Considering A Career In Forensic Ballistics?

Written By Arman Zulhajar on Saturday, March 10, 2012 | 12:46 AM

By Miles Vitnar


If you want a career in forensic ballistics you are obviously serious about forensics itself and firearms. This fascinating division of forensics was probably first used in Court to steer towards a conviction in London in 1835. Subsequently, this science has undoubtedly become a lot more complicated.

Forensic ballistics involves the collection, identification, classification and analysis of evidence relating to firearms in criminal investigations. This may involve distinguishing tool marks (or breech marks) that can be transferred from the weapon to a fired bullet and bullet fragments as well as the trajectory of the bullets fired. Other areas include gun powder residue analysis, finger prints, fibres and blood associated with the weapon or bullets. As with many areas of forensic science, ballistics works closely with all departments including the law enforcement agencies.

The firearm itself does not need to be located to obtain a match, and indeed, this match does not always demand a lot of effort on the part of the forensic ballistics expert. The FBI and the specialist Firearms-Toolmarks Unit, keep a fully integrated national database generally known as 'Drugfire'. When facts are entered into the database, it will seek a match with other information and flag this up to the user.

If you're considering a career in forensic ballistics and expecting a top pay check, no way! Once you leave college, and according to any past experience you may have, you could expect an average of between 22000 to 35000 dollars in the US. Increments are typically paid every half year or so depending on how you advance. The income is low as you continue to be in training for at least two years after you start, so don't expect to be heavily involved in anything too serious initially.

Your on-going training demands a great deal of further reading on all relevant areas of law such as identifying firearms, wound analysis, different ammunition etc. You will also need to attend seminars and courses to ensure you understand the way to handle evidence, how to safety assemble and disassemble firearms and microscope techniques. You will end up well versed in how guns and ammunition are produced, how to give expert testimony in the courtroom and also attend many more lectures and seminars - much like being back college! As with any forensics career, learning is dynamic as new strategies and machinery is continually evolving.

A career in forensic ballistics is just that, a career for life. If you're a bit uncertain, think hard prior to going down this road since it is a long one. It will be your job to thoroughly investigate the evidence and try and keep one step ahead, and when required, to present clear and explicate evidence in court.




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