Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians help solve crimes through the careful analysis of physical evidence. These technicians can be divided into two categories: those that work at crime scenes, and those that work in laboratories.

Forensic science technicians who work at crime scenes are called crime scene investigators. Their duties include:

  • Determining the best way to collect evidence at the crime scene
  • Taking pictures of the scene and of the evidence found there
  • Drawing careful sketches of the scene
  • Writing down their findings and observations in detailed notes
  • Collecting evidence such as fingerprints, bodily fluids, or weapons
  • Preserving and cataloging evidence, and then transferring that evidence to a laboratory

Crime scene investigators do their work with the help of special tools, such as black lights, tweezers, and specialized kits. They often observe and assist in autopsies, as well as processing scenes of crimes.

Other forensic science technicians work in laboratories. Their duties include:

  • Scientifically identifying, classifying, and analyzing the evidence gathered at crime scenes
  • Using the results of these analyses to explore possible connections between criminal activity and suspects
  • Consulting with other specialists (such as toxicologists) about the results of their analyses
  • Reconstructing crime scenes using the evidence found there, and their scientific analyses of that evidence

These technicians study and analyze the information gathered by crime scene investigators very carefully. By performing various scientific tests, forensic science technicians are able to reconstruct a crime scene and discover important facts about a case. For instance, by performing ballistics tests on bullets gathered by crime scene investigators, and by studying pictures taken of blood spatters, a forensic science technician can figure out the direction and position from which a gun was fired.

There is a lot of special equipment that a forensic science technician may use during an investigation. They may use chemicals, microscopes, and other specialized laboratory equipment. They also have access to vast amounts of forensic information (such as DNA, fingerprints, or other evidence) stored on computer databases. They use this information to pair the evidence gathered by crime scene investigators to suspects who have been identified at some point in the past. When it comes to evidence analysis, forensic science technicians who work in laboratories typically have a particular area of expertise (like ballistics or DNA).

Forensic science technicians must write detailed reports of the results of their analyses and of their methods. They must then clearly communicate these results to detectives, police officers, and lawyers. These technicians are often required to appear in court, to testify about their methods and findings.

Work Environment
Forensic science technicians hold over 13,000 jobs. Roughly 90% of these technicians work for local and state governments in these settings:

  • Police departments
  • Crime laboratories
  • Morgues
  • Medical examiner/coroner offices

Because crimes may happen anywhere, crime scene investigators are often required to travel to various places around a region or a city. They are often exposed to many unpleasant sights during their investigations, and as such their work is often quite stressful and disturbing.

Crime scene investigators need to be available at any time to collect evidence. Because of this, overtime is common. They work alternating night, evening, or daytime shifts. Laboratory technicians, however, typically work during standard business hours, but they may need to work beyond those hours if a case urgently requires their services.

How to become a Forensic Science Technician
Different employers have different educational requirements for crime scene investigators. In order to work in laboratories, forensic science technicians must have a bachelor's degree. Both kinds of technicians need a large amount of job-specific training.

A high percentage of crime scene investigators are police officers, and have therefore fulfilled the requirements for enrolling in the police academy. Prospective crime scene investigators who are not police officers must have a bachelor's degree in a natural science or in forensic science. However, some law enforcement agencies which are rurally based may accept applicants with only high school diplomas. To learn more about the requirements for becoming a police officer, refer to the profile on detectives and police.

For forensic science technicians who work in laboratories, a bachelor's degree in forensic science, biology, chemistry, or other natural science is usually required. Forensic science programs should include plenty of courses in chemistry, biology, and mathematics. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences provides a list of schools which offer forensic science degree programs.

On-the-job Training

Forensic science technicians must receive a large amount of on-the-job training before they can independently work on cases.

Experienced crime scene investigators take on beginning investigators as apprentices, and teach them the right way to collect, categorize, and document evidence.

Different laboratory specialties require different training programs. These programs are typically given by the employer, and vary in length depending on the specialty. Training in firearms-analysis may take as long as three years to complete, while training in DNA-analysis may only take six months to a year. Before a technician can testify in court, or work on cases independently, they must first pass an exam.

It is important for forensic science technicians to keep up with the pace of technological evolution, because new technologies are continually improving the way evidence can be collected and analyzed.

Forensic Science Degree Finder
Search our database of online and campus-based criminal justice programs.
Your ZIP Code:
The median salary of forensic science technicians is more than $51,000. The median salary is the salary at which 50% of the workers earned more and 50% earned less. The lowest 10% of technicians earn less than $33,000, and the highest 10% earn more than $82,000.

Crime scene investigators need to be available at any time to collect evidence. Because of this, overtime is common. They work alternating night, evening, or daytime shifts. Laboratory technicians, however, typically work during standard business hours, but they may need to work beyond those hours if a case urgently requires their services.

Job Outlook
It's estimated that job prospects for forensic science technicians will grow by 19% in the next decade. This growth is about average, when compared to the average occupation. Forensic evidence is being used more often in trials and other criminal proceedings. This, coupled with advances in technology and science, is raising the demand for forensic science technicians. Courts and law enforcement agencies are needing more forensic information to evaluate criminal cases, which is also creating more jobs for these technicians.

Because crime scene investigation and laboratory analysis is glamorized on television shows and other mainstream media, public interest in these occupations is growing. This will make the field much more competitive. Individuals with a forensic science degree and practical experience will be at a significant advantage in the search for jobs.

The number of positions available in this field will change year to year, depending on the budgets for local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

Company Information
Privacy Policy
Contact Us
Submit a Resource