More than 2.5 million people are employed in engineering and architecture jobs in the United States, but only a very small number of engineers specialize in forensic engineering. Engineers may classify themselves as aeronautical, aerospace, electrical, industrial, or mechanical engineers and also provide forensic engineering-related consulting services.
Forensic engineers work for large corporations, small engineering firms, independent consultants, insurance companies, law firms, and local, state, and federal government agencies. Some federal employers of engineers include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, and Transportation. Other possibilities for engineers can be found in academia as instructors or researchers or as writers for engineering-oriented publications. Many forensic engineers are self-employed. They work part time as forensic engineering consultants and the remainder of the time as educators or as engineers in traditional engineering disciplines, such as mechanical engineering.
No one starts out in their career as a forensic engineer. Instead they begin as traditional engineers in their chosen discipline and gain job skills and experience that will eventually allow them to advertise their services as forensic engineers.
College and graduate school programs can help newly degreed engineers locate jobs. These schools are often in touch with prospective employers that are in need of engineers. Conferences, trade shows, and engineering career fairs can also be good places for new engineers to begin meeting employers and setting up interviews. College graduates can contact these societies to find out about obtaining employment in the field, calendars of events such as conferences or fairs, and more.
As forensic engineers gain more experience, they are given greater responsibilities and tougher problems to solve. At this stage, the engineer will be involved in more decision making and independent work. Some engineers advance to become engineering team managers or supervisors of entire projects. They also may enter administrative positions. In addition, many high level corporate and government executives started out as engineers.
Advancement depends on experience and education. The more experience forensic engineers get, the more independence and responsibilities they will probably gain; however, an engineer with a bachelor’s degree will, in all probability, not make it to the highest levels of the field. Engineers who are interested in going into corporate, industrial, or executive positions often go back to school to earn degrees in law or business. Those who want to become college professors need at least a master’s degree, although most professors have Ph.D.s.
Tips for Entry
Read publications such as the Journal of Forensic Sciences (http://www.aafs.org/resources/journal-of-forensic-sciences) and PE Magazine (http://www.nspe.org/resources/pe-magazine) to learn more about the field.
Join professional associations such as the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the National Academy of Forensic Engineers to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Use social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to stay up to date on industry developments and learn about job openings.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings: