How To Become A Forensic Toxicologist
What is Toxicology
Toxicology, also known as the “Science of poisons” is the study of the effect of chemicals on living organisms, particularly human beings. Using the knowledge of toxicology, the impact of poison, its mechanism, symptoms, and detection on the human body is studied.
So, you might be thinking, what is a toxicologist? Well, the short and straightforward answer to this question is, a toxicologist is a person who has studied the relevant subjects of toxicology and is using his expertise for studying the effect of poisons on the human body.
What is Forensic Toxicology
Forensic toxicology is a combination of toxicology, forensic sciences and clinical chemistry to assist in the investigation of crimes that involve poisoning of human beings or excessive use of drugs. Whenever a crime is being reported, the teams are called to the location of the crime, and the samples are collected from the location. After the collection of samples, several tests are being performed on it to determine which toxic substances are present, in what amount and their effect on the body.
Definition of a forensic toxicologist: someone who is performing the duties of collecting poison-related samples from crime and performing the necessary tests on them to gather useful information for the investigation of a crime.
Forensic toxicology not only deals with the number of harmful substances used, but it also studies how the body’s natural process affects the material such as chemical changes and dilution.
The words Forensic toxicology and death investigation toxicology are often used interchangeably, so the next time you hear one of these words, do not get confused as they are almost the same things.
Toxicologist Education Requirements
A toxicologist has to earn a minimum of bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields
· Forensic sciences
· Clinical Chemistry
· Or any other related field
Higher education will ensure that you get employment at a higher rank. Therefore, some people also pursue a graduate degree in the field.
As already discussed, forensic toxicologists have to deal with the effects of poisons on the human body. Therefore, they are being taught about the relevant courses during their degree programs. The degree of forensic toxicology will have these courses.
· General toxicology
· Principles of forensic sciences
· Applied Statistics for the analysis of data
· Toxic substances
· Forensic medicine
· Special topics which revolve around toxicology
Forensic toxicology is often treated differently at different universities which mean that in one university you might find this program in the Criminal Justice department. In contrast, in the other, you might find it in the health sciences department. Generally, you can find the forensic toxicology program is the following departments of different universities
· Criminal Justice department
· Health sciences department
· Natural sciences department
· Pharmacology department
· Physiological sciences department
Are you looking for a university to get a degree in forensic toxicology? If so, you are advised to look for universities which are accredited by the forensic science education programs accreditation commission.
Professional Certifications For Forensic Toxicologist
There is no doubt that additional certifications and training are the best ways to increase your chances of employment and get a good reputation in your respective fields. Same is the case with forensic toxicology.
Most of the forensic toxicologists are well aware of the fact that training and certification can strengthen their CV as a result of which they will get employed easily. Hence, they pursue the professional certifications which are enlisted below.
American Board Of Toxicology
American Board of toxicology certification is well-reputed in the field of forensic toxicology. The accreditation has global acceptance because of the standards they have put forth which a candidate must fulfil to get certified.
To get certified from the American Board of toxicology, an individual must possess one of the following degrees
· A doctorate with at least three years of experience in toxicology
· A master’s degree with at least seven years of experience in toxicology
· A bachelor’s degree with at least ten years of experience in toxicology
If you fall in one of the above categories, you will have to go through an assessment test. In the examination of the American Board of toxicology, you will be required to demonstrate your expertise in the following areas
· Toxicity agents
· Organ systems and the effects of different substances of them
· General Principles and applied toxicology
American Board Of Forensic Toxicology
American board of forensic toxicology is another institution from which forensic toxicologists get certifications. The following are the requirements which a candidate must fulfil for getting certified from the American board of forensic toxicology.
· Bachelor’s degree in any of the natural sciences subject from accredited university or college
· The program which you have studied must include. Biology, Chemistry, pharmacology or toxicology.
· Candidate must have at least three years of full-time experience in toxicology
If you fulfil the requirements as mentioned earlier, you will have to go through the written examinations in which you will have to demonstrate the following skills
· Principles of toxicology
· Practices of analytical toxicology
Steps To Become A Forensic Toxicologist
These are the typical steps which you must take to advance your career in the field of forensic toxicology.
1. Graduate from a high school: A high school diploma is a prerequisite for getting enrolled in a bachelor’s program. In case you do not have it already, start looking for a school from which you can get your diploma. You are advised to study chemistry and biology if you are planning to become a forensic toxicologist.
2. Pursue an undergraduate degree: the second step is to start your bachelor’s degree. Although you get employment in a laboratory with a two years degree, if you are planning to advance in the field, you are advised to go for a four year bachelor’s program.
3. Seek entry level Experience: Once you are done with a bachelor’s degree, you must start to look for a toxicology laboratory where you can get employed. According to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, firsthand experience is an essential thing for advancement in the field of forensic toxicology. However, you might have learned everything about forensic toxicology during your classes but still specific practical steps which can only be understood while working in the laboratory.
4. Consider an advanced degree or certifications: Once you have got firsthand experience while working in the laboratory, you must start looking for a college or university from where you can earn advanced level education. The advanced level degrees include certifications from reputed institutions or Masters Degrees from universities. If you are thinking of continuing your job, start looking for the universities that are offering online facilities. This will help you to get higher degrees while pursuing your career.
