University of North Texas Forensic Science Program
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Forensic FAQ

Q. What is Forensic Science?
A. Forensic science, by definition, is the application of science to those criminal and civil laws that are enforced by police agencies in a criminal justice system [1]. Forensic science originates from the individuals who developed the principles and techniques needed to identify or compare physical evidence, and from those who recognized the necessity of merging these principles into a coherent discipline that could be practically applied to a criminal justice system. There are many disciplines and career paths within forensic science. (Click here to see UNT Forensic Program)

Q. What does a forensic scientist do?
A. Forensic scientists work in crime laboratories as forensic chemists and biologists. Their jobs may include the following aspects [1]:
  • Apply principles and techniques of the physical and natural sciences to the analysis of the many types of evidence that may be recovered during a criminal investigation.
  • Provide expert court testimony. An expert witness is called on to evaluate evidence based on specialized training and experience. An expert will then express an opinion as to the significance of the findings.
  • Participate in training law enforcement personnel in the proper recognition, collection, and preservation of physical evidence.
Q. What are the other specialized forensic science careers outside the crime laboratory?
A. Forensic pathology, forensic anthropology, forensic entomology, forensic psychiatry, forensic odontology, forensic engineering and so on.

Q. How do I become a forensic scientist?
A. If you wish to work in a crime laboratory as a forensic chemist or biologist, you must have a thorough grounding in the basic sciences of chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics. This can be achieved by obtaining a college degree in one of these sciences. Courses in criminal justice may be useful to some extent, but a major in criminal justice is not adequate preparation for a career in forensic science [2].

Q. How can I prepare myself to be a forensic scientist in high school?
A. If you want to get ready for this career starting in high school, you can prepare yourself by acquiring several skills listed at the College Board career website [3]. These include:
  • taking as many math and science courses as possible
  • developing public speaking skills
  • organizing notes of class lectures and keeping lab notebooks
  • visiting a courthouse and watching legal cases
  • enhancing your writing skills
(Click here to see forensic courses offered at UNT)

Q. What are the services of a crime laboratory?
A. A crime laboratory includes five basic services: (1) Physical Science unit: uses the principles of chemistry, physics, and geology to identify and compare physical evidence; (2) Biology unit: applies knowledge of biological sciences in order to investigate blood samples, body fluids, hair and fiber samples; (3) Firearms unit: investigates discharged bullets, cartridge cases, shotgun shells and ammunition; (4) Document unit: provides the skills needed for handwriting analysis and other questioned document issues; and (5) Photographic unit: applies specialized photographic techniques for recording and examining physical evidence. Additional services may include toxicology, fingerprint analysis, voiceprint analysis, evidence collection and polygraph (lie detector) administration.

Q. Where can I find more information about forensic science?
A. Visit the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) homepage or other websites listed under the Links section, or click here to contact us.



References:
[1] Richard Saferstein (2004). Criminalistics: an introduction to forensic science, 8th edition, p.3-23.
[2] http://www.forensic.msu.edu/frequentlyaskedquestions.htm
[3] http://www.collegeboard.com/csearch/majors_careers/profiles/careers/
106918.html

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