Is Forensic Engineering the Right Career for You?

by Nancy Ordman

Engineers who have several years of experience, a professional engineer (PE) credential, and who get a lot of satisfaction from solving mysteries might want to consider working as forensic engineers. Many forensic engineers got their feet wet by serving as an expert witness at a trial or examining a new product for potential flaws. The work offers variety and the opportunity to do “real”

FBI Evidence Response Team surveys the collapsed portion of I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis in 2007. Credit: Kevin Rofidal, U.S. Coast Guard

engineering – figuring out how and why a building or bridge or system failed and how to prevent such failures in the future.

The first forensic engineers typically examined structural failures, particularly of bridges, and for years most forensic specialists started their careers as civil, structural or architectural engineers. In the 20th century, with the development of new means of travel (automobiles, airplanes, subway trains), sophisticated materials that manufacturers incorporated into sophisticated products, and an increasingly litigious society, engineers from backgrounds ranging from civil and mechanical engineering to naval architecture and digital forensics are called on to investigate all manner of problems.

Forensic engineers work in consulting engineering firms and government agencies; some do this work part-time in addition to full-time jobs in their area of specialization. Demand is expected to grow steadily, and compensation is concomitant with experience and job complexity.

For more about forensic engineering, read this article on Engineering360