What is a Criminalist?

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A criminalist is a criminal justice professional who has a background in science and who uses this background to examine and analyze different pieces of evidence that are found in a criminal case. If you work in criminalistics, you will apply all of the scientific methods that you have learned in your formal training to exam items for evidence that can help prove guilt or eliminate a suspect from the suspect list. The term criminalist is a very general one. Several different types of criminalistics and forensic science specialists work together in the criminal justice system when a case is being investigated or tried. Read on, and learn about the types of criminalistics and what your role will be if you pursue a position in each subfield.

Criminalists Working With Trace Evidence

Trace evidence is evidence that is not easy to detect with the naked eye. As a criminalistic professional that specializes in trace evidence, you will be responsible for analyzing evidence that is microscopic. Some of the materials that you may need to use microanalysis techniques and tools for include soil, hairs, gunshot residue, pollen, fibers, plastic and more. One thing that is unique about trace evidence analysts is that the cases will be unique and there is no way to completely train for every scenario. If you are an analytical individual who likes to deal with the unexpected, this could be the speciality for you.

Criminalists Working With DNA

DNA can be used to identify criminals and to solve cases. The technologies used to identify the genetic code in DNA and biological materials has advanced over the years and now many criminalists are working with DNA collected in cold cases to attempt to solve them. This is a fairly predictable field where you will work with similar materials each day to contribute to the investigation process.

Criminalists Specializing in Indentifying Controlled Substances

Not only does a scientist identify the presence of controlled substances with analytical tools, they will also be in charge of maintaining alcohol analysis instruments and training law enforcement to run tests when an officer suspects that someone is under the influence. If you would like to wear many different hats and you are an expert in chemistry, this could be the speciality for you.

Criminalists Providing Firearm Information or Testing Weapons

If a firearm or another weapon is used to commit a crime, there are criminalists that investigators will turn to for information on the weapon. If a bullet has been retrieved, the criminalistics professional will use marks in the bullet to match the bullet to a firearm. If the weapon has been recovered, they will use marking testing to verify whether or not this is the weapon that was used to commit the crime.

Criminalists can work in several different areas of forensic science within the criminal justice system. If you have always dreamed of working in criminal justice and you also have a scientific mind, working in crime scene investigation could be the perfect field for you. Be sure that you take the time to review all of the degree options available to you and choose a speciality area that interests you the most. Once you earn your degree, you can apply for an entry level position and work up to the title criminalist.