The term forensic is applied to many professions. The dictionary defines the term as, “The use of science and technology to investigate and establish facts in criminal or civil courts of law.” Developments in both technology and courtroom rules of evidence have led to forensic specialists in a number of fields. This article describes some of those professions as well as touching on both the education and experience required to work in them.
- Forensic science technicians are the guys in the crime lab. They are often involved in the accumulation of evidence from a crime scene and then analyzing it with sophisticated microscopes and other analytical tools. They take copious notes of their work and are expected to testify in court against alleged perpetrators. Some specialize in areas such as DNA evidence, firearms, fiber, hair, or tissue samples. Forensic technicians usually hold a bachelor’s degree in biology or a related field.
- Forensic accountants work for investigatory agencies such as the Secret Service that trace the illegal movement of ill gotten gains. These professionals will reconstruct the movement of laundered funds through bank accounts and across borders, are involved in credit card fraud cases and generally provide support to law enforcement officials confronted with sophisticated financial crime. This job requires a degree in finance or accounting, or business with an emphasis on accounting.
- Forensic nurses are RNs who originally developed their specialty working in emergency units and triaging patients who had been abused. Their records and testimony would be used against the alleged abuser. The profession has expanded into the role of medical expert. Many forensic nurses now consult with law firms that have personal injury suits, developing the appropriate medical evidence for a case. A forensic nurse needs to be an RN, preferably with a bachelor’s degree or better, and several years of experience that includes work in the ER or with patients with trauma injuries.
- Computer forensic specialists analyze computer equipment and data in order to develop evidence in an investigation. Typically they have the technical knowledge to They determine the details of intrusions into computer systems, recover data from encrypted or erased files, and recover e-mails and deleted passwords. Some computer experts stumble into this kind of work, but a person who is set on a career in the field needs a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information management or a field that is closely related to both data management and computer technology.
The common thread running through these professions is the fact that a person working in any one of them may well wind up in a courtroom, acting as an expert witness. Because they need to express themselves well and prepare detailed reports, forensics specialists in all of these fields hold at least a bachelor’s degree.