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Forensic chemists and investigative auditors participate in processing evidence; conduct audits in criminal investigations; assist ATF special agents; and testify in federal, state and local courts as expert witnesses.

Forensic Chemist

The career of an ATF forensic chemist involves forensic investigation, analysis, and interpretation of the composition, physical and chemical properties, molecular structure and chemical reactions of substances; the prediction of transformation they undergo; and the amount of matter and energy included in these transformations. This work requires a full professional education as well as training and experience in the field of forensic chemistry.

  • Serves as a subject matter expert in the analysis of forensic evidence from criminal investigations of bombings and/or arsons in one or more specialized areas such as the identification of explosives residue, fire debris, or trace evidence (e.g., fibers, hair, soil, glass, etc.).
  • Participates in crime scene processing and provides instruction to investigating special agents on the proper collection and preservation of physical evidence at the scene.
  • Performs chemical and physical analyses and tests to provide information requested and to solve problems. Receives samples that are complex and without precedent and usually require methods development and/or modification. Receives physical evidence, reviews background material submitted with the evidence, pertinent agency regulations, federal laws and regulations, manual and scientific literature.
  • Develops, adapts and/or modifies the approaches, methods and procedures to perform examinations, which usually require both wet chemistry and instrumental procedures such as gas chromatography, gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, capillary electrophoresis, ion chromatography, liquid chromatography, x-ray diffraction, infra-red spectrometry, x-ray fluorescence, etc.
  • Interprets and evaluates the results of analyses to determine their validity and scientific significance and to ensure that all relevant questions are answered.
  • Prepares laboratory reports that support the conclusion.
  • Identifies need for development of information, new methods or novel approaches to address trends and/or problems and plans, organizes and conducts studies to meet these needs.
  • Evaluates new technology and scientific equipment for adoption or acquisition by ATF.
  • Serves as an advisor to outside interests including other Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, concerning methodology problems in the specialty area.
  • Testifies in courts of law on cases examined and instructs prosecuting attorneys on the evidentiary value or significance of the results of examination.

Forensic Investigative Auditor

ATF's Financial Services Division continually works on building a team of forensic audit professionals responsible for applying the latest audit methods in support of financial investigations. Their work helps to reduce violent crime, protect the public and enforce the U.S. Department of Justice Asset Seizure and Forfeiture authority. A forensic auditor:

  • Serves as an expert with regard to responsibilities for performing forensic accounting and audit activities in criminal and regulatory financial investigations and inspections.
  • Conveys expert guidance and direction in identifying and selecting applicable forensic accounting and financial investigative techniques to be used in complex and/or highly sensitive investigations.
  • Prepares reports and disseminates findings and disclosures developed during criminal financial investigations and related matters which may be presented before Federal or state grand juries and Federal or state jury trials.
  • Provides authoritative consultation and advice to prosecutors and other members of the investigative team by conducting conferences and briefings.
  • Plans and conducts forensic financial investigations of persons or entities suspected of being involved in highly complex criminal schemes.
  • As part of an investigative team, provides expert advice to ATF special agents and to Federal, state and local prosecutors as to findings regarding the financial condition, financial motive and/or other financial aspects of a case.
  • Interviews accountants, representatives of financial institutions, insurance company representatives, and others including Federal, state and local agency officials to obtain financially related information.
  • Researches databases and analyzes financial records using forensic accounting procedures in search of assets illegally obtained.
  • Leads teams and/or task force operations that are involved in criminal financial investigations, forensic audits and other related matters which may include special law enforcement officers from other government agencies.
  • Provides training to ATF and non-ATF personnel regarding financial investigations and forensic accounting and auditing matters.
  • Provides expert or summary witness testimony involving criminal and civil cases.


Questions about Forensics at ATF should be directed to:

Human Resources Operations Division
Telephone Number: 202-648-8600

Last Reviewed May 6, 2020