Forensic chemists, also known as forensic science technicians, are trained scientific professionals that investiage many types of criminal activity by examining, gathering and analyzing physical evidence. The position is ideal for those who are extremely interested in forensic science. Forensic chemists must be strong analytical thinkers who are organized and have excellent communication skills. They must also be able to follow proper safety precautions when dealing with bodily fluids and firearms.
Forensic chemists collect, analyze and test tissue samples, fibers, glass, chemical substances, bodily fluids and other evidence that is present at a crime scene. They use this evidence to assist in resolving potential crimes. They transport this evidence to a laboratory and examine the results to identify what substances and materials may be present. Some of these forensic chemists may testify as expert witnesses to explain the findings they have had in the laboratory.
Forensic chemists must receive at least a bachelor's degree in forensic science, engineering, physical science or a related field. They must take coursework like biochemistry, microbiology, physics and other courses that will prepare them for the position, such as DNA typing, evidence collection and human anatomy. Forensic chemists may take part-time jobs or internships in the forensic field to show prospective employers that they have had experience. Forensic chemists who earn a master's degree in their field may have better chances for higher-level positions with greater pay.
According to a report compiled by Salary Expert, of 10 major U.S. cities the top annual salary for a forensic chemist can be found in Boston, Massachusetts, at $57,084, with the lowest of the 10 located in Orlando, Florida, at $31,744. The median salary of these 10 cities--which also include Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Phoenix, Arizona; New York, New York; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Indianapolis, Indiana--was $41,656 as of January 13, 2011. This is below median of all forensic technicians--including forensic chemists--which was $49,858 as of May 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The outlook for all forensic science technicians is extremely positive according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The employment for these positions is expected to grow 20 percent between 2008 and 2018. This is much faster than the projected average of all jobs over the course of those 10 years. As more forensic science techniques like DNA analysis are applied to solving, examining and preventing crime, more positions will become available. Employment growth is expected in both local and state governments for these jobs.