Forensic engineers are the specialists who investigate the reasons that a product or a building fails, which may cause injury and harm to people. They may also simply need to aid an attorney in a engineering matter or incident that is need of legal resolution. These engineers often make use of trace evidence from the scene of an incident and then use their analysis and investigative skills to determine what actually happened and where the fault lies. This aspect of engineering can lead to the type of interesting career that some engineering students may be looking for.
People who may succeed the most in forensic engineering will be those who generally are thrilled by the science and investigative aspect of the career. While the legal aspects are important, many who are in the field have a burning need to know why a produced item failed to do what is was supposed to do. The National Academy of Forensic Engineers is able to offer credentials, and more information about the field.
Students who are interested in forensic engineering schools will need to seek training to become an engineer first and then follow this up with coursework in forensic science and/or criminal justice. For example, students could choose to complete a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or electrical engineering. Once the student has done this, they can seek licensure in their state and begin to obtain actual work experience.
It is through actual work experience that many engineers begin to gain the knowledge and insight needed to build a forensics engineering career. They may want to begin to take additional classes at this point, even pursuing a master’s degree in engineering or looking to flesh out their skills with a certificate in forensics. They should also begin to seek out opportunities to assist attorneys and others with their engineering expertise. Generally, this work could entail visiting sites, preparing reports, and even providing depositions in court. After an engineer has three years of experience in the litigation process, he or she may be able to apply for certification through the International Board of Forensic Engineering Sciences. As well, candidates are required to have worked professionally in the field for some length of time — eight years for bachelor’s degree holders and six years for holders of graduate level engineering degrees. They must also obtain references from people or organizations that they have worked for, and take an ethics exam and an oral exam. If they complete all the requirements of the organization, they can become certified as a diplomate of the board.
Coursework online. Capstone on-campus.
Online Master's in Forensic Studies
Online Financial Crimes Investigator Certificate
Online BS in Economic Crime Investigation
Online MS in Financial Crime & Compliance Mgmt
Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ)
Online BS in Criminology
Online MS in Information Security & Assurance
As mentioned, students interested in the forensic engineering field need to have an engineering degree first. These engineering degree fields could include, but are not limited, to, civil, chemical, electrical, mechanical and petroleum. As students start a bachelor’s degree, they will take more general education courses and then continue on to more engineering-focused coursework such as introduction to engineering systems, advanced math, and course work designed specifically for the many engineering fields that are available.
In some cases, students will find that it is more advantageous to take some of their courses online. Some engineering colleges are able to offer online and hybrid options for their courses, and this includes Stanford University, which offers both master’s degrees in electrical engineering and mechanical engineering online as well as other degrees and many graduate certificates. NC State University is another option that offers online engineering schooling options for students. Online courses may vary from semester to semester, but some graduate-level classes that have been offered online include Green Chemical Engineering, Structural Dynamics, and Geomechanics of Stress Deformation.
Accreditation is always important whether choosing online or campus-based engineering schools. Remember, specific forensic engineering programs will be hard to find, and students will most likely be able to enter the field simply through experience gained on the job and additional specialized coursework. Accreditation means that a school has met or exceeded certain standards to guarantee that students will receive quality instruction and needed skills.
Stanford, for example, has accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, or ABET. Some of the other accreditation agencies for engineering schools include the Institute of Industrial Engineers, IIE; the National Society of Professional Engineers, NSPE; and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, SME. Those who are taking engineering courses should make it a point to look at a school’s accreditation beforehand to make sure that their program has been accredited as one of quality.
Barry is Managing Editor of ForensicsColleges.com, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, which he co-founded. Barry was previously VP for a financial software company, and currently sits on the board of a K-8 school and lives with his wife and daughters in the San Francisco Bay Area.