Learn How to Become a Ballistics Expert

Ballistics experts are also referred to as firearm examiners in the field. Requirements can vary in different states, but in most cases a bachelor's degree in the related sciences or criminal justice is required to work in a forensics lab as a ballistics expert. However, some forensics laboratories may accept experience with firearms as a sufficient substitution. Occasionally police officers gain further instruction and enter the field. Learning a niche specialty might increase competitiveness and salary. Find Ballistic Expert related degree programs below.

Job Duties

Ballistics experts often work for police forces, though they can also be employed by private agencies as well, which is becoming increasingly more common. These forensic experts analyze guns and weapons used to commit crimes. Guns leave ballistic "fingerprints," which result from the weapon's individual gun's twists and grooves that spin the bullet as it shoots. These are analyzed by the ballistics expert. They also analyze powder markings and bullet holes at the crime scene. Utilizing technology such as computer databases and lasers at the scene are a large part of their job. Ballistics experts collect, study, and sort evidence and determine its importance as related to investigations. They may testify in court and serve as witnesses for cases as well.

Salary and Outlook

Ballistics experts are specialists in the field of forensic science. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for ballistics experts, who are classified under forensic science technicians is $52,840. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

(Sources: American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, Google books: The Practice of Crime Scene Investigation By John Horswell, Google books: Detective Work with Ballistics, by David West, Bureau of Labor Statistics)

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Program outcomes vary according to each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guaranteed.
Earning a degree may not qualify you for specialized careers that require more education or experience in the field.