A forensic detective, also known as a forensic scientist, uses scientific analysis to help solve crimes for law enforcement. Forensic detectives review evidence from crime scenes and analyze how a crime may have been committed and who the perpetrator might be. Certain qualifications are necessary for this profession.
Forensic detectives may major in forensic science if offered by their university, or in criminal justice with a forensic focus. If you're more interested in the science side of forensic work, you can get a bachelor's degree in a field such as chemistry, biology, physics or molecular biology. Whatever your major, you'll want to take classes like chemical analysis, DNA analysis and evidence law. A forensic detective can also be certified by specialty boards in areas such as entomology, document examination, toxicology and clinical chemistry.
A forensic detective needs strong verbal and written communication skills, and should be adept at using scientific methods and logic to point out the strengths and weaknesses of the scenarios he's studying. He should have sufficient training to be able to look at a complex situation and identify patterns or notice omissions. The detective should also stay abreast of the latest technology so his crime analysis is as thorough as possible.
A forensic detective should have a solid understanding of chemical structures and the processes these undergo over time. He should understand the tissue and cell function of plants and animals, and how they react to outside factors. A solid foundation in algebra, statistics, calculus and geometry is recommended. A good forensic detective should also know how to handle evidence so it's admissible in court.
A master's degree gives a forensic detective a better chance at being promoted. Forensic supervisors, also known as DNA technical leaders, must have a master's degree in a field related to the study of DNA, such as molecular biology. A master's degree in forensic science is usually not as helpful because advanced forensic careers rely heavily on drug and DNA analysis. A student considering a master's degree in forensic science should ensure the degree includes a heavy emphasis on laboratory classes if he doesn't already have an undergraduate science degree.