Criminalist Job Description & Career Outlook
Criminalist is a broad term that includes several jobs within the forensic science field. Criminalists examine physical evidence from a crime scene to create a link from the victim to the scene to the offender. Criminalists are sometimes referred to as lab techs or crime scene investigators (CSI).
Responsibilities of the criminalist include the examination and analysis of evidence collected from a crime scene. This includes a wide array of evidence and many criminalists specialize in certain aspects of evidence analysis. Examples of items that may be sent to a criminalist for examination include: fingerprints, hair, fibers, skins, blood, dirt, spent ammunition casings, bullets, insects and other items. Their task is to take the physical evidence and determine who, what, where, when and how a crime was committed. Their interpretation of the evidence is used in the prosecution of offenders, and criminalists are often called upon in court to offer expert testimony.
Criminalists work in labs in local, state and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. In rural areas, law enforcement agencies usually send evidence to the state crime labs for evaluation.
Criminalist Employment Training and Education Requirements
To become a criminalist there are minimum requirement and expected qualities. The minimum educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree with concentrated course work in biology, forensics or crime scene investigation; however, there is a growing trend toward requiring a minimum of a master’s degree in order to work for most state or federal agencies. In addition to formal education, the criminalist is also required to attend continuing training and coursework in order to stay current on trends, new procedures and methods. Criminalists also have the option of applying for certification from the American Board of Criminalists (which requires passing an extremely comprehensive and difficult test). Criminalist must have an eye for details.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that forensic science technicians earn a median annual salary of $52,840 in the United States as of 2012 while the top 10% earn more than $85,210 per year.1
Criminalist Career Outlook
With increased emphasis being placed on forensic evidence in the conviction of offenders, career opportunities as a criminalist are expected to increase. Jobs for forensic science technicians are expected to grow 6% from 2012-2022 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1
Schools with Criminal Justice Programs
University of Phoenix
- A.A. in Criminal Justice
- B.S. in Environmental Science
- B.S. in Biological Science
- Criminal Justice, AA (Online)
- Criminal Justice, BA (Online)
- Homeland Security, BA (Online)
Florida Tech University Online
- Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice
- Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice/Homeland Security
- Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
- PhD in Criminal Justice - Public Management and Leadership-Advanced
- PhD in Criminal Justice - Online Teaching in Higher Education-Advanced
- B.S. in Criminal Justice - Crime and Criminals
- B.S. in Human Services / Criminal Justice
- B.S. in Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement
- B.S. in Criminal Justice
American InterContinental University Online
- Bachelor's of Science in Criminal Justice - Forensic Science
- Bachelor's of Science in Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement
- Associate's (AABA) - Criminal Justice Administration
Grand Canyon University
- B.S. in Justice Studies
- M.S. in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
- B.S. in Elementary Education: Science (Leads to initial teacher licensure)
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm
Page Edited by Charles Sipe.