Forensic scientists specialize in using chemicals and laboratory equipment to analyze physical crime scene evidence in order to help law enforcement officers investigate crimes.
Forensic scientists are typically responsible for collecting all physical evidence, taking photographs of crime scene, making sketches, keeping detailed written notes on observations, catalog evidence for transfer to their laboratory, conducting scientific analyses to classify evidence, exploring potential links between suspects and a crime, and reconstructing crime scenes.
How much does a forensic scientist make? According to records from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 12,440 forensic scientists employed in the U.S. The mean annual forensic scientist salary is $55,730, which is equivalent to a mean hourly wage of $26.79.
The lowest ten percent of forensic scientists earn an average of $32,200 per year or less, while the highest ten percent of forensic scientists bring home $85,210 or more each year. Forensic scientists employed by psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals earn significantly less than average at $41,200, but those that work for the federal government make the highest wages at $94,800 annually. The top-paying states for the field are the District of Columbia and California, where forensic scientists earn $73,010 and $72,000 respectively.
The vast majority of forensic scientists, nearly 90 percent, are employed by the state and local governments to work in law enforcement departments, crime laboratories, morgues, and medical examiner or coroner offices. Others may find employment at private medical diagnostic laboratories, psychiatric or substance abuse hospitals, and federal government agencies. Although some employed in laboratories work a standard 40-hour week, forensic scientists that travel to different crime scenes must work staggered day, evening, and night shifts to collect evidence promptly.
Employment for forensic scientists is expected to grow about as fast as the national average for all other professions at a rate of 19 percent, which will create 2,400 new jobs before 2020. As technology continues to advance and forensic evidence becomes more crucial to jurors in a court of law, there will be an boost in demand for forensic scientists. Since there will still be stiff competition for job openings due to an increased interest in forensic science spurred by its portrayal on television, forensic scientists with significant experience and a bachelor’s degree in a related field can expect the most promising prospects.