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Forensic Radiography – How to Become a Forensic Imaging Technologist

Death has been a preoccupation with humanity since the dawn of time. It is seen as a major theme in the earliest literature that goes back to ancient Old English texts. Since those periods, the subject of death has become a necessity not only as a mental idea but in the field of archaeology, anthropology, and the urban common man’s mental construct. When it comes down to criminology and police cases, the subject of murder and forensic science always comes up where human remains have to be scanned, analyzed, identified, and dated. This can be done to see whether the time and cause of death of the human remains coincide with an open murder or police case. Otherwise, it can be used simply to determine the cause of death.

What is Forensic Radiography you ask?

  • the scientific discipline of conducting ionizing radiation examinations to gather and analyze evidence found in the interior organs of deceased patients to determine the cause of injury or death. 

It comes in the form of x-ray tools and machines that can scan inside airport luggage and people to check for contraband and illegal items. Another application of this science comes in the form of medical imaging of post mortem analysis in order to study the cause of death and also any evidence of medical oversight in the deceased patient’s remains.

What is Forensic Science?

  • encompasses different fields such as anthropology, chemistry, biology, engineering, genetics, pathology, phonetics, genetics, and toxicology used within the criminal justice system.
  • It involves the application of these fields of the natural and physical sciences and apples the to matter of criminal and civil law.
  • is a vital determinant in the criminal justice system by providing scientifically based information through the analysis of evidence collected. 
  • Forensis is Latin for “debate or public discussion.” Combined with “science” the phrase means applying science in public or solving crimes with science. 
  • it is a scientific study that depends primarily on its application to aid civil law and criminology in the justice system as it relates to the collection, examination, and analysis of physical evidence.

This is done to investigate and bring up evidence on a case and add information and accuracy to a criminal procedure. People who specialize in this field are called forensic scientists.  They document and preserve their findings as pieces of evidence to be used to help in the progress of an investigation. This collecting of evidence can be done in two ways: going onto the scene of the crime and try to find possible evidence, or have possible evidence brought to a laboratory for analysis.

Other roles that forensic scientists take in order to aid criminal and court proceedings is to be able to assist expert witnesses, especially in civil and criminal cases. They are called to the courtroom while it is in a session. Then, they proceed to analyze and explain evidence and scenarios from a forensic perspective.

Who was the Father of Forensic Science?

  • Sir Bernard Spilsbury, a citizen of Britain, and expert pathologist

The word ‘Forensic’ is derived from the meaning that comes from two Latin words, ‘forensis’ which means “in open court” or “public.”  Forensics started becoming an important aspect of modern criminology in the early twentieth century through its founder, Sir Bernard Spilsbury. A citizen of Britain and an expert pathologist, he was considered the Sherlock Holmes of his time. Due to his ability to find evidence that other people overlooked or missed, and also his application of cutting-edge scientific technology, he was highly respected. He has been dubbed the Father of Forensics or Modern Forensic Science and knighted for his contributions to the field in 1923.

Since then, his contributions have inspired many countries in their study of the field he created. In the present scenario, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences is considered one of the most eminent authorities in the field today. They move towards making better technology and techniques in forensics. They also work in collaboration with many governments on an advisory and technical basis on both national and international levels. It was founded in 1948 in the state of Colorado and still exists today. The mission is to explore the path of forensic science and discovery to help the legal system.

What was the first case of forensics using radiography?

  • AW Wright from Yale University x-rayed a dead rabbit and saw black objects in the 1890s. Upon excision, the objects were determined to be bullets thus revealing the rabbit’s cause of death. 

It can be said that the first instance of forensic radiography occurred in the 1890s. Professor AW Wright of Yale University tested Wilhelm Roentgen’s newly discovered x-ray photography on a deceased rabbit. Of interest were small, round objects inside the rabbit that appeared as dark spots on the positive film. The objects were extracted and identified as bullets, thereby helping to determine the cause of the rabbit’s death

What are the 11 sections of Forensic Science?

