“There is literally no end to the number of disciplines
that become ‘forensic’ by definition. Nor is there an
end in sight to the number of present or future specialties
that may become forensic. The examples are many.”
— Anthony Longhetti, BA
Editorial, Journal of Forensic Sciences
The General Section was founded in 1968 and is the third largest section in the Academy. It is the home of established areas of forensic science not fitting into the more narrow definitions or membership requirements of the other sections, newly emerging forensic scientific specialties, or those forensic specialists whose numbers are not sufficient to support a separate section.
The goal of every section of the Academy is to promote professionalism, integrity, competency, education, foster research, improve practice, and encourage collaboration. Membership in the General Section provides opportunities for professional development, personal contacts, and recognition of achievements. Additionally, members can advance their scientific proficiencies by learning from and consulting with scientists with broader experiences and similar interests.
Scope of Work
Members of the General Section represent forensic specialties in the areas of laboratory investigation, field investigation, clinical work, education and research, and other emerging forensic science disciplines.
Forensic scientist examines victim for evidence.
These individuals are employed or practicing in the following disciplines of forensic activity:
- Art and Sculpting
- Aviation/Land Vehicle Accident Investigation
- Credibility Assessment
- Death and Crime Scene Investigation
- Education or Research
- Firearms Analysis
- Management or Administration
- Veterinary Services
New areas of forensic study result from a combination of adaptation, unique problem solving, and advances in natural and social sciences. Other well-established disciplines, such as Anthropology, Odontology, Engineering Sciences, and most recently, Digital & Multimedia Sciences were nurtured in and emerged from the General Section of the AAFS.
The General Section is the Academy’s gatekeeper, always willing to consider accepting new disciplines that develop in response to the needs of the justice system. Our latest accepted discipline is Forensic veterinary sciences, concerned with the health and welfare of animals through the recovery, identification, and examination of material evidence of inhumane destruction, treatment, abuse, neglect, or illicit trade in animals or animal parts for legal purposes. Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to treat or to help veterinarians diagnose the illnesses and injuries of animals.
One of our larger subgroups includes forensic nurses specializing in areas such as sexual assault examination, clinical forensic medicine, and death investigation. Forensic nurses also participate on elder and child abuse teams, mass fatality planning/response, and provide consultation on many other topics of medicolegal significance. These specially trained nurses contribute to any manner of investigations involving human injury or illness.
Education and Experience
All members of the General Section must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Many of the disciplines represented require a master’s or doctorate degree. Work experience requirements vary with educational levels and specific field of interest. Almost all agencies that support forensic science personnel provide opportunities for continuing in-service training and many offer additional advanced training. Student mentoring is an especially important component of education for disciplines such as bloodstain interpretation, medicolegal death investigations, and forensic artistry, for which specific college degree programs have yet to be developed.
Many of the forensic scientists within the General Section work for universities, police agencies (state, city, and local agencies), federal agencies (such as DEA, ATF, and FBI), and criminal investigation arms of the military forces and their support laboratories. Others work for coroners, medical examiners, hospitals, and District Attorney’s offices. Private companies and independent forensic specialists are consultants to either the prosecution or defense. Income is dependent on specialty and geographical area and is generally increasing for the well-trained forensic scientist. Career advancements are available in many agencies and are dependent on the discipline.
As crime continues to evolve with technology and society, forensic scientists will be challenged to respond by adapting established technologies and, where necessary, developing new ones. These emerging forensic science disciplines will continue to be of vital importance to the courts and society in general.
Forensic crime scene investigators assess a mass grave site.
Forensic radiologist interpreting
x-rays for case preparation.