Evidence Technician: Career Guide
Evidence technicians work in the field of crime scene investigation. These specialists are responsible for preserving the chain of custody of evidence and often have a background in criminal justice and forensic science. Seasoned evidence specialists may enjoy career advancement opportunities to such positions as senior evidence specialist or supervisory evidence specialist. Evidence technicians may work for the local, state, or federal government.
Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks
Evidence technicians work in forensic science, keeping the chain of custody of evidence intact so that it can be recognized as legally valid at trial. Evidence technicians:
- Collect and process fingerprints
- Collect, examine, and store evidence according to specific procedures
- Create timely, detailed reports
- Evaluate evidence
- Manage property seized by law enforcement, such as drugs, vehicles, and weapons
- Prepare evidence as exhibits for the courtroom
- Report findings to colleagues, law enforcement authorities, and court officials
- Testify in court
Steps for Becoming an Evidence Technician
Evidence techs must have a minimum of a high school diploma, but many departments prefer to hire candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in addition to previous experience working in law enforcement. Many evidence custodians and forensic evidence technicians have certificates or degrees in criminal justice with a focus on criminal forensics, constitutional law, or statistical research and analysis. Specific classes may include Criminology, Sociology, Biology, and lab work that provides training in the use of computers and specialized equipment like microscopes, centrifuges, and other devices. Many criminal justice schools provide opportunities for students to volunteer or intern in real-world work environments. The steps to become an evidence tech below are general and will vary by job:
- Attend a degree program or gain experience in a related field.*
- Apply for an evidence technician position.
- Attend an interview.
- Successfully complete a criminal history background check, fingerprint check, drug test, and a polygraph examination.
- Get hired as an evidence technician.
- Receive on-the-job training once hired.
*Though a degree is not necessary to obtain a job as an evidence technician, many applicants will pursue one to make themselves more competitive in the market, especially if they do not have previous experience in criminal justice.
Evidence Technician Job Training
Newly hired technicians generally must complete on-the-job training under the direct supervision of a senior evidence technician until they have gained the experience necessary to work on a more independent basis. Employers may also require evidence technicians to have certification. The International Association for Property and Evidence, Inc., for example, offers the Certified Property and Evidence Specialist credential.
Other Helpful Skills and Experience
Prospective evidence technicians should have strong communication skills in order to effectively testify in court and write concise and meaningful reports. Successful candidates must be able to work independently without direct supervision and possess the ability to prioritize multiple assignments and ongoing projects. Experience in the military can also be beneficial for prospective technicians.
Possible Job Titles for This Career
- Evidence Specialist
- Evidence Technician
- Property and Evidence Custodian
Evidence Technician Salary and Job Outlook
Evidence technician job opportunities are growing and are often found in police departments and other law enforcement organizations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide specific data on evidence technician salaries, but it does provide data on the similar occupation of forensic science technicians, who earned a median annual salary of $57,850 per year as of 2017.1 Jobs in the forensic science field are expected to see tremendous growth between 2016 and 2026 of around 17%, so that positive growth may spill into the evidence technician field as well.1
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What type of schedule do evidence technicians generally work?
Answer: Evidence technicians typically work full-time. Hours, however, may be irregular and candidates must be prepared to work holidays, nights, and weekends, and be on call as needed.
Question: Under what conditions do evidence technicians work?
Answer: Technicians must be willing and able to work indoors and outdoors, including in extreme cold, heat, and humidity. Evidence specialists must be able to work independently and with others in law enforcement.
Question: Is law enforcement experience required?
Answer: It depends on the hiring organization as to whether previous law enforcement experience is a requirement. However, law enforcement experience is generally an advantage in the hiring process.
Question: Are there any physical requirements for the position?
Answer: Yes. Evidence technicians must be physically capable of sitting and standing for long periods of time. They must also be able to lift as much as 50 pounds or more.
- International Association for Property and Evidence: A non-profit organization for law enforcement professionals, including evidence technicians, designed to create standards for property and evidence departments throughout the US.
- International Crime Scene Investigators Association: An online-based organization dedicated to promoting the education and training of its members.
- Evidence Technology Magazine: A professional publication focusing on the technology of evidence, including the collection, processing, and preservation of evidence collection.
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