Crime Scene Technician: Career Guide

Crime Scene Technician: Career Guide

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Staff Writers Contributing Writer
Updated October 15, 2020 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Crime scene technicians are highly trained professionals who use the latest advances in forensic science to solve crimes. Crime scene technicians partner with professionals from all areas of law enforcement, including detective bureaus, state and local police departments, court systems, and federal law enforcement agencies.

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Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

Crime scene technicians collect and preserve physical evidence found at crime scenes. Depending on the crime scene and the tech's role, crime scene technicians may:

  • Collect, process, and analyze fingerprints
  • Collect such physical evidence as bodily fluids and weapons
  • Create crime scene sketches
  • Decide which items should be collected at the crime scene
  • List evidence and prepare it for safe transfer to the crime lab
  • Take photographs

Seasoned crime scene technicians who earn advanced degrees may earn advancement opportunities to positions such as lab director or forensic specialist, or they may branch out to train new technician recruits. Crime scene technicians typically work in local and state government organizations, including coroner's offices, crime labs, morgues, and police departments.

Steps for Becoming a Crime Scene Technician

The educational requirements for a crime scene technician depends on the job, but the minimum requirement is typically a high school degree or GED equivalent. A crime scene technician certificate or an associate degree or bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, forensic science, or crime scene investigation will help applicants be more competitive in the applicant pool. Prospective crime scene technicians should expect to complete steps similar to the following when applying for a job:

  1. Attend a degree program and/or gain experience in a related field.*
  2. Apply for a job as a crime scene technician.
  3. Pass a background investigation.
  4. Be interviewed.
  5. Pass a polygraph exam, physical exam, and psychological evaluation.**
  6. Get hired as a crime scene technician.
  7. Receive on-the-job training as a crime scene technician.

*Check the job description to find out more about educational and experience requirements.
**Law enforcement agencies generally require prospective candidates to complete these exams, but not all employers will require them.

Crime Scene Technician Job Training

Crime scene technicians must complete on-the-job training under the supervision of an experienced investigator before earning the opportunity to work independently. The length of training depends on the organization for which the technician works.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Crime scene technicians must have knowledge of federal, state, and local laws as well as legal procedure. Those candidates with military or law enforcement experience may have a hiring advantage. Technology skills, such as proficiency in scientific software, design software, photo imaging software, and databases, may also be useful for prospective crime scene technicians. Active listening skills, written skills, and critical thinking will also be helpful in a crime scene technician position.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • Crime Scene Analyst
  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • Crime Scene Technician
  • Evidence Technician
  • Forensic Investigator
  • Forensic Science Technician

Crime Scene Technician Salary and Job Outlook

Forensic science is a growing field as the development of forensic science applications like DNA analysis has improved the effectiveness of the criminal investigation. As a result, law enforcement agencies have an ongoing need for trained crime scene technicians to collect and analyze evidence. The salary for a crime scene technician varies significantly depending on education, work experience, and the agency or department that has the job opening. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an annual median wage of $58,230 per year for forensic science technicians.1 Employment growth for forensic science technicians is estimated at 17% for the decade from 2016 to 2026, which is substantially higher than the average for most other occupations.1

Related Jobs

If you are interested in a career as a crime scene technician, you may also want to consider the following related jobs:

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of schedule does a crime scene technician generally work?

Crime scene technicians may be called to a crime scene at any time of the day or the night and should be prepared to work rotating shifts with on-call duty.

What is the normal working environment for a crime scene technician?

Crime scene technicians must be prepared to work in various climate conditions. Crimes may take place indoors or outdoors, in the cold, the rain, or the heat.

How pertinent is travel to the crime scene technician profession?

Although some technicians work solely in a laboratory environment, technicians should be prepared to travel to crime scenes throughout their coverage area, which could be city-, county-, or statewide.

Do crime scene technicians experience a high level of stress?

Yes. Crime scene technicians experience similar work-related stress to that of police officers. Crime scene technicians must be prepared to deal with the emotional impact of violent crime scenes.

Additional Resources

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Forensic Science Technicians:

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