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) has divided the study of Forensics into eleven sections. All of them require their own level of expertise on levels of ideas and technicalities. This has led to the expansion of Forensics as a study and also a boom in job opportunities. it helps set the requirements for professionals who are in the pursuit of aiding the justice system.:

  1. Criminalists –This department deals with the application of multi-disciplinary sciences to provide answers that have to do with examining dead bodies for evidence be it biological, trace, or impression-based. They also look into ballistic and tool analysis in order to substantiate the potential cause and time of deaths.
  2. Digital and Multimedia –This department looks into digital evidence analysis in laboratories, as well as publish books and journals on new forensic discoveries and studies. One can say that their main aim is to add innovation to the study of Forensics to help progress the process of solving criminal cases.
  3. Engineering Science –This section uses both the subjects of science and mathematics to study how a crime could have been committed and when it was executed. This section also finds answers through studies on illegal activities such as murder, manslaughter, suicide, arson, etc.
  4. Forensic Toxicology – This group of people from any Forensic department deals with the more disgusting parts of Forensic Science – bodily fluids. Mostly in the use of autopsies, Forensic Toxicologists analyze and test tissue samples and every form of liquid a dead body can produce for chemicals and other contamination. They have to go through a list of different chemical compounds that may be foreign or excessively present inside a dead body. The rate of chemical absorption, environmental factors, etc., all help to determine answers such as poisoning, chemical imbalance, terminal illnesses, blood analysis, time of death, etc. Most of their work is limited to the confines of the laboratory.
  5. Forensic Anthropology – The people of this section rely on the study of the solid human structures like the skeleton. This way, they are able to restructure the body structure of an animal or human being and determine their gender, how they died according to any damage or trauma to the skeleton, and determine the time of death.
  6. Forensic Odontology – These scientists concentrate on the study of remains of teeth, giving this section the alternate name of Forensic Dentistry. The analysis of teeth helps to determine gender, age, and also how the victim could have died.
  7. Forensic Pathology – Forensic Pathologists are the same as Medical Examiners or Coroners in most aspects: they look at dead bodies and order autopsies to investigate the body for any suspicious causes of death. What makes a Forensic Pathologist different is that the procedure is done for legal reasons where the results may have public and judicial interests.
  8. General Forensic Science – This section is unique as it is one that specializes in catching criminals that cannot be pinpointed via the other ways. It relies on a wide spectrum of both science and technology in order to establish chronology and means to the committing of a crime based on evidence that has been gathered.
  9. Jurisprudence – This section deals with the law and permission part of Forensic Science. It is highly scientific and technical by nature and bridges the gap between the law and Forensic Science.
  10. Forensic Psychiatry – It is a part of Behavioral Science where forensic psychiatrists and psychologists alike work with the law and justice system in order to detect criminal intent or behavior among potential suspects.
  11. Forensic Document Analysis – This section looks into the authenticity of possibly fake and forged documents that need to be verified in a laboratory. The kinds of things this section look into include paper, fingerprints, handwriting, signatures, source, and age.

How Does Radiography Fit into Forensic Science

Radiography is an important aspect of Forensic Science as it can provide some evidence that cannot be found through any other means. It is an emerging form of forensic investigation as it is required to be done before the physical dissection of the human remains under study.

It can also cut down a lot of time on the other forms of forensic evidence-finding process as it can pinpoint the pattern of trajectory of trauma such as a bullet’s pattern of travel through the human body, possible internal injuries that may be lost in the process of operation and autopsy, and speeding up the restructuring imaging of mutilated or old remains for evidence in a court of law.

How to Become a Forensic Imaging Technologist

The academic path to becoming a Forensic Imaging Technologist starts after graduation from high school. You can have an Associate’s degree in Radiologic Technology or Radiography. This is the minimum educational requirement for anyone interested in this field. Most now require a bachelor’s degree and some even ask for a master’s degree.

But you will need to take time to gain national certification before you can practice. The nationally recognized radiographic license is given by the ARRT upon successfully passing their board exam certification test.

