specifically with chemicals and more complex scientific equipment to study DNA or other substances to make an informed conclusion based on their detailed observations. 

Some Forensic Scientists work solely in morgues and on autopsies as Autopsy Technicians to take postmortem pictures of bodies with clearly visible wounds. They must also perform procedures and organ examinations on the bodies for more accurate predictions and conclusions. Some Forensic Scientists work outside of the crime scene and act as Forensic Accountants, examining data to determine whether certain accounts of fraud had been committed.

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