Forensic Jobs: Top Careers in Forensic Science

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 15, 2022  •  8 min read  •  Science
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Forensic jobs are exciting and rather unique. If you want to go into a career in forensic science, you’re likely a curious person. These types of careers require close attention to detail, along with many other skills.

A job in forensic science will allow you to help analyze and find evidence. There are many different career opportunities. Forensic jobs make a great career path if you want to help solve crimes from a scientific perspective.

Careers in Forensics

Top Forensic Jobs to Consider

Forensic Pathologist

One of the highest-paying forensic jobs, as a forensic pathologist, you will be performing autopsies. This job requires you to figure out the cause of death. You may assist in several types of crimes, including murders.

If you want to become a forensic pathologist, you will need to complete a medical school program. Along with this educational training, you’ll need three to five years in a general pathology residency.

After the proper education, a forensic pathologist can earn an average salary of around $111K per year.

Forensic Accountant

Another interesting forensic job is a forensic accountant. In this career path, you will deal with financial crimes. Your job will likely include analyzing bank accounts and other financial records to uncover fraud. The records you find may be used as evidence.

This type of career will allow you to assist investigators in several types of fraud cases. You might also work to help protect the bank accounts of individuals and businesses.

The average salary for a forensic accountant is about $80K. You will need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance to qualify for this forensic job.

Bloodstain Pattern Analyst

If you’ve seen the popular TV show Dexter, you’re already familiar with this forensic job. A bloodstain pattern analyst will work directly at crime scenes. You will analyze patterns of the blood to help uncover specific clues about the crimes committed.

A bloodstain pattern analyst might also be called a bloodstain spatter expert. This is a position within the forensic science field. It’s a specialty in violent crime scenes.

If you decide to go into this field, you will determine the weapon used for the crime. You will also determine if a struggle occurred, the direction the victim and suspect traveled, and whether wounds were self-inflicted or not.

This forensic job pays an average salary of about $58K per year. You will need a bachelor’s degree in biology or chemistry. Some states also require certification, and on-the-job training is rather common.

Forensic DNA Analyst

A growing field in forensic science, a forensic DNA analyst, will look into the DNA evidence of a crime. They will work to compare samples taken from victims and suspects. With the right DNA evidence, a suspect may be cleared or found guilty in court.

As a DNA analyst, you will compare unknown samples to help identify suspects from a database.

This position pays an average yearly salary of about $64K. You will need a bachelor’s degree in biology, forensic studies, and criminalistics. It can also be helpful to get a degree in genetics or molecular biology. An advanced degree can also be beneficial.

Arson Investigator

If you want to investigate fires, this forensic job is a great option. Arson investigators will look at ash, residue, and other substances to determine what started a fire and the intent. It’s common for this type of position to be called to the scene while the fire is still in progress.

You will need similar education to become an arson investigator as a police officer. While you will likely not need a college degree, it can be helpful. A degree in chemistry or fire science is a good start.

As an arson investigator, you can earn an average annual salary of about $64K.

Forensic Ballistics Expert

Do you love guns? This might be the right forensic job for you. Detectives use forensic ballistics experts to trace the bullet back to the gun it came from. They can identify the type of gun used for a crime.

It’s a crucial skill needed for more complex crime scenes. As a forensic ballistics expert, you will help investigators figure out the fired rounds, the point of origin, and other important details.

You can help to identify the caliber, the type of bullet, where it was manufactured, whether the gun was recently fired, and whether the bullet came from a specific type of gun. You will need specialized training to become a forensic ballistics expert.

This type of forensic job will earn an average salary of around $56K per year. It’s also expected to grow by about 17% by 2026. You will likely need a bachelor’s degree or quite a bit of experience in the natural sciences. It’s also necessary to go through extensive training in ballistics.

Polygraph Examiner

A useful tool for solving crimes, a polygraph can help find deception with witnesses and suspects. As a polygraph examiner, you will be trained to administer the polygraph test. You will use a lie detector and provide an analysis of the test results.

Training is necessary to gain the proper skills. Often, polygraph examiners are used by law enforcement and internal investigations. It’s also possible to work as a private contractor. Some companies use polygraph examiners to screen candidates for very sensitive jobs.

This forensic job pays an average yearly salary of about $95K. An associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or criminology is a good start. However, you will need the right training to enter into this forensic job.

Fingerprint Analyst

If you want to analyze fingerprints for a criminal investigation, this is the forensic job for you. Fingerprint analysts will likely work in a lab but may also work at an active crime scene. You will preserve and process fingerprint samples.

You will sweep crime scenes for fingerprints, footprints, and even palm prints. After the sweep, you will likely use specific technology to examine and enhance the prints. Your job will also include trying to find matches for the prints.

A fingerprint analyst earns an average yearly salary of about $58K. This position will require a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, forensic science, criminal justice, or biology. Specific training in fingerprint identification and analysis will also be necessary.

Forensic Technician

As a forensic technician, you will collect evidence from crime scenes. You will work to examine the evidence in a crime lab. As you analyze your findings, you can help solve crimes.

You will likely end up specializing in one of three specific areas, including ballistics, handwriting, or fingerprinting. Forensic technicians will likely assist in the trial by testifying.

The average annual salary for a forensic technician is about $56K. It’s common to have a bachelor’s degree in science. Even with the right degree, you will need special training in forensics to enter this career.

Forensic Artist

A criminal investigation needs a forensic artist. This person will either sketch the face of a suspect or product drawings of closed courtroom proceedings. Sketches are often created based on eyewitness accounts. It’s also possible to create age progressions for missing individuals.

Forensic artists will likely work as police officers or have another job in law enforcement. Sketches are often just a portion of their forensic job. Some jobs are also available with federal agencies. As a full-time forensic artist, you can earn a salary between $30K and $50K per year. It’s a very competitive field, and many work as freelancers.

A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is helpful. However, you will also need artistic skills and training in forensic art.

Frequently Asked Questions About Forensic Jobs

What is forensic science?

The application of scientific processes and methods to help solve crimes is known as forensic science. It’s commonly used to help investigate crimes. Forensic science commonly focuses on physical evidence.

What type of duties will you likely handle in a forensic job?

When you work in one of the many forensic jobs, you will likely handle many different things. You might be in charge of collecting evidence, interpreting criminal data, assisting with court cases, and determining how the crime happened.

Do I need a degree for a forensic job?

Most forensic jobs will require a bachelor’s degree. Some will require a more advanced degree. Most of these positions are not entry-level and will require additional training.

After completing a degree, specific training for the forensic job of your choice will be necessary. You will likely need some on-the-job training, too.

Still Thinking of Starting a Career in Forensic Science?

Going into one of the many forensic jobs can put you at the forefront of solving crimes. If you have an analytical mind and want to help solve crimes, this is a great career path. There are many different job opportunities within the forensic science field.

You can choose the right career path, earn a nice salary, and help the community solve crimes. If you have thought about becoming a police officer but prefer to work behind the scenes, then a forensic job might be the perfect fit.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.