Advantages & Disadvantages of Working as a Forensic Chemist

Forensic chemists perform scientific analysis on crime scene evidence such as blood splatters, clothing, and food particles, and communicate how the evidence relates to the criminal investigation. They work in a variety of law enforcement environments, including federal agencies and police department crime labs. Their work is important to solving crimes.


Forensic chemists get to combine their talents and interests in science with the opportunities to aid in criminal investigations and bring about justice. Forensic sciences have become increasingly prominent in the field of criminal justice, especially with advances in DNA testing and diagnostic equipment. For people that have a desire to participate in the process of law enforcement from a behind-the-scenes research perspective, forensic chemistry provides that career path. Good forensic chemists routinely make the difference in getting a criminal conviction with effective evidence analysis.

Mental Stimulation

Pay for forensic science work varies based on the employer, type of work, and geographic location. The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a modest median annual income of $52,180 for forensic science technicians as of May 2011, but those in the upper 10 percent of earners in the field made $84,980 or more a year. Forensic chemists usually enter this field because of the mental stimulation the work provides and curiosity they have for it, not the money. Conducting lab analysis, interpreting results of studies, and communicating them effectively in reports requires a great deal of technical proficiency and mental focus.


Though scientific analysis may be the preferred area of interest for forensic chemists, they also need to develop effective public speaking skills, according to the American Chemical Society. Forensic chemists are sometimes called to testify as a state or federal witness in a criminal case. They have to articulate the results of their evidence analysis in a way that helps a jury and judge understand what the evidence shows, and how it affects the case.

Tedious Work

Despite the glamor some television shows and movies portray in forensic science, much of the work performed by forensic chemists is tedious documentation and record keeping. Because of the importance in accurate lab research, forensic chemists must keep detailed and effective notes. They usually have to log and file each piece of evidence, document the findings of their analyses, and write detailed reports.