With the popularity of police and crime dramas on television, such as CSI, Law and Order and their multiple spin-offs, forensic science has become a popular career field. The field of forensic science uses scientific knowledge and technology to help analyze crimes and the reasons behind why criminals act. Within the field of forensic science, there are multiple career options. Many of the top five highest paying forensic science career options require a degree beyond a bachelor’s degree in order to gain the knowledge and expertise required to excel in the field.
Typically the highest paid employees in the field of forensic science, the position of medical examiner, you usually work for the county government to study bodies of individuals who have been found dead as the result of an accident, illness or other circumstances in order to determine the cause of death. All medical examiners must have a medical degree and also typically take courses related to criminal justice or law as undergraduates. The average medical examiner makes a salary of around $50,000 a year, but that salary varies by the county and state that you work in. Medical examiners employed by the federal government typically earn higher salaries than those employed by county governments.
Crime scene investigators work to analyze crime scenes by gathering evidence, conducting lab work and using specialized equipment to help determine who or what caused a specific crime. Much of a crime scene investigator’s job involves filling out paperwork for the police department and courts and it requires an eye for detail. As a crime scene investigator, you may work for a local police force or a state or federal government agency. The pay for crime scene investigators varies based on what agency you work for and the specific tasks that you perform as an investigator, but most CSIs start out around $30,000 a year and advance quickly up the salary scale.
Forensic engineers use their knowledge of structures, physics and other elements of science to help understand why products have malfunctioned. A forensic engineer may help determine the mechanical problems involved in a car crash or why a building collapsed. Because being a forensic engineer requires advanced problem-solving skills and technical knowledge, the average forensic engineer makes over $100,000 a year. Most forensic engineers who make such a large salary have at least a Master’s degree in engineering and a Ph.D. is often preferred. You must also be a licensed engineer in the state where you are employed as a forensic engineer.
Crime laboratory analysts work to analyze evidence found at crime scenes to help determine the cause of the crime or give additional information about the crime. You may work to analyze DNA found at the crime scene or determine what type of firearm was used. In order to work as a crime laboratory analyst, you should have a strong background or degree in biology or chemistry and knowledge of the criminal justice system. The average beginning salary of a crime laboratory analyst is around $35,000 a year, but with a Master’s degree or Ph.D. with a focus on forensic science, it could increase to closer to $50,000 a year.
Psychological profilers help police officers and investigators create a profile of a criminal when no suspect has been identified. As a psychological or criminal profiler, you will often begin earning an average salary of $60,000 a year. Most psychological profilers have degrees in psychology and criminal justice or may have a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in forensic psychology. The amount you earn may also depend on where you are employed. The FBI regularly hires criminal profilers and positions may also be available with local police departments.