Forensic Science Technician Career Guide

A forensic science technician handles evidence from crime scenes for police departments. These technicians are essential in helping to catch, convict, or acquit suspects in criminal matters. Forensic science technicians collect evidence and analyze the evidence in a laboratory and summarize their findings in written reports. They often testify in court, particularly if they have specialized areas of expertise, such as fingerprinting, biochemistry, DNA analysis, blood spatter patterns, chromotography analysis, or handwriting analysis.

Forensic Science Technician Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

When forensic science technicians enter a crime scene, they must meticulously collect and safeguard the evidence. They may also assist law enforcement officers in recreating the crime by contemplating the association between the evidence collected. They use the laboratory to decipher the evidence collected at the crime scene and often have to classify unknown substances and objects to determine if these substances and objects are connected to the victim and the suspect. They may run chemical tests and other analyses in order to determine the origin or condition of objects. Forensic science technicians can use DNA typing on blood or bodily fluids for identification purposes. They may also use their knowledge of ballistics to determine the type of gun that fired a particular bullet at a crime. Once they have made their findings, forensic science technicians will detail their findings in written reports.

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Did you know? The FBI Crime Lab is one of the largest forensic labs in the world and has carried out more than one million forensic examinations. It is also a leader in innovation and develops new techniques that are applied in the forensic field.

Source: HowStuffWorks

How to Become a Forensic Science Technician: Requirements and Qualifications

To become a forensic science tech, there are several education and other key requirements. Forensic science techs typically have a bachelor’s degree, and applicants who have graduated from applied sciences technology programs and who have been extensively trained on using laboratory equipment will have an edge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the vast majority of aspiring forensic science technicians will earn a “bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences and a master’s degree in forensic science.” Techs must also possess the ability to think analytically. They must be able to handle stress while working individually and as a member of a team. They must also be able to effectively communicate the results of their findings both orally and in their written work. Additionally, they need to know how to collect evidence, without contaminating it, at a crime scene. They must also have knowledge of computers for data entry and analysis programs and have a working knowledge of the scientific method. Finally, forensic science technicians must be familiar with the legal process and court proceedings as they regularly testify in criminal cases.

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Forensic Science Technician Job Training

Many forensic science techs first become police officers, according to the BLS, and will have completed mandatory police academy training. New forensic science technicians will typically assist seasoned technicians during on the job training, providing them with hands-on experience.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Forensic science technicians should have the ability to use mathematics to solve problems, to communicate effectively both written and orally, and to be able to find solutions to complex problems. Completing an internship in forensic science and possessing a basic knowledge of laboratory equipment and safety procedures are also helpful.

Examples of Possible Job Titles For This Career

  • Crime Scene Analyst
  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • Criminalist
  • Forensic Scientist

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Career Opportunities and Employers

Forensic science technicians may work for local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies, crime labs, morgues, the coroner’s office, and hospitals. Techs may also offer their expertise as an independent forensic science consultant. A forensic science technician may work in the field, in the laboratory, and in a legal setting.

Forensic Science Technician Salary and Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a forensic science technician is $52,840 per year.1 The top ten percent of forensic science technicians earn more than $85,210.1 Forensic science technicians who are employed by federal agencies usually receive higher pay. The BLS predicts modest employment growth of 6% for forensic science technicians between 2012 and 2022. How many positions that open or are created will depend largely upon local, state, and federal budgets. Those entering the workfield will find strong competition for open forensic science technician positions.

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Frequently Asked Questions About This Career

Since forensic science is so competitive, how can I increase my chances of finding a job?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics asserts that those individuals with a master’s degree in forensic science will have an easier time finding a position as a technician than those individuals with only a bachelor’s degree.

What type of work schedule does a forensic science tech have?
Those techs who opt for a position in a laboratory generally work Monday through Friday and may be called to the lab outside of business hours if a case needs immediate attention. Forensic science techs who work in the field can expect to work during the day, at night, or on weekends. They must be on call and must go to the crime scene whenever called.

Is there room for advancement as a forensic science technician?
Yes. According to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, a forensic science tech may move up to the position of laboratory director or go on to teach at community colleges and four-year universities, with the right experience and education.

Additional Resources

Government of Virginia – Career Guide for Forensic Science Technicians

American Academy of Forensic Sciences – Professional Organization for Forensic Scientists

American Academy of Forensic Sciences – Young Forensic Scientist Forum

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    References:
    1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm
    2. Career Guide for Forensic Science Technicians: http://jobs.virginia.gov/careerguides/forensicsciencetechs.pdf
    3. American Academy of Forensic Sciences: http://www.aafs.org/

    Page Edited by Charles Sipe.