Forensic Toxicologist Job and Salary Information

Job Duties, Salary Potential and Education Requirements for Toxicologists

Forensic Toxicologist
Forensic toxicologists can earn a great salary. Cultura/Jason Butcher/Riser/Getty Images

A number of crimes involve toxins entering the body, including poisoning, driving under the influence and illicit drug use. When detectives and criminal investigators suspect a chemical substance is related to a crime, they seek help from forensic toxicologists to get the answers they need, and you can earn a great salary working as a forensic toxicologist.

What Are  Forensic Toxicologists?

Toxicologists study the presence and affects of toxins on living creatures, particularly humans.

They may work for environmental groups, government agencies or independent corporations and laboratories.

The term "forensics" means "of or having to do with a question of law." Forensic toxicologists are simply toxicologists who apply their knowledge to legal matters.

The First Forensic Toxicologists?

The ancient Greeks were perhaps the first society to advance what we now recognize as forensic science through their study of toxins. The Greeks developed an extensive knowledge of poisons, their effects, and their signs and symptoms.

This new knowledge base led ancient investigators to recognize previously undetectable murders due to poisoning.

Since ancient times, tremendous advances have been made in all scientific disciplines, and our ability to detect toxins has evolved significantly. Today, forensic toxicologists play a crucial role in solving crimes and helping to determine causes of death.

What Do Forensic Toxicologists Do?

Forensic toxicologists perform the bulk of their work in a laboratory. They analyze samples from bodily fluids and tissues to determine the presence of harmful or intoxicating chemicals. They use microanalysis and their knowledge of biology and chemistry to quantify these substances.

Forensic toxicologists work for criminal justice agencies, police departments and government forensic labs to aid in solving crimes.

They also work for regulatory agencies such as the Department of Environmental Protection, the Food and Drug Administration and poison control centers to help detect dangerous chemicals in the environment, food and water supply.

In criminal cases, forensic toxicologists look for poisons and toxins such as alcohol, legal and illegal drugs, metals such as lead, dangerous chemicals and gasses such as carbon monoxide.

Sometimes, the toxicologist's findings are the primary factor in determining whether or not a crime even occurred to begin with.

Want to know about other careers in forensic science? Check out these great jobs:

What Education and Skills Do Forensic Toxicologists Need?

If you  want to be a forensic toxicologist, you should plan on earning a bachelor's degree in one of the natural sciences, such as physics, biology or chemistry. You should also be certain to take courses in pharmacology to enhance your knowledge of medicines.

An advanced degree is not usually required if  you're just starting out in a forensic toxicology job, but it can help if you want to advance and promote in your career.

Forensic toxicologists must be highly analytical and able to articulate and report their findings. They may be called upon to provide courtroom testimony, so communications skills are vital.

What Kind of Salary Can Forensic Toxicologists Earn?

Salaries for forensic toxicologists can vary widely and depend on your location and your employer. According to the Society of Toxicology, new toxicologists can expect to earn between $35,000 and $60,000 per  year, depending on your  education level.

Job opportunities are available throughout the country, and you can improve your  chances of finding a job if you are  willing to relocate.

Is a Career as a Forensic Toxicologist Right for You?

If you enjoy laboratory work and find analysis appealing, then you may very much enjoy working as a forensic toxicologist.

The work can at times be repetitive and redundant, but also quite interesting and extremely important.

A career in forensic toxicology can be a great way to apply your scientific knowledge toward a great career in criminology or criminal justice.

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