Forensic Toxicologist Specialties
The national institute of standard and Technology (NIST) enlisted four sub disciplines of forensic toxicology. The sub-disciplines of Forensic toxicology are:
· Death investigation also called as postmortem toxicology
· Human performance toxicology
· Doping control
· Workplace drug testing
A forensic toxicologist may choose to do specialization in one of the above disciplines. Mainly the forensic toxicologists are employed by the government law enforcement agencies for performing the tests on the collected evidence and extract useful information which might help resolve a crime.
Forensic toxicologists with higher educational degrees may also choose to work in different laboratories so that they can gain the relevant experience of the field. For example, before doing specialization, one might work in chemistry labs, biological labs, medical areas or pharmacology. The knowledge gained during these jobs will help understand the methodologies used in the field of a forensic toxicologist
The forensic toxicologists might also choose to pursue their career in academia and go for higher degrees such as PhD. The ones who decide to do so have two choices, either they can select academia as their primary profession or choose to do it part-time while working in the laboratories.
Employment Opportunities For A Forensic Toxicologist
Forensic toxicologists are mostly employed by the federal, state and local level law enforcement agencies, and they work in the laboratories to gather the information from the evidence which can be used for collecting the useful information.
However, the list of potential employers of forensic toxicologists is not refined to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies; there are many more avenues on which forensic toxicologists can get employed.
These are the potential employment opportunities for the forensic toxicologists
· They can become medical examiners
· They can work in private drug testing facility
· They can be employed in the US military to work in “Army criminal investigation laboratory.”
· They can be employed by governmental agencies such as food drug administration
· They can work as DNA analysts
· They can work in the cosmetics industry to define the safety of ingredients used
· They can become drug analysis specialists.
Work Schedule of Forensic Toxicologists
Usually, forensic toxicologists work for 40 to 60 hours a week. The forensic toxicologists are expected to be always on call, and they can be asked to report anytime around the clock whenever a crime related to toxicology happens. Being a forensic toxicologist, you will be mostly working in the laboratory; however, at times, you might be called to the crime scene for collecting the evidence.
Is Forensic Toxicology The Right Career For Me?
Many people are confused while selecting their career paths. The bottom line principle is to explore your nature and personality traits and follow the path that matches them the most. If you are among the people who would like to work in the lab setting dealing with the evidence and performing several tests on them, forensic toxicology is the right career for.
Secondly, your job will require you to have analytical skills, critical thinking, investigative nature and tendency to conduct research so, if you have the following traits in yourself or you want to build them up, forensic toxicology is the right career choice for you.
Forensic Toxicologist Job Descriptions
There are different types of toxicologists like academic, clinical, contract, ecotoxicology, forensic, industrial, occupational, pharmaceutical and regulatory.
Toxicologists: measures toxins by applying the proposed scientific hypothesis by applying analytical examination techniques. Their job is to create reports of findings and author reviews research papers. The major task is to analyze risk and identify harmful side effects and outcomes. Make maximum use of biomedical and chemical instruments to conduct certain examinations. Ensure safe storage and optimum use of chemicals and laboratory instruments, measure the number of toxins by conducting tests on bodily fluids and body tissue samples, follow all the laws both state and federal in terms of lab privacy, safety, and quality.
Criminalists: study and examine physiological fluids such as blood, urine, and semen. Biological cells are identified using microscopic examinations. He also performs DNA extractions, quantitations of DNA, analyzes and interprets DNA instrumentation results. Build evidence to be presented in court and appear as an expert witness to prove on results of laboratory analysis. Perform reconstructive crime scenarios, collect physical evidence at major crime, take photographs and photomicrographs.
Forensic Analysts: are part of the police department team. Their job is to process evidence latent prints, trace physical evidence, analyze phone calls, forensic video analysis, and crime scene reconstruction.
Forensic Trainee: provide reports about the effect of alcohol and drug on the human body and behavior. They analyze human fluids and tissues in postmortem analysis independently. Determine and understand criminal cases with help of various instrumental methodologies, critical evaluation of data, preparation of analysis certificate and defends evidence in a court of law. The role also includes frequent tours and travels as well.
While working in the pharmaceutical industry, the most important tasks are to make sure any potential new drugs are safe to test on humans. The procedure involves carrying out risk assessments, perform several tests using advanced techniques for in vivo and in vitro tests, reuse of experimental data to analyze the toxicity of drugs, create safety profiles and procedures, balance potential benefits against any risks.
Duties Of A Forensic Toxicologist
- Harmful gases
Where Do Forensic Toxicologists Work?
How long does it take to become a toxicologist?
What is the salary of a Forensic Toxicologist?
Generally, forensic toxicologist is about $75,000 annually. It may vary based on agency to agency
and state to state. Laboratory directors and seasoned toxicologists command salaries of $100,000 or
more. Freshers usually initiate their career with $60,000 range.
Frequently Asked Questions
Career As A Forensic Toxicologist
What does a forensic toxicologist do?
How many years does it take to become a toxicologist?
Toxicology programs involve intensive research and take a minimum of four years to finish . Toxicologists may go with clinical research teams in poison control centers. Toxicologist Position In Prison Control require a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree. A PharmD degree a professional degree and is usually a four year, for full-time program.
How much do forensic toxicologists make?
The average salary of forensic toxicologist is $34k -64k according to experience, education and job location.
What education do you need to be a forensic toxicologist?
A forensics toxicologist usually have a bachelor degree in clinical chemistry, pharmacology or other science field. But master degree will earn better job status. This field depends on scientific learning and we know that science is growing day by day.