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Crime Lab Analyst Career Guide

Crime lab analysts collect, identify, classify, and process evidence collected from crime scenes. They use this evidence to help investigators identify the methods used to commit crimes, the types of materials present, and possible suspects.

Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

Crime lab analysts process physical evidence submitted by investigators to help identify what is and what is not significant to the investigation. Analysts solve the crime scene puzzle based on the pieces presented. They examine evidence and prepare reports for grand jury and court presentations and may testify in court as expert witnesses. Many crime lab analysts specialize in specific areas of evidence identification such as ballistics, fingerprinting, handwriting, blood splatter analysis, and tire impressions. Crime lab analysts work in the public and the private sectors. Most work in the public sector is found with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Lab analysts should be prepared to continue their education to keep up with the latest forensic science advances. Individuals who gain experience as a crime lab analyst or who earn an advanced degree may have opportunities for advancement to such positions as crime lab director or supervisor.

Steps for Becoming a Crime Lab Analyst

The minimum educational qualification to become a crime laboratory analyst is a high school diploma or equivalent, though a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, criminology, criminal justice, or physical sciences may be preferred or even required for some positions. Some state and federal crime labs even require a master’s degree or a doctorate. While each job’s hiring process will be distinct, the following steps are an example of what to expect:

  1. Attend a degree program or gain experience in a related field.*
  2. Apply for an open position as a crime lab analyst.
  3. Complete a physical examination, drug test, polygraph exam, and background investigation.
  4. Get hired as an crime lab analyst.
  5. Receive on-the-job training once hired.

*Check with the job posting for specific requirements.

Crime Lab Analyst Job Training

Many employers require crime lab analysts to have some related experience. Prospective analysts who are pursuing a degree can gain hands-on experience by completing an internship during their undergraduate and/or graduate studies. Crime laboratory analysts are frequently required to complete additional on-the-job training specific to procedures used by the hiring organization.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Successful analysts must be detail-oriented and have the ability to think analytically. Due to the necessity of presenting findings in written form, crime laboratory analysts must be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing. Prospective analysts with previous experience in science and with laboratory equipment may have a competitive edge. Former law enforcement and military members may find that experience advantageous during the hiring process.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • Crime Laboratory Analyst
  • Forensic Lab Analyst
  • Forensic Science Technician

Crime Lab Analyst Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary data for crime laboratory analysts but does report a median salary of $56,320 per year for the related occupation of forensic science technicians.1 Salaries for these positions vary depending on agency, geographic location, education, and area of expertise. Crime lab analysts with strong computer skills and lab experience are expected to have greater success in finding employment. Overall, the BLS has projected a job growth rate of 27% between 2014 and 2024 for forensic science technicians– much faster than the average for all occupations.1

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Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What is a common work schedule for a crime laboratory analyst?

Answer: Most work a 40-hour week inside the crime lab; however, there may be some irregular hours and travel involved.

Question: What kind of personality is best suited for a crime scene analyst?

Answer: The most successful analysts thrive best in a routine. Some of the work done by analysts is repetitive and monotonous. People with personalities that are systematic and analytic in their thinking processes and who have a high attention to detail would be ideal crime scene analysts.

Question: What can I expect from the background investigation?

Answer: A background investigation may include a review of some or all of the following information about a person: education history, employment history, credit history, and a criminal record check.

Additional Resources

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Forensic Science Technicians: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm