Careers Career Paths What Does a Forensic Toxicologist Do? Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, and More Share PINTEREST Email Print The Balance / Alison Czinkota Career Paths Criminology Careers Technology Careers Sports Careers Sales Project Management Professional Writer Music Careers Media Legal Careers US Military Careers Government Careers Finance Careers Fiction Writing Careers Entertainment Careers Book Publishing Aviation Animal Careers Advertising Learn More Table of Contents Expand Duties & Responsibilities Forensic Toxicologist Salary Education, Training, & Certification Skills & Competencies Job Outlook Work Environment Work Schedule Comparing Similar Jobs Frequently Asked Questions By Timothy Roufa Timothy Roufa Tim Roufa wrote about criminology careers and has over 14 years of experience in law enforcement. Learn about our Editorial Process Updated on 08/20/21 A number of crimes involve toxins entering the body, such as poisoning, driving under the influence, and using illegal drugs. Detectives and criminal investigators seek help from forensic toxicologists to get the answers they need when they suspect that a chemical substance is related to a crime. Toxicologists study the presence and effects of toxins on living creatures, particularly humans. They may work for environmental groups, government and law enforcement agencies, or independent corporations and laboratories. The term "forensics" means "of or having to do with a question of law." Forensic toxicologists are simply toxicologists who apply their knowledge to legal matters. They play a crucial role in solving crimes and helping to determine causes of death. Forensic Toxicologist Duties & Responsibilities Forensic toxicologists are responsible for investigating various substances to help solve crimes or detect unlawful contamination of the environment, food, or water supply. Their work includes: Analyzing samples from bodily fluids and tissues to determine the presence or absence of harmful or intoxicating chemicalsCollecting and testing for harmful contaminants in food or the environmentEvaluating determinants and contributing factors in the cause and manner of deathUsing chemical and biomedical instrumentationProviding expert testimonyWorking with medical examiners and coroners to help establish the role of substances related to the cause of death In the law enforcement sphere, forensic toxicologists might work for criminal justice agencies, police departments, or government labs. They might look for poisons and toxins such as alcohol, drugs, metals, chemicals, and gases. Sometimes, the toxicologist's findings are the primary factor in determining whether a crime was committed. Toxicologists might also work for regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and poison control centers to help detect dangerous chemicals in the environment and the food and water supply. Forensic Toxicologist Salary Salaries for forensic toxicologists can vary widely and depend on one's work location and employer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides salary data for forensic science technicians, which is a closely related position. Here are some typical salaries: Median Annual Salary: $60,590 ($29.13/hour)Top 10% Annual Salary: $100,910 ($48.51/hour)Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $36,630 ($17.61/hour) Education, Training, and Certification Forensic toxicologists must complete a bachelor's degree in forensic science, chemistry, clinical chemistry, or a related field through an institution that is accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accrediting Commission (FEPAC). Although a graduate degree is not required, many toxicologists go on to pursue a higher degree to advance their career. Coursework typically includes: General toxicologyPrinciples of forensic scienceApplied statisticsToxic substancesForensic medicine To obtain professional certifications in forensic toxicology, you can contact the American Board of Toxicology (ABT) and the American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT) for candidacy requirements. Forensic Toxicologist Skills and Competencies Forensic toxicologists require certain qualities to perform their job properly. In addition to having a fascination with the effects of chemicals on the human body, as well as the environment, they should have these traits: Highly analytical to make accurate findings Understanding of scientific practices and equipment Patience, efficiency, and focus to gather results under pressure Ability to follow procedures to achieve reliable results Excellent written and verbal communication skills, as they may be called upon to provide courtroom testimony Ability to handle emotionally upsetting details of a crime Job Outlook The field of forensic toxicology has grown to include drug and alcohol testing for employers and traffic enforcement officials, as well as testing animal samples for wildlife criminal investigators. In addition, this field has expanded to include testing for date rape drugs and performance-enhancing substances. The BLS projects that employment of those in the forensic science field will grow by 14% through 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, as a small field, the number of new jobs is estimated at only 2,400 through the next decade. Work Environment Forensic toxicologists perform most of their work in laboratories, where they may be standing for long periods of time. The lab is usually run by a private drug testing company, a medical examiner's office, or the police. You may also spend part of your day working out in the field, such as at a crime scene collecting samples. Work Schedule Expect to work 40 to 60 hours a week, as you manage a heavy workload under stringent deadlines. Hours need to be flexible, as forensic toxicologists are expected to be on call to collect and analyze evidence. In addition, working out in the field visiting crime scenes may also require extended or unusual hours. How to Get the Job APPLY The Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SFT) provides job listings for those seeking forensic toxicology jobs. Other job sites advertising these positions are Science Careers and Indeed. In addition, some of these websites offer tips on resume and cover letter writing, as well as getting and mastering an interview. INTERNSHIPS Look for internships at organizations in your area. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) offers paid internships The Center for Forensic Science Research and Education (CFSRE) also offers internship programs, as well as other types of programs for those new to the field. Comparing Similar Jobs While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not specifically provide information on forensic toxicology careers, they do supply information on forensic science technicians and similar jobs: Biological technician: $46,340Chemical technician: $49,820Chemists and materials scientist: $80,680Clinical laboratory technologist and technician: $54,180Environmental science and protection technician: $46,8500 If you enjoy laboratory work and find analysis appealing, you might enjoy working as a forensic toxicologist. Although the work can be repetitive and redundant at times, it's also interesting and extremely important. A career in forensic toxicology can also be a great way to apply your scientific knowledge toward a career in criminology or criminal justice. Frequently Asked Questions Who offers master's degrees in forensic toxicology? There are several colleges and universities in the U.S. that offer master's degrees in forensic toxicology. They include the University of Kentucky and Thomas Jefferson University, as well as an online program with the University of Florida. Find other forensic programs through the American Academy of Forensic Science. What affects your pay as a forensic toxicologist? Like in many positions, your pay as a forensic toxicologist will likely depend on your education and experience. How long does it take to become a forensic toxicologist? To become a forensic toxicologist, you'll need to earn at least a bachelor's degree, which usually takes a minimum of three years. Further education and/or professional certifications will take additional time.