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What is a Forensic Scientist?

By Britt Archer
Updated Jan 20, 2024
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Forensic scientists have been the focus of many popular television shows, driving more individuals to seek for themselves what one does on a regular basis. These scientists, sometimes also called forensic science technicians or crime laboratory analysts, use evidence in criminal and legal matters to determine the truthful facts of the issue at hand. The word “forensic” comes from a Latin word meaning “public” or “for the public.” This name is fitting, because in addition to analyzing the evidence, this person must often give testimony in court as to his or her findings.

In general, a forensic scientist has one area he or she specializes in, including, but not limited to, the fields of DNA analysis, firearms and toxicology. The field of wildlife forensics is considered to be of increasing importance as incidences of illegal poaching increase around the world. Similarly, forensic psychiatry is in increasing demand as the justice system seeks to understand why criminals commit their crimes. Others specialize in pathology, biology, handwriting and document analysis, or odontology, the study of teeth. Each specialization requires continual and additional education supplementary.

This type of work is almost always in demand, leading to an abundance of forensic science jobs available for those who wish to pursue them. The requirements to get this type of job vary by location, but most people in the field are required to have a bachelor's degree or higher. Public speaking skills, the ability to take notes and understand them, and being able to maintain a code of ethics are all integral qualities for a forensic scientist.

Someone in this field may work in a crime laboratory setting, in the field at crime scenes and archaeological digs, in the offices of lawyers or universities, in hospitals, or in a variety of other settings. Forensic science jobs are often full-time, with many opportunities for overtime. Some forensic professionals, particularly those working in the field or in hospital settings, may be on call and required to report to their workplace at any time. Forensic science is considered a field of growing interest.

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Discussion Comments

By MissMuffet — On May 04, 2011

@Valencia - My friend works in this field and much of the work is routine and slow paced. I don't know how many students taking a forensic scientist degree are expecting something different. You just have to hope that they have done some research before they signed up!

Considering the wide range of opportunities, such as fingerprint work or even forensic photography, there is something to suit all personality types.

By Valencia — On May 02, 2011

@angelBraids - I love those shows too, though I wouldn't want to actually work in the crime or detection field.

I wonder how many people opt for forensic scientist careers or degree programs based on the glamorous media image. I'm sure the reality is somewhat different!

By angelBraids — On Apr 30, 2011

I love all the TV shows and movies about crime detection. But real life people are just as interesting. Famous forensic scientists like Henry C. Lee do great work solving murder cases or investigating war crimes.

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