Forensic Toxicologist - Job Description, Duties, Education, Skills, Salary, & Growth

Forensic Toxicologist

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Job Description


Forensic toxicologists work to analyze tissue and blood samples taken from crime scenes to determine the presence and identify the type of chemicals in the sample.

Isolating and identifying these substances is a crucial part of a criminal investigation and demands scientific precision and thoroughness from the toxicologist.

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Responsibilities

 

A forensic toxicologist works in a lab to identify not only poisons but also drugs, alcohol, metals, gases like carbon monoxide, prescription medications, and other chemicals in human tissue samples from crime scenes.

Chemical reagents, sophistical devices, and exacting methodologies are all tools the toxicologist must use skillfully in this process.

The forensic toxicologist needs to work patiently to gain reliable identifications, using chain of custody for physical evidence and clearly documenting every step taken.

The toxicologist must be ready to explain their conclusions clearly and in detail to a jury and to defend their results under cross-examination in the courtroom.

They must also be able to provide an educated opinion on what effect a given substance would have on an individual.

Forensic toxicologists do not work exclusively with murder victims. Today, they are often called on to confirm or exclude the presence of date rape drugs, test athletes for performance enhancements, test animal samples for wildlife crimes, test employees for drugs and alcohol, and analyze samples related to environmental contamination.

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Skills

 

Communication

Must effectively communicate with your co-workers to ensure the best care and the proper procedures. Must be able to communicate in high-stress environments.

Active Listening

Offering your full attention to an individual person or group in order to fully understand problems and their nature.

Critical Thinking

Must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Judgment and Decision Making

Needs to be able to act autonomously and make difficult decisions that would benefit the patient or make corrections. Must consider all benefits and repercussions of potential actions and choose the appropriate one. 

Complex Problem Solving

Must be able to identify complex problems and develop and evaluate corrective options and implement solutions. 

Stress Management

Must be able to endure intense situations and handle pressure that comes with extreme situations you may encounter.

Trustworthiness

Must be trustworthy because you have people's lives in your hands and what you do could help or hurt them. They are entrusted with a great responsibility and must live up to it. 

Perceptiveness

Gauging how people react and read their body language to decipher their feelings and predict their actions. They must be able to determine if people could be a risk to themselves or others and to distinguish truths from lies.

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Working Conditions

 

Working as a forensic toxicologist involves long periods of standing or sitting in a laboratory setting, using microscopes and other equipment or techniques needing lengthy application of fine motor skills.

The lab is usually run by a private drug testing company, a medical examiner's office, or the police. Rigorous scientific protocols need to be observed at all times and chain of custody for evidence must be observed.

The forensic toxicologist often faces a large workload and tight deadlines, along with law enforcement pressure to produce quick results.

They must be able to stay focused, remain calm, and work methodically and correctly regardless of outside pressures.

Working with samples of human tissue and bodily fluids means exposure to unpleasant smells and messes. The details of crimes may also cause emotional distress.

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Salary Outlook

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