Forensic Medicine Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a career in forensic medicine? Get real job descriptions, and career and education requirements to see if a career in forensic medicine is right for you.
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Careers in Forensic Medicine

A career in forensic medicine combines the science of the medical field with the investigative techniques used in the criminal justice field. Learn more about the positions of forensic psychiatrist, lab technician and nurse with the table below.

Forensic Psychiatrist Forensic Lab Technician Forensic Nurse
Career Overview Forensic psychiatrists apply the principles of psychiatry to legal issues. Forensic laboratory technicians work with crime scene investigators to process and analyze evidence. Forensic nurses provide care to victims of crimes and collect evidence for investigators.
Education Requirements Medical degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Program Length Eight years Four years Four years
Certification and Licensing All states require a license for physicians Certification and licensing not required All states require a license for registered nurses
Job Outlook (2014-2024) Fast growth of 14% for physicians predicted* Faster than average growth of 27% predicted* Fast growth of 16% for registered nurses predicted*
Median Salary (2014) $61,489 (Jan 2016 for all forensic psychologists)** $55,360* $84,850**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Forensic Psychiatrist

Forensic psychiatrists are physicians trained to evaluate, assess and treat patients in legal cases. Some forensic psychiatrists may work in the criminal justice system, evaluating and treating offenders, making recommendations to the courts, providing expert testimony and assisting investigators identify suspects. Forensic psychiatrists may specialize in an area of the law such as child custody cases.

Requirements

Psychiatrists must obtain a medical degree, which requires four years of undergraduate education and four years of medical school. Psychiatrists also complete a residency program after obtaining the medical degree, which provides specialized training in psychiatry. The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology offers certifications for general and forensic psychiatrists.

Below are some examples of positions for forensic psychiatrists available in December 2012:

  • An employer in Georgia in the behavioral health field is looking for a forensic psychiatrist to examine patients, diagnose mental conditions and develop treatment plans. Applicants must be board certified psychiatrists, preferably in forensic psychiatry, and licensed license to practice medicine in Georgia.
  • A California employer in the behavioral health field is searching for a forensic psychiatrist to diagnose and treat mental health patients in a public health environment. Applicants must have a valid medical license in the state of California, a Drug Enforcement Association license and a certificate of completion of an approved residency program.
  • An employer in Massachusetts in the healthcare industry is looking for a forensic psychiatrist to perform psychiatric evaluations, monitor patient progress, develop treatment plans and work with other specialists in the field. Applicants must have a medical degree and board certification in psychiatry.

Standing Out

Board certification is not a requirement for a career as a forensic psychiatrist, but it does demonstrate an expertise in the field. Specializing in an area of forensic psychiatry, such as family or criminal law, may help you stand out as an expert.

Forensic Lab Technician

Forensic laboratory technicians process and analyze evidence collected at crime scenes to reconstruct the events of a crime to help investigators identify suspects. Lab technicians may specialize in an area such as DNA, blood spatter or toxicology. Technicians must prepare reports of their findings and may be called to testify in court.

Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic lab technicians must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a natural science. Forensic science programs include coursework in chemistry, biology, mathematics, criminal justice systems, law and physics. Lab technicians train in crime labs with experienced staff to learn the techniques used to process evidence.

See below for examples of forensic lab technician positions available in December 2012:

  • A Louisiana crime lab is looking for a forensic lab technician to prepare samples and documentation and conduct analysis. Applicants must have an education in forensic science and training in a clinical laboratory.
  • A police department in Colorado is searching for a forensic lab technician to conduct analysis, prepare documents and maintain the quality of the laboratory. Lab technicians must operate and maintain the crime labs equipment and instruments. Applicants must have a minimum of an associate degree and two years of experience in a laboratory. The employer will accept applicants with less experience and more education.
  • An employer in Texas is looking for a forensic histology technician to collect, analyze and evaluate evidence from crime scenes. The technician will prepare reports and may testify in court, and applicants must have a minimum of a high school education and one year of experience in a laboratory.

Standing Out

Forensic lab technicians are required to prepare written reports on highly technical information. Developing the writing skills to explain forensic science material to a non-technical audience can help you stand out from the crowd. Public speaking skills can also help you gain an edge in the job market.

Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses provide nursing care to victims of crimes such as assaults. The nurse is trained to collect evidence from victims and offer support and guidance through the criminal justice system. Nurses may specialize in sexual assault cases, child or elder abuse. Some forensic nurses work as assistants to coroners in death investigations.

Requirements

A forensic nurse must have a nursing degree and a state license to practice nursing. Nurses may obtain a registered nursing license with an associate, a bachelor's or a diploma program, but employers may prefer applicants who have completed a four-year degree program. Registered nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses. Specialty training in forensic nursing is available for registered nurses that includes coursework in evidence collection, treating victims of sexual assault and providing support for patients. The specialized training includes classroom and clinical training.

Below are some examples of job postings for forensic nurses available in December 2012:

  • A hospital in Washington is looking for a forensic nurse examiner to provide treatment and services to adult and adolescent victims of sexual assault. The nurse is required to collect evidence, screen and treat patients. Applicants must have a minimum of two years' experience in a women's health, family, maternity or child emergency care environment and a valid Washington registered nurse license.
  • A medical center in California is looking for a forensic registered nurse to provide care to victims and suspects in sexual assault cases. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements for a registered nurse in California, but the employer prefers candidates with a bachelor's degree. The employer also requires applicants to have a minimum of one year of experience as a registered nurse, basic life support for healthcare providers certification and a certificate of completion of a sexual assault nurse examiner training program.
  • A Maryland employer is looking for a forensic nurse examiner to provide services to patients in the employer's sexual assault center. Applicants must have a Maryland registered nurse license and 2-3 years of nursing experience. The candidate must have at least two years of experience in OB/GYN or pediatrics and training as a forensic nurse examiner within three months of obtaining the position.

Standing Out

Certification is not necessary to work as a forensic nurse, but completing a program for sexual assault nurse examiners may help you stand out as a forensic nurse. The International Association of Forensic Nurses offers certification for registered nurses.

Popular Schools

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    5. Penn Foster High School

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Featured Schools

The George Washington University

  • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • MSHS in Clinical Microbiology
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Johns Hopkins University

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Kaplan University

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American InterContinental University

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CDI College

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Fortis College

  • Medical Laboratory Technology

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