How to Become a Forensic Toxicologist

Genuine interest in science can encourage you to become a forensic toxicologist when looking into possible careers. Forensic toxicology utilizes the various disciplines of science including analytical chemistry, pharmacology, and clinical chemistry to determine the substance ingested that led to death. It is not always easy to identify substances that have already entered the body because of the tendency of the natural processes of the body to alter them.

What is a Forensic Toxicologist?

Forensic toxicologist tests bodily substances such as urine, blood, hair sample, oral fluid, and other bodily fluids taken from dead people for the purpose of determining what may have caused or contributed to the cause of death. The result of a forensic toxicologist’s job will have no direct bearing as to the question of why and who committed the crime. What it hopes to answer is if there are physical substances taken from the crime scene that could provide a clue as to what actually happened.

The primary responsibility of a forensic toxicologist is interpreting results of a toxicological analysis. This would include determining the presence of toxic substances and in what concentrations they are in, plus the probable effect of the toxic chemicals on a person. In effect, the work of a forensic toxicologist is purely limited to testing and providing results.

In the absence of the most common bodily substances mentioned for testing, a forensic toxicologist can also obtain tissue samples from the brain, liver, spleen, and the vitreous humour of the eye. The gastric contents of a deceased person’s stomach are also looked into during regular autopsy. This is especially useful when testing for probable poisoning. Other organisms found in the body such as bacteria or maggots can also be tested.

Education and Learning

Prospective forensic toxicologists need to complete a bachelor’s degree in science preferably in pharmacology, chemistry, clinical chemistry, forensic science, or toxicology. Bachelor degree holders usually have access to entry-level job positions in forensic toxicology while higher positions require graduate-level education.

It is best to choose schools accredited by the American Academy of Forensic Science. Certifications from the American Board of Forensic Toxicology, the American Board of Toxicology, or the American Board of Clinical Chemistry are valued credentials for those seeking career advancement opportunities. Successful forensic toxicologists know how to sustain their interest in remaining current as new chemicals and compounds are produced.

Becoming a Forensic Toxicologist

Entry-level positions in forensic toxicology require completion of a bachelor’s degree in a related field. After graduating and obtaining certifications from various authoritative organizations, job seekers can have important access to new and vital information by acquiring membership with a forensic organization or society such as the Forensic Science Foundation and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. These organizations can form part of a networking system for finding the most suitable job.

Job opportunities exist on forensic laboratories, federal agencies such as the FBI, DEA, and Customs, or the offices of district attorneys. Colleges and universities can also offer teaching opportunities while the military and some private firms may have vacancy for actual laboratory work. Do not limit your choices by knowing how to be a forensic toxicologist.