Forensic Engineer: What is it? Job Description and Salary

Forensic engineering focus on failure investigation, as engineering's primary responsibility is to create safe, sound structures. Even the most exacting designs are susceptible to errors during production, construction, or later. A forensic engineer is in charge of pinpointing the causes of a breakdown and offering expert testimony to fix any structural problems that may already be present.

Forensic engineers investigate and engineer structural failures in buildings and manufactured parts, collaborating with law enforcement and design teams to find evidence and identify causes. They evaluate information and assess breakdowns using engineering principles and procedures, and can be used in court for catastrophic failures or as witnesses. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) seeks to reduce failures in the field of forensic engineering through standards and procedures. ASCE provides publications, job postings, and continuing education courses for practicing and aspiring engineers.

Forensic Engineer: What is it? Job Description and Salary

Views on the Professions of Forensic Engineers

There are no career-specific statistics available for forensic engineers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nevertheless, between 2019 and 2029, 5,500 new positions would be needed, according to forecasts for the related industry of civil engineering (BLS 2021). These positions will be necessary to stay current with construction and project management plans in order to reconstruct and repair damaged buildings and ensure that new infrastructure is safe for people.

Engineers that specialize in civil and forensic work can be found in offices both inside and outside of construction sites. The top industries where civil engineers can find employment are listed below (BLS 2021):

  • 49 per cent of services in engineering
  • The state government receives 12% of the total budget, excluding money for hospitals and schools.
  • 10% of local government, excluding the healthcare and education industries.
  • About 6% of construction is for non-residential constructions.
  • Postal services: 3% of the federal government's budget is not allocated to them.

What Do Forensic Engineers Earn in Relation to their Salary? estimates that the average forensic engineer salary is $85,525, with incentives that can reach $4,966 and profit-sharing opportunities that can reach $5,500 ( June 2021). Although they are not included in the BLS' occupational statistics, forensic engineers earn an average yearly pay of $95,440 in the closely related area of civil engineering (BLS, May 2020). The lowest 10th percentile of forensic engineers makes less than $56,160, while the highest 10th percentile earns more than $144,810.

Salary calculations for forensic engineers depend on a number of variables:

  • The cost of living in a certain area
  • Duration of employment in years
  • The number of forensic engineers currently employed in the region
  • Work in the public or private sector.
  • Specialization initiatives or certified ongoing education

Forensic Engineers Training

A license as an engineer requires eight years of post-secondary education and professional experience. Learn more about forensic engineers' education and licensing specifications by reading on.

Step 1: complete the final two years of secondary school.

To improve their chances of acceptance into a reputable engineering college or university program, high school students who want to major in forensic engineering are advised to enroll in as many courses as they can in math, drafting, statistics, the natural sciences, computer science, criminal justice, and communication skills.

Step 2: Complete a four-year bachelor's program in engineering that Abet has approved.

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has certified 4,307 engineering programs at 846 colleges and universities throughout 41 nations. Many states require enrollment in a bachelor's degree program that has been ABET-approved for engineering certification and licensing. A good illustration is ‌California Polytechnic State University's four-year bachelor of science in architectural engineering, which emphasizes design, structural engineering, and construction management. Students proficient in material strength and seismic design applications frequently choose to pursue careers in structural engineering, a field connected to forensic engineering.

Step 3: Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) 

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) offers the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Engineers must pass the first of two tests to get licensed.

The FE test is open to recent graduates who have already earned or will soon earn a bachelor's degree in engineering from a program authorized by the EAC/ABET.

Step 4: Four years of experience working as an engineer

The majority of states require candidates to present documentation of four years of post-college work experience in the engineering business in order to sit for the second and final engineering license exam offered by NCEES.

Step 5: The Engineering Principles and Practice (PE) test with flying colors

Only candidates with a bachelor's degree in engineering from an ABET-accredited university and four years of professional engineering experience are eligible to take the NCEES Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) test. Candidates will acquire official license credentials as a Professional Licensed Engineer (PE) and be eligible to legally practice as an engineer after achieving the passing score required by each state licensing board.

The cross-disciplinary character of this field allows engineers with specific areas of focus to operate as professional experts in particular situations, despite the NCEES not offering a forensic engineering examination. In the event of a bridge collapse, an architectural engineer, for example, may provide the investigative, structural, and legal knowledge needed to manage concerns related to structural failure.

Step 6: Earn a Master's or Doctoral Degree (Two to Four Years)

A master's or doctoral degree in engineering offers benefits like commitment, specializing, and increased earnings. East Carolina University offers online master's programs and an on-site doctoral degree in technology management and occupational safety, preparing graduates for leadership roles in occupational and technical engineering domains, including forensic engineering.

What are the Responsibilities of Forensic Engineers?

Failure investigations involve a high level of risk, thus forensic engineers must be both technically proficient in their areas of specialization and excellent communicators. To enable improvements or demonstrate the specific facts of an accident for legal actions, forensic engineers must determine the underlying cause of a failure. One must pay strict attention to detail and have a good understanding of the scientific approach to succeed as a forensic engineer.

The following obligations and responsibilities can be found in a typical forensic engineering job description:

  • Observing the situation after a structural failure
  • Collecting forensic evidence at the scene of a structure failure.
  • Locating the structural breakdown's origin utilizing technical and scientific expertise.
  • Overseeing the replacement or maintenance of infrastructure.
  • Writing official papers describing structural collapse.
  • Testifying in judicial proceedings concerning structural failure.
  • Carrying out risk evaluations on construction sites.
  • Recognize the structural traits of different building materials.

In Forensic Engineering, A Variety of Specialisty Fields

Because structural failure can occur everywhere, forensic engineering is a unique multidisciplinary field. Even though a forensic engineer may be knowledgeable in a range of subjects, a candidate may be able to advance their career by obtaining board certification in a particular specialty. The following board certifications are available from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), with the prerequisites being a PE license or the equivalent overseas, a master's degree, and eight years of post-licensure engineering experience:

  • Geotechnical engineering
  • Ocean engineering
  • Water resources engineering
  • Envision sustainability professional
  • Coastal engineering
  • Navigation engineering
  • Ports engineering

Certification in Forensic Engineering

An engineering license requires a bachelor's degree from an institution certified by ABET, success on the FE exam, four years of experience, and success on the PE exam. The NCEES administers these tests. Engineers need to be aware of the various licensure requirements that each state imposes. ASCE provides professional certification services in addition to networking opportunities and exam preparation services.

Additionally, engineering professionals with a PE license and seven to twenty years of management experience can apply for one of three distinctive certifications from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC):

  • Management Engineer (MgtEng)
  • Executive Engineer (ExecEng)
  • Management Professional (MgtPro)

Certification in Forensic Engineering

Not to mention, the International Board of Forensic Engineering Sciences (IBFES) offers a pathway to certification to individuals who hold at least a qualifying bachelor's degree, three references, and proof of experience working in the litigation process (including depositions and testimonies in the three years prior to seeking the certification). Applicants with bachelor's degrees must have at least eight years of experience, but those with graduate degrees or PE licenses must have at least six years.

The length of experience necessary varies depending on the applicant's educational background. Both an oral test and an evaluation of their ethical character are required. Certification is valid for five years.