A Guide For Becoming a Forensic Scientist
A forensic scientist uses forensics to solve crimes. Forensics is a very broad term used to describe the methods used to accurately describe an event using the legal system as a point of reference. Literally speaking, forensics comes from the Latin word forensis, which means "before the forum." If you've done your homework on Ancient Rome, (and I know you have!) You'll remember that the forum was a marketplace where people went shopping. But it was also a town center where public events took place.
If a person was accused of a crime they were brought before the forum to present their case. Often the criminals would have representatives, much like lawyers, to present their cases for them. The art and science of public speaking, rhetoric, and logic were often used during this presentation and the person who made the best case won.
Today the term forensics really means the act of gathering evidence to present during a legal case.
Modern Definition: Forensic science is the actual act of gathering and interpreting that evidence so that it is presented to persuade a jury or judge that an act has or has not taken place.
If you took a random poll of, oh...say just about anybody...and asked them if they found the area of forensic science interesting, almost everyone would say yes.
That's because this career area is vast and varied. It runs the gamut of possible jobs and careers - from psychiatry, to pathology, to investigative profiler. You'll never find another area that contains so many different professional options.
Here is just a sample of the many different jobs and careers available to a trained forensic scientist:
Forensic Biology - is abroad term used to describe a combination of fields such as forensic anthropology, forensic dentistry, forensic serology, forensic entomology, and forensic botany.
Forensic Pathology - is the use of an autopsy performed by a medical examiner to determine specific cause of death and injury identification. The end result is the signing and issuing of a death certificate.
Forensic Toxicology - is the study, evaluation and identification of the effects of poisons, chemicals, or drugs in and on the human body.
Forensic Anthropology - is used to reconstruct human or non-human remains for the purpose of establishing a timeline or events.
Forensic Serology - involves the analysis of bodily fluids collected during a Criminalistics investigation. It can include blood, semen, saliva, sweat for the purpose of identification of an individual involved in a crime.
Forensic Dentistry - is used to establish identity for fire or drowning victims, victims of natural or catastrophic disasters, or victims who are no longer recognizable for any reason.
Forensic Entomology - is used to help determine the time and location of death based on the type of insects found near, on, or in the body.
Traditional CSI Forensic Scientists
Criminalistics or Crime Scene Investigation - is used to describe the act of gathering physical evidence relating to any part of the crime at hand. It can include, but is not limited to, fingerprints, blood, blood spatter patterns, weapons, bullets, hair, fibers, paint, glass, and tire or shoe tracks.
Non-Traditional Forensic Scientists
Forensic Accounting - the forensic accountant will gather evidence pertaining to accounting methods to try and figure out a money trail. This type of forensics is often used during tax audits or a criminal investigation involving money hidden overseas.
Computer Forensics - the forensic computer specialist will find or reconstruct digital media such as graphic images, files, or folders contained on a hard drive or disc to use in the court as evidence. This is a very common form of forensics and almost every case can expect to involve some sort of digital reconstruction. For example, when investigating a missing person, their e-mail and personal computer can be accessed through a court order so information about a suspect can be obtained.
Forensic Document Examination - this field deals mostly with handwriting analysis and or establishing a "fingerprint" of sorts on a printer or typewriter.
Forensic Economics - is used in personal injury cases where an accident has cost a person benefits or actual pay. It can also be used to assess business lost, future medical expenses, and future labor. Much of this falls under the category of compensatory damages.
Forensic Engineering - is used to reconstruct buildings or mechanical devices after malfunction or collapse to see if the design was flawed.