How To Become A Forensic Toxicologist
Using analytical and clinical chemistry and pharmacology to aid legal investigation is the job of a forensic toxicologist. Forensic toxicology is a branch of science used to serve the law by providing scientific techniques to solve crimes. It is used in the investigation of death, poisoning, and drug used in crimes.
Forensic toxicology is used to investigate possible causes of death by using chemicals on the human body. For example, poisoning or excessive use of alcohol during driving.
Does forensic toxicology investigate what might have been the scenario before death? How much drug was used on the body, or was the amount enough to kill the person? Did The person committed suicide, or was it forced death? A careful investigation by forensic toxicologists reveals the hidden secrets of crime.
What is Toxicology
Toxicology, also known as the “Science of poisons” is studying the effect of chemicals on living organisms, particularly human beings. Using toxicology knowledge, 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 investigate crimes that involve poisoning of human beings or excessive use of drugs. Whenever a crime is being reported, the teams are called to the crime location, and the samples are collected from the location. After collecting samples, several tests are being performed to determine which toxic substances are present, in what amount, and their effect on the body.
Definition of a forensic toxicologist: someone who performs the duties of collecting poison-related samples from crime and performing the necessary tests to gather helpful information for the investigation of a crime.
Forensic toxicology deals with the number of harmful substances used and studies how the body’s natural process affects the material, such as chemical changes and dilution.
Forensic toxicology and death investigation toxicology are often used interchangeably, so the next time you hear one of these words, they do not get confused as they are almost the same things.
Toxicologist Education Requirements
A forensics toxicologist usually has a bachelor’s degree in clinical chemistry, pharmacology, or another science field. However, a master’s degree will earn better job status. This field depends on scientific learning, and we know that science is growing day by day. The use of technology along with scientific research is a must nowadays. With emerging technologies, a forensic toxicology job requires a person who enjoys the mix of science and technology and can keep up his learning with modern studies.
Different certifications will not only upgrade job status but will also provide up-to-date learning. Students must earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree accredited from FEPAC (forensic science education program accreditation commission). American board of forensic toxicology, American board of clinical chemistry, and American Board of toxicology provide certification to experienced personals in the field. A person who loves to learn and knows how to remain up to date is welcome in the field.
A toxicologist has to earn a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields.
- Forensic sciences
- Clinical Chemistry
Or any other related 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 means that you might find this program in the Criminal Justice department in one university. In contrast, in the other, you might find it in the health sciences department. Generally, you can find the forensic toxicology program in 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 accredited universities 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 employment chances and get a good reputation in your respective fields. The same is the case with forensic toxicology.
Most forensic toxicologists are well aware that training and certification can strengthen their CV, due to 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 fulfill 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 examining 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 that a candidate must fulfill 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 fulfill the requirements 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 that you must take to advance your career in forensic toxicology.
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.
Pursue an undergraduate degree: the second step is to start your Bachelor’s degree. Although you get employment in a laboratory with a two-year degree, you are advised to go for a four-year bachelor’s program if you plan to advance in the field.
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 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.
Consider an advanced degree or certifications: Once you have firsthand experience working in the laboratory, you must start looking for a college or university where you can earn advanced level education. The advanced level degrees include certifications from reputed institutions or Masters’s Degrees from universities. If you are thinking of continuing your job, start looking for universities 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 postmortem toxicology
- Human performance toxicology
- Doping control
- Workplace drug testing
A forensic toxicologist may choose to do specialization in one of the above disciplines. The government law enforcement agencies mainly employ forensic toxicologists for performing the tests on the collected evidence and extract useful information that might help resolve a crime.
Forensic toxicologists with higher educational degrees may also choose to work in different laboratories to gain relevant experience in the field. For example, before specialization, one might work in chemistry labs, biological labs, medical areas, or pharmacology. The knowledge gained during these jobs will help me understand the methodologies used in a forensic toxicologist.
Forensic toxicologists might also choose to pursue their careers in academia and pursue higher degrees such as a Ph.D. 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 employed mainly by federal, state, and local level law enforcement agencies. They work in the laboratories to gather the information from the evidence, which can collect valuable information.
However, the list of potential employers of forensic toxicologists is not refined to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies like FBI CIA Police there are many more avenues on which forensic toxicologists can get employed.
These are the potential employment opportunities for 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 the “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. 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 primarily working in the laboratory; however, at times, you might be called to the crime scene to collect 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.
Secondly, your job will require you to have analytical skills, critical thinking, investigative nature, and a tendency to conduct research. If you have the following traits in yourself or want to build them up, forensic toxicology is the right career choice.
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 review research papers. The primary task is to analyze risk and identify harmful side effects and outcomes. Make maximum use of biomedical and chemical instruments to conduct specific 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 laboratory analysis results. Perform reconstructive crime scenarios, collect physical evidence at significant crime, take photographs and photomicrographs.
Forensic Analysts: are part of the police department team. Their job is to process latent evidence 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 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, performing several tests using advanced techniques for in vivo and in vitro tests, reusing experimental data to analyze the toxicity of drugs, creating safety profiles and procedures, and balancing potential benefits against any risks.
Duties Of A Forensic Toxicologist
A forensic toxicologist will study the blood and tissue samples and try to determine the type of chemical used on the body.
A forensics toxicologist will carefully analyze the samples as various types of poisons and drugs can harm the human body. Furthermore, any finding can lead to a severe investigation upgrade.
They will perform the test using technology and tools. Their work needs careful analysis and demands high precision.
During an autopsy, they will use different techniques and methodologies to read samples.
A forensic toxicologist will check for the possible chemicals used in crime.
This includes investigation of :
- Harmful gases
In the human body.
Forensic toxicologists must pay great attention while performing tests as the results can be beneficial in an investigation.
A forensic toxicologist will also document all the processes. Every activity should be mentioned and reported in documents. It will not only aid the criminal investigation but will also save the evidence in a documented form.
A forensic toxicologist can also be summoned in court to testify about findings. He may also educate the jury about his findings and will be held responsible for his words. He should make so careful scientific opinion.
Many institutions rely on the findings of forensic toxicologists.
A forensic toxicologist may also deal with the cases of use and impact of chemicals on the overall environment.
Where Do Forensic Toxicologists Work?
A forensic toxicologist works in laboratories run by law enforcement institutions. They can also work in private labs and under medical examiners.
Their duty can be hectic. Different tests require long hours of work, so a dedicated individual who can work for a considerable amount of time without getting exhausted or bored can be an excellent forensic toxicologist. The job can be a physical as well as emotional challenge for a person. A forensic toxicologist will be opened to investigation so sometimes handling emotional trauma about the crime is difficult for the person.
Moreover, different samples can be tough to handle due to solid odor or wear and tear body parts.
Different scientific protocols must be followed properly to make sure about the error-free investigation.
How long 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 requires a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree. A PharmD degree a professional degree and is usually a four year for the full-time program.
What is the salary of a Forensic Toxicologist?
Generally, the forensic toxicologist is about $75,000 annually. It may vary based on the agency to agency
and state to state. Laboratory directors and seasoned toxicologists command salaries of $100,000 or
more. Freshers usually initiate their careers in the $60,000 range.
Forensic toxicology is opening new doors to the investigation. Now we can rely on facts and findings because of modern-day technology. Solving crime is becoming more accessible and rational with the help of forensic toxicology. No one can say no to scientific and technological revolutions. As the population is growing, crime rates are increasing too. Furthermore, the demand to solve crimes through careful investigation techniques and scientific facts builds a workspace for the forensic toxicologist. The job demand is expected to grow in the near future.
Frequently Asked Questions
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