Pay Scale of a Forensic Imaging Technologist

The pay scale of a Forensic Imaging Technologists depends on experience and academic accomplishments just like any other field of study. A Forensic Scientist is generally paid annually around $58,230 while the top ten percent gets $97, 200. It is interesting to note that those employed under federal government service earn a higher percentage on the pay scale. But the higher the pay, the more the competition: The field of Forensic Science Technologists is so small that you can expect high levels of competition.

Other Forms of Radiological Investigation

If it is of interest to you, another interesting use of radiology outside of the field of forensic science is Paleoradiology. It refers to the use of x-ray and imaging machines in order to scan biological archaeological finds such as ancient mummies and semi to well-preserved life forms.

Radiology is important in this field as most of these remains run with the risk of being damaged or even being rendered useless if they are handled too much by both human hands and tools. Also, these preserved antiques cannot be operated on or cut into as it could greatly damage both their material and information value.

Paleoradiologists are important in the pursuit of finding the cause of death, detecting any physical trauma, deformities, and study of unique protrusions or markings for documentations. With thorough studies, they can help archaeologists make out the gender, age, race, and date the remains with accuracy.

Studies in Forensic Science have led to major breakthroughs in the pursuit of finding answers to questions that would not have been able to be answered otherwise. Poetically speaking, it can be said to reveal hidden secrets and bring the testimonial voices of the dead back to the living to bring justice, one last time.

This way, forensics, and radiology contribute immensely to the study of human remains and how they came to become remains in the first place. They also help to rediscover the life and story behind a certain person from both centuries ago and also of someone who died just days ago in the same city and neighborhood.


FAQs – Common Frequently Asked Questions About Forensics

How do I become a forensic radiology technician?

  • A bachelor’s of science in radiographic technology, or BSRT, is the minimum education needed for a forensic radiology career, according to health career website InnerBody. States also require a license from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT.)


When was forensic science first used to solve a crime?

  • Forensic DNA analysis was first used in 1984. It was developed by Sir Alec Jeffreys, who realized that variation in the genetic code could be used to identify individuals and to tell individuals apart from one another.


How do I get into forensics?

  • Earn an associate degree and then earn a bachelor’s degree. Narrow down a specialty of forensics (there are many.) Earn the master’s or doctorate (if applicable) to complete degree requirements. Then engage in on-the-job training. This can be considered like an apprenticeship or job shadowing. Last, you may have to earn additional credentials or certifications.


Who has the largest crime lab in the world?

  • Created in 1932, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory is one of the largest and most comprehensive crime labs in the world.



As a form of investigation and a tool of scientific discovery, Forensic Radiography is a niche in the justice system and also in the field of academics and investigation. However, it is not an exaggeration to say that the contribution it makes is mostly in the attempt to solve difficult cases and in the pursuit of answers that cannot be found otherwise.


Forensic Imaging Technologist: Dream Job?

Ron Jones MSRS, RT (R,CT) ARRT

Ron is huge radiology nerd. It started with Xray school at Pima Medical Institute in Mesa, AZ. He was crosstrained in CT during his Xray clinical rotations at Mesa General Hospital. Then immediately returned to school for ultrasound at Gateway Community College as he started his first job as an Xray/CT Tech. Not much later learned MRI out of necessity at his small rural hospital in Apache Junction, AZ. A decade later he found himself as a manager in a level one trauma center. Currently he is a system operations director over an entire hospital system and loves every minute of it.

4 thoughts on “Forensic Radiography – How to Become a Forensic Imaging Technologist

  1. Very interesting article! Very informative on what is out there but would like more information on how to get into this field after becoming an xray technologist.

  2. The carestream blog reference is mine. I was the first RT in the world to be accepted for membership in the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. General section. Dr. Gil Brogdon, considered the father of forensic radiology, was one of my sponsors. Glad to see there is still interest in forensic imaging.
    Nancy Adams

  3. It was an exciting and chalenging career to be a xray technologist.Forensic Radiography is another field of specialty for us.This article is a big boost in our profession.

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