Forensic Ballistics – Firearms Examiner Career Guide, Educational Requirements and Salary Expectations
The words Firearms examiner and Forensic Ballistic experts are often used interchangeably. Both these words are used for a career in law enforcement agencies. A firearms examiner or a ballistic expert is responsible for collection of ballistic related evidence from the crime scene, extract useful information from the evidence and prepare the reports. All the firearms and ammunition is included in the list of ballistic related evidence.
Ballistics is a science that has roots in physics. Forensic Ballistic experts are called on the crime scene to determine different subjects of physics which includes trajectory, angle of fire and probable distance. A ballistic expert also has to study gun shells and bullet fragments found at the crime scene.
The materials collected and studied by the Forensic Ballistic Expert may include:
- Spent cartridges
- Bullets that were used
- Live ammunition
- Clothes that were found at the crime scene.
The Forensic Ballistic Experts are called upon to identify three things.
- Identify the firearms which were used for the crime
- Identify the characteristics of the firearms used. The characteristics may include the caliber of the gun and rifling patterns
- Identify and collect fingerprints that were present on the firearm
Interested To Become A Forensic Ballistic Expert? Please Read Our Full Career Guide
Job Description Of The Forensic Ballistic experts
Most often the job of a Forensic ballistic expert is in the lab. Performing different tests on the evidence and examining the evidence from different angles and trajectories in the basic job of a ballistic expert. Moreover they are also responsible for mapping the crime scenes which requires knowledge of computer software. These maps are helpful for the police to determine the actual culprit of the crime.
Apart from this, they are also called for field work. The field work of a Forensic ballistic expert is on the crime scene. All the ballistic related evidence is to be collected by ballistic experts from the crime scene. The most important evidence from the crime scene is fingerprints present on the shell of used bullets. They are very carefully taken from the shells, on performing the DNA testing on those finger prints, the culprit can be determined.
Once the evidence is collected and processed in the laboratory, detailed report is being prepared and this too done by the Forensic ballistic experts. The report is written to assist the law enforcement agencies in solving the case. Moreover these reports are also used in the court room. A ballistic expert might have to give testimony or appear as a witness in the court room proceeding.
Most of times, Forensic ballistic experts are hired by local, state or federal level crime labs however if you wish to pursue you career independently.
You also have an option to become a private consultant or a contractor.Interested To Become A Forensic Ballistic Expert Please Read Our Full Career Guide:
Educational Requirements for Forensic Ballistic experts
If you wish to pursue your career as Forensic ballistic expert you will have to pursue an educational degree from accredited university or college however there are different avenues which can lead you to your destination.
Keep reading, we are just going to discuss different options you have.
The most followed path for the job of Forensic ballistic expert is to have a bachelor’s degree in forensic sciences. The forensic sciences degree provides a strong knowledge of biology, physics and chemistry which will be helpful during the job of Forensic ballistic expert.
The requirements for a bachelor’s degree in forensic sciences include:
- Principles of Biology
- Biology Laboratory
- Chemistry Laboratory
- Organic Chemistry
- Analytic Geometry
- Physics Laboratory
- College Physics
- Calculus-Based Physics
The degree holders of forensic sciences also have employment prospect forensic sciences laboratories.
If you are interested in pursuing your career as a Forensic ballistic expert and do not find the degree of forensic sciences suitable for you, don’t worry, there are number of other degrees which will help you pursue your dream job. Degree in mechanical engineering, metallurgy, biology, physics or any other related health sciences can also be helpful.
Training of Forensic Ballistic expert
Training is mandatory for the people who seek their career in the field of Forensic ballistic experts. The training program of Forensic ballistic experts covers the following aspects.
- Expert witness testimony
- Evidence handling
- Crime scene searches
- Firearms identification
- Gunpowder and primer residue
- Wound ballistics
The time duration for the training program for the Forensic ballistic experts may vary from state to state however the general requirement is spend two years under the supervision of forensic expert.
As there are new trends and technologies evolving each day therefore the nature of Forensic Ballistics is also changing. The dynamic area of firearms expert requires a person to be up-to-date regarding the new phenomena. For this purpose the ballistic experts have go through courses and other lectures to keep their knowledge up to date. Unlike many of us think, it is not that once you have landed to the position of ballistic expert you are finished with your studies. You will have to go through courses continuously.
The Forensic ballistic experts who wish to get professional courses can join FBI or ATF courses which are going on throughout the year. As these courses are big law enforcement agencies so they have higher legitimacy too. These courses will have positive impact on your career and help you get promotions easily.
Salary Expectations for Forensic Ballistic expert
The salary is a Forensic ballistic expert may vary depending upon the lab in which they choose to work and the state in which they reside. Some states have very large laboratories in which ballistic experts are of much demand while in other states the laboratories are smaller or crime rate is lesser, therefore they pay you less.
We have a list different salary ranges along with the states in which they are offered.
- Nassau County, New York: $39,085-$77,532
- Wheaton, Illinois: $40,390-$67,318
- Los Angeles, California: $77,402-$96,152
- Arkansas State Crime Lab: $37,332-$62,616
- Norfolk, Virginia: $50,139-$83,880
- Ventura County, California: $71,606-$100,465
According to the bureau of labor statistics, the Forensic ballistic experts who come under the category of forensic sciences technicians have earned average annual salary of $ 51,570. The bureau also stated that the top ten earnings in the field of Forensic ballistic experts were $82,900 per person. The salary packages in this field are directly linked to your reputation and experience in the field.
So if you wish to achieve higher level in this field, you are advised to work hard and be patient.