Also referred to as crime scene investigators, forensic scientists are concerned with collecting and analyzing physical material evidence for use in courts of law to support the prosecution or defense of suspects in criminal investigations.
Unlike popular belief as a result of increased interest in television crime dramas, forensic scientists fulfill a highly scientific role that involves conducting meticulous analysis and writing long detailed reports.
Daily Duties for Forensic Scientists:
- Assessing crime scenes initially to determine how evidence should be safely collected
- Gathering physical evidence, such as fingerprints, bodily fluids, and weapons
- Taking photographs or making sketches of a crime scene
- Recording observations, including the location and positioning of the crime scene
- Cataloging and preserving evidence for transfer to the laboratory
- Performing physical, biological, and chemical analysis on evidence
- Investigating possible links between suspects and criminal acts using scientific findings
- Reconstructing crime scenes to uncover hidden clues
- Consulting with experts in related fields for a more comprehensive analysis
Forensic Scientist Job Description
What do forensic scientists do? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 90 percent of forensic scientists are employed by local, state, and federal governments to work in police departments, crime laboratories, morgues, or medical examiner offices. While a considerable amount of their time is spent within a laboratory, most forensic scientists need to travel to crime scenes all around their jurisdictions and work outside collecting evidence in all types of weather.
Forensic scientists who work as technicians in laboratories usually work a standard full-time workweek, but many other crime scene investigators are required to work staggered day, evening, or night shifts with frequent overtime hours.
Since crime happens around the clock, forensic scientists need to be on call to work immediately on new cases. During their work, it is common for forensic scientists to work on teams with law enforcement officers, forensic computer examiners, toxicologists, odontologists, and other forensic specialists.
Skills Needed to Be a Forensic Scientist
For entry into the profession, it is required that forensic scientists have at least a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology, criminology, or another forensic science with on-the-job training. Due to their daily duties, it is essential that forensic scientists have strong communication skills for explaining evidence in court and critical thinking skills for matching physical evidence to suspects. Since forensic scientists spend considerable time witnessing the results of violent crimes, it is also important that they have emotional stability and composure to maintain professionalism.