Should you consider being a Forensic Scientist?

Students who are thinking of being a forensic scientist often have questions about what it would be like. Some of these questions include: Would I work in a laboratory? Is it difficult? Would I work with dead people? Would I have to continually go to school? Would I enjoy being a forensic scientist?

Being a forensic scientist is an interesting and exciting career; however it is not one that people really tend to know a lot about. Popular TV shows like CSI and Dexter have created a lot of interest in the forensic field, but they don’t always paint a realistic view of life in the crime lab.

In order to figure out what it’s like being a forensic scientist, a few common questions should be answered.

Do forensic scientists work with cadavers? With the exception forensic pathologist and crime scene technician, generally the answer to this question is no. Most scientists work with small pieces of evidence in a laboratory. Aside from testifying in court, the scientist rarely comes into direct contact with either the victim or suspect.

Do forensic scientists stay in the lab or do they go to the scene of the crime? Some forensic laboratory systems expect their scientists to work a case from “cradle to grave”; meaning to collect the evidence at the scene and then perform any needed analysis at the laboratory. A far more common scenario, however, is for a Crime Scene Technician to handle evidence collection at the crime scene and later transport the evidence to the laboratory. The scientist then takes custody of the evidence and performs all of his or her work in the laboratory and never actually goes to the crime scene.

Does being a forensic scientist mean a life of continual education? It is import for forensic scientists to stay current in their field to maintain their status as experts. This requires the scientist to stay abreast of the latest technology and research. Therefore, it is important to read relevant journals and attend conferences to maintain on a regular basis.

Would it be dangerous? Most of the time, no, because the majority of your time will be spent in a secure laboratory. At time, you will need to testify in a court of law, and your findings may be the difference between an individual going free and spending their life behind bars. Consequently, there is always an element of danger when working in the forensic science profession.

How difficult is it being a forensic scientist? There is no margin of error for the forensic scientist and the workload is always high. Scientist must be consistently accurate and thorough. These are tasks that many find mentally and physically grueling, but for most, it does get easier over time. Those considering a career in forensics must be dedicated to being the best in their field and working constantly to maintain their status as an expert.

Would you like being a forensic scientist? Unfortunately, this is a question that is impossible to answer until you try it. You can, however, ask yourself a couple of things before you get this experience to help you decide if forensic science is right for you. These are: Do you like solving puzzles? Can you objectively assess a problem and draw conclusions based only on verifiable facts? Do you perform well in high-stress situations? Are you a thorough, with an attention to detail? Are you a good communicator? Can you envision yourself testifying in a court of law in a highly publicized trial under intense questioning? If you can answer yes to ALL of these questions, then not only would you probably like being a forensic scientist, you would also probably be very good at it. If you answer no to any of the above, you should seriously consider if forensic science is the career path for you.

So what is a typical day in the life of forensic scientist like?

Forensic scientists will spend most of their day examining evidence and performing lab tests Items of evidence typically examined include weapons, clothing, tools, drugs, or fingerprints, depending on the area of expertise of the scientist.

Another significant portion of the day may be spent documenting his or her analysis in the form of notes, photographs, or a written report.

Meeting with and discussing cases with investigative agencies and attorneys is also something that a forensic scientist does every day. This may in person, at the time that evidence is brought to the lab by the detectives. It may be over the phone, as the results of the analysis are explained to the prosecuting or defense attorney. Or it may be in court, as the scientist explains to the judge, jury and defendant, what analysis was performed and the resulting conclusions that were drawn

Being a forensic scientist is not a routine job that can become mundane and boring. Items of evidence and crime scene scenarios are always different and constantly present new challenges.

A day in the life at the crime lab is many things, but mundane is not one of them.

Before deciding on a career in forensic science it’s helpful to read personal experiences of real forensic scientists at

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