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Forensic Science Technician: Career Guide

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A forensic science technician handles evidence from crime scenes for police departments. These technicians are essential in helping to catch and convict 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, chromatography analysis, or handwriting analysis. Forensic science technicians may work for local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies, crime labs, the coroner’s office, and hospitals. Techs may also offer their expertise as independent forensic science consultants. A forensic science technician may work in the field, in the laboratory, and in a legal setting.

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Career 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 associations between the pieces of evidence that have been 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.

Did you know? The FBI Crime Lab is one of the largest forensic labs in the world and carries out more than one million laboratory examinations a year. It is also a leader in innovation and develops new techniques that are applied in the forensic field.1

Steps for Becoming a Forensic Science Technician

To become a forensic science tech, there are several key requirements. Forensic science techs typically have a bachelor’s degree, or an acceptable combination of education and experience; 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 hold bachelor’s degrees in the natural sciences and a master’s degree in forensic science. If you are interested in becoming a forensic science technician, you should expect to follow steps similar to the ones below:

  1. Acquire the education and/or experience needed for a forensic science technician job.
  2. Apply for a job as a forensic science technician.
  3. Undergo a background check.
  4. Be drug tested.
  5. Be interviewed.
  6. Get hired as a forensic science tech.
  7. Be trained on-the-job once hired.

Forensic Science Technician Job Training

Many forensic science techs first become police officers or other law enforcement officers and will have completed police academy training prior to being classified as a forensic science technician. 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, communicate effectively both written and orally, and find solutions to complex problems. Completing an internship in forensic science and possessing knowledge of laboratory equipment and safety procedures are also helpful. 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. Finally, forensic science technicians must be familiar with the legal process and court proceedings as they regularly testify in criminal cases.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

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

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Forensic Science Technician Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a forensic science technician is $58,230 per year.2 The top 10% of forensic science technicians earn more than $97,200.2 Forensic science technicians who are employed by federal agencies usually receive higher pay. The BLS predicts faster-than-average employment growth of 17% for forensic science technicians between 2016 and 2026.2 However, since the field is relatively small, candidates should expect significant competition for available jobs and prepare themselves to qualify for available positions.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Since forensic science is so competitive, how can I increase my chances of finding a job?

    The BLS reports that due to industry expectations for training and education, individuals with a master’s degree in forensic science will have an easier time finding a position as a technician than individuals with only a bachelor’s degree.

  • What type of work schedule does a forensic science tech have?

    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 go to a crime scene when needed.

  • Is there room for advancement as a forensic science technician?

    Yes. According to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, a forensic science tech with the right experience and education may move up to the position of laboratory director or go on to teach at community colleges and four-year universities.2

Additional Resources

1. The FBI Laboratory: 75 Years of Forensic Science Service: https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/about-us/lab/forensic-science-communications/fsc/oct2007/research/2007_10_research01_test4.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Forensic Science Technicians: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm
3. American Academy of Forensic Sciences: https://www.aafs.org/

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