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How to Become a Forensic Toxicologist

Forensic toxicology is an interesting, useful profession that combines a passion for law enforcement with a love of science to identify drugs or other chemical agents in body tissues and blood. While these professionals commonly use their skills to determine whether intoxicating substances were a motivator in a crime, such as the presence of alcohol in the blood after a car accident, they may also test victims to determine if they were drugged before a crime was committed against them. Regardless of the precise employment sought by a forensic toxicologist, pursuing such a career requires a great deal of commitment and stringent educational requirements.

Students who have enrolled in a post-secondary institution will need to pursue a bachelor’s degree in clinical chemistry, forensic science or a related area. Additionally, those seriously considering a career in forensic toxicology may want to attend graduate school; while not strictly required, the field is highly competitive, often making it difficult to find suitable employment with only a four-year degree. At some point during their toxicology education, students would be wise to seek clinical experience in the form of an internship or as a volunteer.

After completing their educational requirements, toxicologists can expect to earn a salary that falls between $50,000 and $96,000 per year. While the most up-to-date salary indicators can be found in job postings for employment in the field, earnings are also impacted by a professional’s level of education and prior experience at a forensic toxicology job or in a similar area.

Once employed as a forensic toxicologist, professionals must complete at least three years of full-time work in the field to take the certification exam offered by the American Board of Forensic Toxicology. Additionally, those students seeking certification must have also completed their bachelors’ degrees in a natural science at an accredited school; a thorough study of biology and chemistry will also be required.

Whether students are considering toxicology as a college major or they have already received an appropriate degree, working in the biology-based sector of law enforcement is often a rewarding, interesting career that provides both financial security and job satisfaction. Despite the fact that many future forensic toxicologists worry that burnout will be a serious problem, those who truly enjoy critical thinking, scientific reasoning and a structured lab environment as a workspace may find that this job is perfect for their personalities.