When buildings collapse, auto accidents occur or a major electrical mishap takes place, it is the job of forensic engineers to research the causes and damages. In order to become a forensic engineer you must have sharp critical thinking skills, understand a specific engineering field and have excellent communication skills. Also, a keen understanding of construction law and insurance in your area is helpful.
No matter what particular field you focus your skills on, an education is the first step if you want to become a forensic engineer. Depending on the job, you will need a specialized engineering education, usually a civil engineering or electrical engineering degree. Most employers do not demand anything beyond a bachelor's degree, but the added focus and education of a master's or doctorate can be helpful. Depending on the level of specialty, you might also need several years of forensic and engineering field experience, typically three to seven years' worth.
There are a number of skills necessary to become a forensic engineer, chiefly an eye for detail and critical thinking. You might be asked to visit a collapsed building and determine why it fell, inspect a bridge after an earthquake to determine its safety or trace the source of an electrical fire. You and your team must sort through the wreckage and understand the causes and damage to a variety of structures. Pairing an understanding of engineering with attention to detail is crucial to making the proper judgment.
Communication skills also are essential if you want to become a forensic engineer. Many times you will be called in as an expert witness in a court case or need to talk about a case with an insurance company, so public speaking skills are needed. You will have to write detailed reports that express your findings, so a strong ability to write is a must. You also need to vocalize yourself if you are in charge of engineers and need to give instructions.
Be prepared for a diverse selection of jobs when you choose to become a forensic engineer. There are many fields you can pursue, depending on your interests and backgrounds. The most common engineer deals with buildings, determining structural failure and design failure. The job of electrical forensic engineer is a path that focuses less on the construction of buildings and more on the wiring within the building. There also is a budding field known as computer forensic engineering that deals with computer problems and determining the cause by sorting through digital code.