A forensic toxicologist examines the effects of chemicals on living systems. Oftentimes, they are tasked with figuring out if drugs or alcohol led to the death or intoxication of a person.
Specializations exist within the field of forensic toxicology. Postmortem toxicology, for example, involves analyzing whether drugs or alcohol lead to the death of a specific person. To determine this, physical samples of fluid and tissues are gathered by a forensic pathologist. These samples are then given to the toxicologist, who will perform the analysis.
Other toxicologists work with law enforcement officials to determine whether chemicals were a factor in a crime or accident. Many toxicologists are now employed in workforce drug testing, and some are involved in the drug testing of professional athletes.
Education & Training
Forensic toxicologists must be familiar with a wide variety of instruments and techniques, including:
- Qualitative and quantitative analytical techniques
- Analytical chemistry techniques
- Gas and liquid chromatographic techniques
- Antigen-antibody immunoassay methods
The ideal degree, according to most employers, is a four-year bachelor's degree that includes coursework in chemistry and pharmacology. Graduate programs in forensic toxicology are also available.
There are many employment opportunities available to forensic toxicologists. They can work in law enforcement laboratories, medical examiners' offices, workforce drug testing laboratories, and in organizations that analyze the use of drugs in professional sports.
The median annual salary for a toxicologist is $67,835.