Supporting pathologists, forensic doctors and medical examiners, forensic assistants play an important role in determining an individual’s cause of death and solving crimes. Also know as forensic technicians, these professionals help prepare bodies for release to funeral homes, collect specimens to study and analyze, assist with autopsy reports and help maintain records related to investigations. According to the website of Polk County, Iowa, forensic assistants also must take photographs of the deceased, perform dissections and assists investigators on cases.
Graduate from high school or its equivalent and receive training at an accredited postsecondary institute. While employers may require only an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree may make you a more attractive candidate for a forensic assistant position. Good areas of study for aspiring forensic assistants include laboratory technology, medical laboratory science, forensic science, biology, mortuary science, biochemistry and crime scene investigations. It is also a good idea to take classes related to psychology and communications since you will need assist investigators, work on a team and may interact with the deceased’s family members. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, beneficial courses also include those related to pharmacology, controlled substances, evidence collection, genetics and toxicology.
Earn a forensic certification. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board should accredit the location from which you seek certification. Your college may offer certification or can connect you with an institution that offers this service, such as the National Forensic Science Technology Center, National Institute of Justice or the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
Gain work experience in a related field. You should work in a health or medical field for at least a year before seeking a job as a forensic assistant. Good places to gain the necessary experience can include a phlebotomy laboratory, morgue, hospital or veterinary laboratory, funeral home or pathology lab. Your work experience should give you the opportunity to collect and prepare samples for studying, analyze specimens, perform clerical duties, work in a team environment and prepare and file reports.
Get a job as a forensic assistant. Research facilities, law enforcement agencies, hospitals, morgues and the office of medical examiners may offer such an opportunity. If you completed an internship at a medical examiner’s or pathologist's office, you may have the opportunity to work as a full-time forensic assistant, as well.