Forensic engineers investigate the causes of crimes and accidents. Unlike in other types of investigative work, the evidence collected by forensic engineers requires extensive engineering knowledge in fields such as materials engineering, electrical engineering and structural engineering. They may uncover the speed and angle of car crashes, the quality of building materials and the physical forces that cause structural collapses, for example.
Duties on the Job
Your main duty as a forensic engineer involves gathering information and performing research at crime or accident scenes. The evidence you gather helps you recreate the conditions under which the incident took place. The evidence varies according to the type of incident. Traffic accidents require physical impact reports, while a fire investigation traces the cause and effects of an inferno. Forensic engineers specializing in structural work focus on the reasons a building or structure fail.
Forensic Engineering Education
Forensic engineers need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a related science or engineering field, such as civil, electrical, materials and mechanical engineering. Few schools offer forensic engineer degrees, as of 2014, although professional engineer groups, government organizations and insurance companies have lobbied for the creation of educational programs in forensic engineering. Graduate courses in forensic structural engineering -- offered by schools such as Columbia University -- include structural assessment, steel and concrete structures, large-scale construction and soil mechanics.
Some forensic engineering positions require you to take a leadership role in reconstructing crimes or accidents. You manage teams that gather information and liaise with other stakeholders, such as attorneys, insurance agents and your direct superiors. When needed, you train workers to ensure that they follow correct protocols as they collect information. Forensic engineers also compile their findings into documents used as evidence. You may be required to testify your findings in person.
The National Academy of Forensic Engineers offers certification and career development opportunities to members. It offers memberships to engineers with the appropriate education and experience, as well as references from NAFE members or clients. Membership results in certification as a diplomate in forensic engineering from the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Board. You must maintain certification by completing 100 hours of continuing professional development courses.
- University of Texas San Antonio: Advice about a Career in Forensic Science
- Columbia University: Forensic (Structural) Engineering
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: FBI Laboratory Positions
- National Academy of Forensic Engineers: How to Become a Member
- National Academy of Forensic Engineers: FAQs
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Forensic Science Technicians Do
- Photo Credit View Stock/View Stock/Getty Images
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