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5 true crime careers

This article appears in: Business and Accounting, Engineering, Law, Psychology, Science
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From sensationalist newspaper coverage of crime to podcasts, documentaries, novels and films, humans have long been fascinated by the macabre. When it comes to careers involved in investigating criminal activity, the options extend far beyond the coffee-drinking detectives shown on your favourite series. 

These jobs allow you to follow your unique interests at uni while still pursuing a career interwoven with the criminal justice system.

Forensic psychologist

Blending an interest in both human behaviour and the criminal justice system, forensic psychology is a fascinating field. 

From consulting with a legal team on criminal motivation and conducting psychological assessments on accused criminals to providing expert psychological evidence in court and more, the work done by forensic psychologists is both challenging and rewarding. 

How to get there? The usual (though not the only) route to become a registered psychologist means a minimum of six years of study plus supervised practice. Most psychologists gain their strong foundation in the field through an undergraduate degree like the Bachelor of Psychological Science followed by an Honours qualification, before applying for an advanced psychology degree – either a master’s degree or a doctorate.

To be able to work independently, you’ll need to gain an endorsement with supervised practice in forensic psychology and registration with the Psychology Board of Australia. It may seem like a long road, but you’ll be spending your career applying your specialised psychological expertise to aid the legal and criminal justice systems.

Forensic psychologists find employment in the courts, prison system, state and federal police forces, family and child protection services, insurance companies, rehabilitation services, private practice, and more.

Forensic accountant

Got an inquisitive mind and attention to detail? Become a forensic accountant to investigate financial-based criminal activity like fraud and embezzlement. 

How to get there? Study a degree like the Bachelor of Accounting or CDU’s Bachelor of Accounting/Diploma of Laws program for that added knowledge of Australia's legal ecosystem. Once graduated, it’s best to work towards becoming CA or CPA qualified and gain work experience to build your expertise in this field.  

There is increased demand for forensic accountants due to the rise of cybersecurity threats, increasingly complex fraud schemes, and a greater emphasis on fraud prevention across all industries.

Forensic accountants are hired by the police force, insurance companies, accounting firms, government organisations like the ATO, and more. 

Forensic scientist

Want to use scientific methods to examine materials associated with crime? Becoming a forensic scientist is a great way to forge a career in the sciences while contributing to criminal investigations. 

From hands-on crime scene roles like fire investigator to behind-the-scenes work identifying unknown chemical substances or analysing soils, explosive residue and DNA, forensic scientists emerge from a wide spectrum of scientific expertise.

How to get there? You’ll need a relevant science qualification like CDU’s four-year Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science Honours program or Master of Medical Laboratory Science. These professionally oriented degrees include industry placements in your desired field, like NT Police Forensics. 

Forensic scientists can find roles in government health departments, plus state and federal police forces.

Forensic engineer

Forensic engineers investigate the causes leading to failures in structures, machines, materials and more. From shoddy craftsmanship or problematic foundations to injuries or deaths caused by defective equipment, it’s an unusual branch of engineering that merges engineering principles and problem-solving with civil and criminal investigations.

Forensic engineers often recreate an event after a failure to figure out what went wrong. The goal is to figure out what triggered the failure and then to figure out how to stop it from happening in the future.

Take the Great Molasses Flood Mystery of 1919 where a steel tank holding over 2 million gallons of molasses ruptured and flooded a densely populated area of Boston causing deaths, injuries and immense structural damage. A civil engineer was hired to investigate and identify the cause – a role that would likely now be undertaken by a forensic engineer.

How to get there? The path is much the same for other professional engineers, starting with a four-year degree that's accredited by Engineers Australia like CDU's Bachelor of Engineering Science Honours

Forensic engineers find roles in insurance companies, law firms and specialist forensic engineering firms.

Criminal lawyer

Law is the obvious choice for those who are fascinated by the legal aspects of true crime. From researching and providing advice all the way post-conviction support, you'll become the link between your client (either a victim of crime or someone accused of a crime) and the criminal justice system.

How to get there? Graduate with a tertiary qualification like the Bachelor of Laws or Juris Doctor followed by Practical Legal Training. Apply for admission to the legal profession through the board authority in your state/territory, then work towards qualifying for a Practising Certificate. See also: How do I become a lawyer?

Many graduates interested in criminal law will try to land roles at organisations like Legal Aid or the DPP or CDPP for a prosecution focus, or they may choose to spend a year as an associate to a judge involved in many criminal cases. 

If you do find that advocacy is your cup of tea and you want to spend more time in court, becoming a criminal barrister could be the next step in your career. It's a long road of study and training, but if you're after an intellectually stimulating career that has an impact on the lives of real people, criminal law is the clear choice. 

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