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Forensic Jobs & You Part II

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Hello Forensic Science Students!

Below is a list of forensic science job titles, their alternative names and keywords provided to  help you better understand forensic job postings. This information should assist you in your job search and help you understand the opportunities afforded to you with your forensic science degree. Please see the forensic jobs FAQ sheet as an additional resource. 

Common Job Titles in Forensic Science

Criminalist: Scientist who does evidence examination. Be sure to read job descriptions with this title carefully as the title “criminalist” applies to a large range of job descriptions, including CSI work.

Forensic Science Technician: Technicians assist in the collection of evidence, conduct analysis, and help investigate crime scenes. Often called crime scene technicians or crime scene investigators. Forensic science technicians conduct most of their work either on the scene or in a laboratory. They might also provide assistance to other forensic scientists and serve as liaisons to other specialists.

Bloodstain Pattern Analyst: Often referred to as blood spatter experts, bloodstain pattern analysts are forensic science technicians who specialize in violent crime scenes. They can help determine the type of weapon used, whether a struggle occurred, the direction of travel of a victim or suspect, who was the primary aggressor, and whether wounds were self-inflicted—all through the examination of drips, spills, spatters, and stains.

Firearms and Toolmarks Examiner: Firearms and toolmark examiners may work both in the field at crime scenes and in the lab. They may perform comparison analyses to determine matches between weapons and ammunition, trajectory and ballistics, or identification of firearms. They may additionally be called upon for toolmark analysis using comparison microscopy. Note that there is a two-year training period required for most firearms examiner positions. This may or may not be offered by the hiring agency.

Forensic DNA Analyst: DNA analysts, DNA technician, or forensic biologists compare DNA samples taken from suspects and victims to determine whether someone was present at a crime scene, whether they were involved in a violent encounter, and other questions of identity when a sample is available. DNA analysts can also compare unknown samples to databases to identify potential suspects.

Toxicologist: Forensic toxicologists help investigators identify the causes of death that include poisons, chemicals, and intoxicating substances. They assist in the prosecution of DUI and DWI arrests and can detect the presence of drugs or alcohol in a suspect or victim's blood. Aspiring toxicologists should have a firm grasp of chemistry, biology, or both, as well as knowledge of pharmacology.

Fingerprint Examiner: Fingerprint examiners, also often referred to as forensic print analysts, latent print examiners, latent fingerprint analysts or fingerprint experts, are scientists who are responsible for preserving, studying and evaluating fingerprints (and often palm prints and footprints) as part of a crime scene investigation. Fingerprint examiners, who may work in the field, in the lab, or in a combination of the two, use a number of technologies to retrieve fingerprint samples and then compare them with fingerprint databases.

Trace Evidence Analyst: A trace evidence analyst, also referred to as a trace evidence examiner or forensic chemist, is a forensic scientist who performs analyses on trace evidence that may occur as a result of physical contact between a suspect and victim during a violent crime. Trace evidence analysis includes the identification and comparison of these transferred materials using specific scientific instrumentation and methodologies.Trace evidence analysts are also responsible for performing chemical and physical analyses using state-of-the-art methodologies and instrumentation as to analyze physical trace evidence obtained from the scene of a crime. A strong chemistry background is recommended.

Forensic Quality Assurance: This position directs and administers the quality control, assurance and improvement program and technical operations for a crime laboratory. They may develop and establish policies and procedures for laboratory quality control and assurance, monitor practices to verify continuing compliance with lab standard operating procedures and national quality assurance and control standards and maintain and update the laboratory quality manuals.

General Laboratory Technician: Also known as a research technician, research assistant or laboratory assistant. Lab technicians are the backbone of a scientific research lab. Their work is almost entirely laboratory-based and technicians may work alone or as part of a team of scientific staff. They can work in most areas of science including forensics, health, chemistry and manufacturing.The area a laboratory technician works in will largely dictate the work they do. If they’re in a medical environment, they might be analysing body fluids or tissues, conducting blood tests and examining cells.

For more information on what you can do with your Forensic Science degree follow the directions below.

  1. First use this link to visit Penn State Student Affairs Career Services website.

  2. Scroll until you see the image below and click on the circled link.

  3. Use the search box to find Forensic Science or click on the View All Majors toggle and scroll through the alphabetical listing to find Forensic Science.

    1. If you are having trouble accessing this resources you can also use this link to view a PDF version that includes a brief overview of the information available on their website.

OR visit the American Academy of Forensic Science choosing a career brochure.


Certification: Some forensics job postings will list a specific certificate as a qualification, or the ability to obtain a particular certificate within a set amount of time. It is normal for specialized positions within the forensic science field to require certifications from professional organizations in order to validate your expertise. Since work experience is often necessary to qualify for examination, a recent graduate would not qualify to test for most certifications. Therefore entry level jobs typically do not require you already have a certificate but will require applicants have the ability to obtain a certificate after some years of employment. Please see the list of forensic science professional organizations on our website for links to commonly requested forensic certifications. Note that some state departments have their own certification classes and exams that may be offered at no or little cost to you once employed by the state government.

A trainee title indicates an entry level position that typically requires no prior work experience and sometimes does not require a four year degree. It is not recommended that a graduate of The Penn State's Forensic Science Program apply to a trainee position if the position does not require a four year degree.

A level one indicates an entry level position and typically requires either no prior work experience or a single year of work experience. Recent graduates with a bachelors who have have laboratory experience through undergraduate research or an internship may qualify. Additionally those with certificates from professional organizations may qualify if the job listing relates to the certificate received.  Course assistant jobs, although great on a resume, do not count as work experience in the forensic science field.

A level two can indicate an entry level position but may prefer someone with 3- 5 years of experience in the field or a masters degree. Recent graduates with a bachelors who have completed extensive internships, co-ops or worked as a research technician/lab assistant may qualify. Course assistant jobs, although great on a resume, do not count as work experience in the forensic science field

A level three or four is typically not entry level and indicates a position with supervisory responsibilities. Often a masters degree or equivalent years of experience would be required. These positions may require 5 plus years of work experience with preference given to those with previous supervisory duties or roles.

*always read job descriptions as this numbering system can sometimes vary

If a job is listed as Administrative it is not entry level. However an administrative assistant position can be entry level. Please pay attention to the job description of listings with these keywords as they typically indicate someone who is knowledgeable about scientific procedures but is not the individual actually performing those procedures. Please note that an administrative support assistant is typically a secretary job and will not require a forensic science degree.