Forensic scientists perform two main roles: collecting and analyzing evidence, and appearing in court to testify about any conclusions drawn from their investigations. Everybody loves the television crime shows that involve the work of forensics. The science behind those shows is often signifcantly different from how true forensic operations go down. Scientists spend a majority of their time in the crime lab, analyzing evidence over a time period that takes a lot longer than what is demonstrated in the shows. From fingerprint matching, to DNA analysis to blood work, the realm that the forensic scientist works in is vast.
In larger crime labs (such as you would find in most metropolitan areas like Los Angeles or New York), forensic scientists usually specialize in one specific area. Here are the main areas of concentration:
- Controlled Substances and Toxicology
- Document Examination
- Firearms and Toolmark Identification
- Psychophysical Detection of Deception Exam (aka: the polygraph)
With all the various specialties to choose from, it is still important to remember that this industry is not for the faint of heart. Many times a scientist is working through evidence for a case that involves human mortality. If the sight of blood makes you squeamish, you may want to think about getting into a different vein of the criminal justice world, like court reporting or paralegal work.