National Avg. Salary$60,090 More Salary Data →
Job Growth Rate26.4% More Growth Data →
Recommended DegreeMaster's Programs & Degrees →
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Forensic scientists analyze evidence collected as part of crime investigations. Some examples of the types of analysis forensic scientists use are DNA testing on blood and fluid samples, bullet and casing analysis to identify weapons used in crimes, and handwriting analysis to identify forged signatures.
The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in forensic scientist roles:
- Collect evidence at crime scenes or review evidence collected by detectives and police officers
- Determine ways to analyze crime evidence to elicit identifying information
- Develop new techniques and technologies for evidence analysis
- Analyze biological samples, documents, chemicals, weapons, and fingerprints
- Testify in court proceedings about findings and methods
A Day in the Life
Between the collection of evidence during police investigations and presentation of evidence as facts in court proceedings are forensic scientists who help transition findings into proof. Forensic scientists work on a variety of crimes, helping to identify perpetrators and prove guilt through the scientific analysis of evidence. Forensic scientists usually specialize in a specific area of analysis and work to elicit factual, provable information from otherwise random pieces of evidence using scientific approaches.
Forensic scientists may work in a number of specialties. Some focus on biological analysis and work to identify the DNA of blood and other bodily fluids discovered at crime scenes. Others identify fingerprints, analyze bullets or casings found at crime scenes to attribute those back to specific weapons, or analyze blood splatter to create a scientifically sound story of the events leading up to an assault or murder. Often, forensic scientists testify in court about their methods and findings.
Other forensic scientists specialize in handwriting analysis, computer technology, weather patterns—just about any area where information can be gleaned to help solve crimes. Handwriting analysts can determine whether or not documents have been forged, computer analysts can identify signatures of hackers, and weather pattern analysts can determine if fog is naturally occurring or the result of a chemical plant’s production methods. Forensic scientists use their knowledge in all of these roles to help solve crimes and invent new means of scientific analysis in their fields.
Typical Work Schedule
For the most part, forensic scientists work full-time schedules during normal business hours. However, they may need to be available outside of normal business hours on occasion to analyze time-sensitive evidence or complete urgent tasks.
Projected Job Growth
Demand for forensic scientists is expected to grow significantly in the coming decade as a result of scientific advances that enable more efficient and effective crime solving.
Many forensic scientists work for local or state police departments, crime laboratories, and medical examiners’ or coroners’ offices. Others work for federal agencies like the FBI, CIA, DEA, or ATF. Some may work in research and development and focus their careers on developing more accurate, effective, or efficient ways of conducting scientific forensic analysis.
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Forensic Scientist Salary Data
We've provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.
National Annual Salary
National Hourly Wage
How do Forensic Scientist salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Forensic Scientist's can make an average annual salary of $60,090, or $29 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $42,320 or $20 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.
Salary Rankings And Facts
#269 Nationally for All Careers
Above Average Salary Nationally
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How To Become
The starting point for a career as a forensic scientist is a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or a related field, such as chemistry, biology, physics, psychology, or anthropology. Regardless of major, students should make sure to take classes that require laboratory testing, mathematical analysis, scientific experimentation, and written and verbal communication refinement. These are all important components for success as a forensic scientist, a field which requires both accurate scientific analysis and effective communication.
For aspiring forensic scientists who aspire to become crime scene investigators or work for police departments, entering and completing police academy training may also be required. After earning a bachelor’s degree, you need to enroll in a training academy with a local police department. After completion of police academy training and passing required written and psychological tests, you’ll be a qualified police officer with the education required to work as a crime scene investigator.
For individuals who want to work in independent research or for federal agencies, a master’s degree is usually required, and a Ph.D. is required in some cases. In graduate degree programs, students choose a specialty that becomes the focus of their careers. They study the basics of that discipline and how the best practices of forensics in that field can be applied to analyze evidence and establish proof in different types of criminal investigations and trials.
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A bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for working as a forensic scientist for a state/local police department, but a master’s degree or Ph.D. may be required to conduct independent research or work for federal agencies.
Recommended Min. Degree
Highest Education Among Forensic Scientist
- 5.5% Doctorate
- 10% Masters
- 32.5% Bachelors
- 11.1% Associates
- 22.8% College
- 16.2% High School
- 2.1% Less than High School
Job Growth Projections and Forecast
2014 Total Jobs14,400
2024 Est. Jobs18,200
Job Growth Rate26.4%
Est. New Jobs3,800
How does Forensic Scientist job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 3,800 jobs for a total of 18,200 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 26.4% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.
Growth Rankings And Facts
#23 Nationally for All Careers
Above Avg. Growth Nationally
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