Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A Career in Forensic Engineering

Forensic engineering is the use of engineering knowledge to determine why a machine or structure failed. As per the 'National Academy of Forensic Engineers' it is the application of engineering sciences in matters relating to, or possibly related to, the system of jurisprudence, including alternative dispute resolution. The forensic engineers are using reverse engineering to determine why a structure, material or part failed to perform as intended. Instead, if that failure caused injury, property damage or was connected to some other criminal case, those results can be used as evidence in court.

Let us take an example of building collapse, bridge collapse, or plane crash; the forensic engineers are involved in identifying the cause, so that any legal action (if required), can be taken up by the Honorable Court to provide the justice to the society, nation, and/or the injured or the relatives.

Forensic Engineering

Then, forensic experts can use their findings in court as evidence. Specifically, if the failure caused human injury or property damage they use their evidence in court.

Who Can be a Forensic Engineer?

To become a forensic engineer, you first need a full curriculum engineering degree and good experience in your area of expertise, because there are as many forensic engineering specialties as there are in general engineering practice disciplines. Forensic engineering may include but not limited to civil engineering, electrical engineering, aerospace engineering, computer science engineering, structural engineering, Audio-Video forensic engineering, etc.

Therefore, you must be a qualified and experienced engineer in any of the specialities, and in addition, you must have a thorough knowledge of the judiciary system (criminal justice system) of your country. It is always better to have a dual degree, means a combination of forensic science and engineering.

My advise is to go for your bachelors in engineering, get some industry experience, learn the process thoroughly, and then opt for masters or diploma in forensic science. In case you have already completed your bachelors in forensic science, then you can go for certain diploma or masters courses in engineering. But the later option is very limited, and do not offer courses in all engineering branches. 

In case you do not have any engineering degree, still you can be a secondary forensic expert who will work on the primary engineering analysis reports by qualified engineers. 

Skills Required:

1. Technical Skills
2. Investigative Skills
3. Communication Skills
4. Legal Skills (Knowledge of the Law and legal proceedings)
5. Court Presentation Skills
6. Basic Computer Skills

 What are the Challenges?

Becoming a forensic engineer is a challenge in itself. It's a long term process. If you do not have your fundamentals clear at undergraduate level, it is very difficult to succeed as a forensic engineer later on. Secondly, no two cases are same, one may require one set of skills and expertise, and other may be completely different. In addition to examining the site, evaluating debris and assessing the cause, forensic engineers must also interview people involved in planning and construction to see what protocols they may or may not have followed. There is evidence beyond that too. Forensic engineers should have litigious expertise. This means understanding how to handle potential evidence, how to present it in court and how to document in great detail the entire investigative process.

The other challenge is the presence of a dual degree course. There are very few institutions around the world offering such courses, and few online options are also available. Some are:

1. National Academy of Forensic Engineers
2. Saddleback College
3.  University of California at San Diego 
4. Columbia University
5.  University of California at Berkeley 
6. Northwestern University 
7. University of Amsterdams
8. National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli
9. Edward E. Whitacre, Jr. College of Engineering
10. TuDelft

However, if you have real passion, it is booming career with high demand and great pay. Also, you will be able to do lot of research in this area further. 

Disclaimer: This post is for an idea only for your career path, more details can be checked on the link provided. 


  1. Thanks for sharing. Forensic experts servicing the insurance industry are required to utilize a reliable methodology to discover the cause of the claim.

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