Forensic Careers: Questioned Documents under the Microscope

Have you ever wondered what a questioned document examiner does? Are you interested in working as a questioned document examiner (also known as a forensic document examiner)? What degree will you need? What about scholarships and organizations? This quick guide will give you all the basics you need to know to get started as a forensic document examiner.

What does a forensic document examiner do?

Forensic document examiners analyze signatures (who signed this?), handwriting (did the victim leave a suicide note, or was it written by someone else?), paper (where can this brand of paper be purchased? Is it a special weight or type?), office equipment (was a specific printer used to produce this document?), ink analysis, etc. Their findings can become an important part of building a case and they are an essential part of the judicial process.

What are the requirements to become a forensic document examiner?

There are quite a few requirements to become a forensic document examiner. The first requirement is that you need to have 20/20 vision and not have any form of color blindness. It will be difficult to perform the job duties if you don’t meet these requirements although technology is fast catching up with human capability and in the near future these requirements may be obsolete. For now though, they are still needed.

Next you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or a related degree. If you’re an older or non-traditional student you can get your forensic science degree online while working your regular job. Check out this link for a list of schools offering online forensic science degrees.

Finally, after completing your degree you will need to have twenty four months (2 years) of supervised work/training. This work is performed under the supervision of a primary training officer. After that you can work anywhere that uses your skills.

How much money does a questioned document examiner make?

As a questioned document examiner you can expect to earn between $50,000 and $60,000 per year. Your salary will vary depending on where you are employed but this is the expected average. As far as your schedule goes you can expect to work an average 40 hours a week in a crime lab. You may also occasionally be on call but for the most part it’s a steady schedule.

Who hires questioned document examiners (forensic document examiners)?

The federal government hires forensic document examiners as well as many police departments and even some private companies. There are several places to visit once you begin your job search, USAJobs and Indeed should top the list but don’t forget to check out the relevant associations for your field, many of them list job postings, allow for additional training and provide networking opportunities.

Are there any scholarships available for forensic document examiners?

There are a multitude of forensic science scholarships. Here are the top five forensic science scholarships you need to know about. Don’t forget to check with your school as many schools offer scholarships that may not be directly targeted to forensics but can help cover your tuition if your grades are good enough. Organizations are another great place to check for scholarships; these may be easier to obtain especially if you have recommendations from current organization members.

Organizations that accept forensic document examiners & students in the field

The top organizations to consider joining if you want to be a forensic document examiner include: The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (check out their forensic document examiner sub-group), the Association of Forensic Document Examiners and the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners. You can also check out our full list of forensic science organizations that allow students to join.