19 Forensic Careers To Consider (With Salary and Job Info)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 2 January 2023

Published 13 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Forensic science is the application of scientific methods and processes in various legal and criminal-related settings. Forensic science is most commonly used in criminal investigations and criminal convictions. Pursuing a career in forensic science may provide you with a range of opportunities. In this article, we list potential forensic careers to consider, provide salary and job duty information for each career and offer insight regarding pursuing a career in forensic science.

Related: 20 Careers in Health Science

19 types of forensic careers

Here are some examples of forensic careers you can pursue:

1. Biomedical scientist

National average salary: $59,571 per year

Primary duties: A biomedical scientist studies how the body works. They may conduct studies to learn more about the human body and how diseases affect it, and they may work with developing new diagnostic methods or treatment strategies. Biomedical scientists often perform a range of scientific and laboratory tests to diagnose diseases.

2. Private investigator

National average salary: $65,703 per year

Primary duties: A private investigator, or an inquiry agent or private detective, is a professional that others may hire to perform investigative services. They're civilian professionals, and they may assist other civilians or non-government organisations in investigating civil or criminal concerns. Private investigators may watch subjects, prepare documents, conduct interviews and perform research.

Related: What Does a Criminal Investigator Make? (With Duties)

3. Forensic engineer

National average salary: $68,784 per year

Primary duties: A forensic engineer investigates structures that failed or don't function properly. They commonly analyse structures that caused personal injury or property damage to determine the cause. Forensic engineers may use their findings in civil and criminal law cases to support the evidence presented.

4. Geneticist

National average salary: $71,216 per year

Primary duties: A geneticist, or a DNA profiler, studies biology with a focus on DNA, genes, heredity, genetic variation and mutation. They may identify and analyse DNA from tissue samples collected from crime scenes. Based on their findings, geneticists help determine whether a suspect is innocent or guilty.

5. Forensic psychologist

National average salary: $71,990 per year

Primary duties: A forensic psychologist performs a variety of duties within the legal system, and they often work for community health centres, correctional facilities, government agencies and psychiatric hospitals. They often act as an expert witness in court cases and perform psychological assessments of criminals, defendants and witnesses in legal proceedings. Forensic psychologists may also develop intervention methods and treatment plans for prison inmates or offer recommendations for an inmate's parole.

Read more: What Does a Forensic Psychologist Do? Definitions and FAQs

6. Analytical chemist

National average salary: $72,569 per year

Primary duties: An analytical chemist studies and tests the behaviours of substances and chemical compositions. They perform controlled experiments to determine the specific chemical components of substances, and they analyse samples to determine how the substance or components act under specific conditions. Analytical chemists may determine possible uses for chemicals based on their findings, and they typically prepare technical reports about their conclusions.

7. Forensic chemist

National average salary: $72,861 per year

Primary duties: A forensic chemist analyses non-biological trace evidence recovered from crime scenes to identify what unknown materials are and match them with known substances. Some forensic chemists may also evaluate controlled substances collected from scenes and materials. Forensic chemists conduct lab tests, document their findings, prepare reports to support criminal investigators and testify about their findings in court.

Read more: A Guide on How To Become a Chemist

8. Policy advisor

National average salary: $84,318 per year

Primary duties: A policy advisor, or a legislative advisor, researches and analyses policies related to a specific field. They review existing policies, perform relevant research, develop more effective strategies and propose these changes to the necessary parties. Policy advisors specialising in forensics may focus on identifying trends related to crime and determine solutions for addressing these concerns.

9. Forensic accountant

National average salary: $83,579 per year

Primary duties: A forensic accountant specialises in financial crime, works to identify fraud and protects bank accounts against fraudulent activity. They examine financial records and accounts that legal professionals may use as evidence. Forensic accountants may also assist courts in determining awards and damages for cases.

Related: What Does an Accountant Do? (And How To Become One)

10. Toxicologist

National average salary: $90,000 per year

Primary duties: A toxicologist is a scientist who understands multiple scientific disciplines, particularly biology and chemistry. They use their knowledge to conduct tests and determine whether chemicals and other substances may be toxic or harmful to humans. Forensic toxicologists specifically test tissue samples and bodily fluids collected from autopsies and crime scenes to identify drugs or other chemicals.

11. Research associate

National average salary: $92,322 per year

Primary duties: A research associate gathers important data for other decision-makers. They may design, plan, conduct and organise research regarding a variety of topics. Research associates often specialise in particular subject matters, but they may also provide their services with a broader focus.

12. Pathologist

National average salary: $93,369 per year

Primary duties: A pathologist is a scientist specialising in examining bodies and body tissues. They may perform tests on various specimens and conduct biopsies. Pathologists may also perform autopsies, but they primarily work in hospitals or similar settings where they analyse patients who died of natural causes, not criminal activity.

13. Forensic pathologist

National average salary: $93,830 per year

Primary duties: A forensic pathologist, or a medical examiner, conducts autopsies on bodies to determine the cause of death and the manner of death. They may also assist in determining who the victim is and the time of their death. Forensic pathologists typically assist with investigating crimes and may evaluate the findings of autopsies.

Related: How To Become a Forensic Pathologist (6 Step Guide)

14. Forensic science technician

National average salary: $94,369 per year

Primary duties: A forensic science technician works with crime scene investigations, and they often work for crime labs, medical examiner offices and police departments. They're responsible for gathering and analysing evidence. Forensic science technicians may also take photos and create written records of crime scene evidence.

15. Forensic investigator

National average salary: $102,906 per year

Primary duties: A forensic investigator is responsible for investigating the evidence found at a crime scene. They may capture photos of the crime scene, collect samples and examine evidence in a lab. Forensic investigators use the evidence they collected to make assumptions about the details of the crime.

Related: How To Become a Criminal Profiler

16. Evidence technician

National average salary: $110,199 per year

Primary duties: An evidence technician collects evidence at crime scenes. They may also assist with processing the evidence and transporting it to the appropriate storage locations. Evidence technicians are responsible for preparing reports of their findings and, when necessary, testifying in court to present them.

17. Forensics manager

National average salary: $131,130 per year

Primary duties: A forensics manager oversees the activities that support criminal investigations. They may plan, direct, coordinate and implement various activities related to forensic science within a crime lab or another type of forensics organisation. Forensics managers may oversee the laboratories, manage personnel and establish goals and strategic plans for their organisation.

18. Expert witness

National average salary: $141,040 per year

Primary duties: An expert witness, or a subject matter expert, provides their independent expert opinion on something based on the facts presented to them. They often appear in court to provide those involved in the case with an impartial opinion on the results of a test or experiment. Expert witnesses, or forensic experts, may also conduct tests themselves following standard lab procedures and protocols.

19. Forensic specialist

National average salary: $142,627 per year

Primary duties: A forensic specialist assesses physical evidence from a crime scene using various methods of analysis, including chemical, instrumental and microscopic methods. They may work with biological fluids, blood, drugs, gunshot residue and other materials collected from a crime scene. Forensic specialists may also serve as expert witnesses in court cases, and they may conduct additional research related to new forensic equipment and technology.

Requirements for starting a career in forensics

Requirements for each of these careers in forensics may vary. Most of them require completing some type of formal training, and many require university and postgraduate qualifications such as a bachelor's degree. Forensic professionals typically have a good understanding of biology, chemistry, English, mathematics and physics. Some popular areas of study related to forensic science and associated careers include biology, botany, chemistry, dentistry, medicine and physics.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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