Where Does a Forensic Toxicologist Work?

Where a forensic toxicologist works depends on their job, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that almost 90 percent of forensic science technicians work in morgues, police departments, crime laboratories and medical examiner offices. Some forensic toxicologists may also work in universities teaching, researching and consulting with law enforcement.

Private Forensic Toxicologist

Forensic toxicologists may work in private consulting firms or research facilities as members of highly functional forensic teams. They may work in forensic and human identification projects. This means they will be responsible for the technical oversight and supervision of analytical chemistry personnel. They will monitor chemical drug testing performed in support of forensic operations and ensure that forensic processes follow laboratory accreditation and standard operating procedures.

They collaboratively and productively work with laboratory staff and management. They must have the ability to prioritize caseworks in fast-paced environment while maintaining focus on quality and safety. Most of these job candidates will have a master’s degree in a physical science, such as chemistry, toxicology or pharmacology, and several years of experience working in an accredited forensic toxicology lab. Entry-level job applicants will need a bachelor’s degree in a physical science and anywhere from five to seven years’ experience.

Professor of Forensic Toxicology

A professor of forensic toxicology will teach classes about standard theories, procedures and laws. This could include instrumentation methods, sample preparation, specimen types, analytical methods and finding interpretation models. They will introduce students to basic organic and analytical chemistry knowledge. They may teach students about how to perform instrument maintenance, troubleshoot analytical challenges and understand method development and validation tools. They may introduce students to the development and implementation of Laboratory Inventory Management Systems (LIMS).

Their teaching duties will include the development of class syllabuses, the maintenance of department sanctioned forms and the preparation of notes, lectures, projects and other assignments. They may maintain regularly scheduled office hours, but may also consult with local law enforcement or research projects and organizations. They must have experience with the practical and theoretical aspects of forensic toxicology. They will also need experience presenting lectures and presentations.

Public Forensic Toxicologist

A public forensic toxicologist will be employed by the government to conduct advanced chemical and toxicology reports and projects. They may supervise analytical chemists who perform routine tests and supervise lab assistants who store and access specimens. They must ensure that all employees follow safety and quality standards and that all lab work is conducted in accordance with lab SOPs, organizational policies and professional standards. They may certify laboratory results and respond to any official inquiries.

Forensic toxicologists may perform immunoassay, colorimetric and spectrophotometric analyses. They may conduct solid to liquid and liquid to solid extractions. They may use gas and liquid chromatography and associated mass spectrometry. They perform technical and supervisor reviews of subordinates casework and administrative notes. They interact and collaborate with other scientists and professionals to ensure high quality and accurate deliverables.

Related Resource: Become a Crime Lab Analyst

Where a forensic toxicologist works ultimately depends on their career goals and education. Readers can learn about accredited forensic toxicology laboratories at the American Board of Forensic Toxicology.