What is a Forensic Toxicologist?

Forensic toxicology is a branch of science that uses chemistry, pharmacology, and other disciplines to determine the effect of chemicals on the human body, and a forensic toxicologist is the professional that use these disciplines. A forensic toxicologist performs a variety of tests to help in medical and legal investigations. He or she works as part of a team to investigate crimes and potential causes of death. A forensic toxicologist works behind the scenes to determine the presence or absence of chemicals in the body. A forensic toxicologist has specific duties, qualifications, and career outlook.

Forensic Toxicologist Duties

A forensic toxicologist performs a variety of scientific tests on bodily fluids and tissue from the human body, such as urine, blood, hair, stomach contents, and reproductive fluids. He or she works to determine if any foreign chemicals or drugs are present in the body and if these substances may have contributed to a crime or carry legal consequences. He or she looks for alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medications, poisons, metals, carbon monoxide, and other chemicals. He or she analyzes how these chemicals could have affected the functions of the human body and the actions of the individual in various situations. A forensic toxicologist commonly works in a laboratory with highly sophisticated tools and instruments and techniques to determine the incidence of chemicals in a sample. A forensic toxicologist must document all actions in performing tests and maintain the integrity of the samples to ensure contamination does not occur. He or she prepares reports that identify chemicals and the level of concentration in the body.

Forensic Toxicologist Qualifications

A forensic toxicologist must have at least a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, pharmacology, or other closely related area. Some employers prefer individuals to have a graduate degree in the field, and some postsecondary institutions offer degrees in forensic toxicology. The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission accredits these programs. A forensic toxicologist with sufficient work experience has the option to obtain certification from the American Board of Forensic Toxicology. A forensic toxicologist must display patience and the ability to follow specific steps to accurately perform tests that yield precise results. He or she must have good fine motor skills as working with small samples in common. Detail orientation and ability to work under pressure are also necessary attributes. A forensic toxicologist must regularly keep abreast with new technologies, methodologies, and chemicals. He or she must complete continuing education on a regular basis.

Career Outlook for a Forensic Toxicologist

As stated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for toxicologists is projected to rise 13 percent by the year 2024. As the field of forensic toxicology advances and new chemicals become widespread is the global society, more forensic toxicologists will be needed to determine the effects on the human body. Career opportunities are available in a variety of settings such as law enforcement, environmental agencies, and business organizations.

Related Resource: US Marshal

A career as a forensic toxicologist is a great choice for those fascinated by how chemicals affect the human body and determining the relevance for various situations, including traffic accidents, accidental death, wrongful death, and even sports investigations and business screenings. Working as a forensic toxicologist is a fast-paced, rewarding career for those with a genuine passion for the field.