Unchartered Territory: Building A Case For A Career In Forensic Engineering

Although it has the word ‘forensic’ in it, Ken Roberts assures us that working in this little-known industry is nothing like an episode of CSI. However, it is still challenging and provides a great flexible, working lifestyle that fits with ex-military’s ‘willingness to get on with it’.

What does a forensic engineer devote his time to?

Investigating electrical or mechanical failures is key to Ken’s role at Geoffrey Hunt and Partners (Consulting Engineers and Scientists) and the remainder of his time is spent conveying findings, or explaining details to a judge. Communication is certainly key in this aspect, as you will be reporting back to non-technical people.

Ken’s clients are typically insurance companies, loss adjusters, lawyers or equipment manufacturers.

Ken is keen to emphasise though that ‘technically’, the work is not too difficult. “As an electrical engineer, I might be investigating a fire caused by an electrical fault, whereas my mechanical engineer colleagues may focus more on the fracturing of materials or water leaks.”

He adds: “The work may range from small domestic matters to larger, commercial premises where losses are in the millions.”

Ken admits this can be intimidating at first but that the peer review process – where colleagues go through your report and ensure the argument is sound – is very helpful and is especially important at the beginning of your career.

Do not fret if you’re not a fire expert! As Ken says, there is an ‘expectation that you’ll have the technical skills but know nothing about fire investigation.’

Academic credentials

Ken does have a string of letters to his name, from MSc to CEng (Registered with the Engineering Council as a practicing Chartered Engineer in the UK) and MIET (Corporate Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology). Ken points out that judges do like to see letters after your name in court, irrespective of technical ability. If you don’t have chartered engineer status there’s an expectation you’ll get it in time within the industry.

Of more significance though, says Ken are ‘your analytical and organisational skills’ – in particular, your ability to follow a logical process.

Transferable Skills

There are few ex-military personnel working in the industry, in part, because forensic engineering is such a niche industry that’s not very well know outside of engineering fields. However, there are skills developed in the military that are very sought after in the sector:

  • Willingness to ‘get on with it’
  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Organisational ability
  • Communication skills
  • People skills

Lifestyle

The organisation Ken works for doesn’t operate within ‘a hierarchical structure’ – rather, there is much more variety and flexibility and the chance for a greater work/life balance. Ken says: “There is the opportunity to manage your own clients and caseload, plus excellent remuneration – in fact, it’s one of the best-paid sectors in engineering.”

Listen to ‘From Weapons To Forensic Engineering’ Here