Forensic Science Technician: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for forensic science technicians. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, employment outlook, and average salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Forensic Science Technician?

Forensic science technicians play a critical role in criminal investigations. They may collect evidence at crime scenes or process evidence in a laboratory. Their findings are used to help determine who committed the crime and may be presented in court after someone is charged with the crime. Tasks they may be responsible for can include photographing or sketching the crime scene or collecting evidence.

Those who work in a lab will use chemistry, biology, and microscopes to perform tests on samples from the crime scene to identify DNA or other evidence that may have been left by the perpetrator. Some technicians even work with digital evidence to help solve computer-based crimes.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree at minimum; master's degree recommended
Education Field of StudyChemistry
Biology
Forensic Science
Criminal Justice
Key Responsibilities Collects evidence; analyzes crime scenes; reconstructs crime scenes; explains findings to lawyers, detectives, and judges
Job Growth (2014-2024)27%*
Average Salary (2015)$60,090*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Forensic Science Technicians Do?

As a forensic science technician, you would compile evidence and use it to solve crimes. You might choose to focus on DNA analysis, firearm examination or testing of weapons or substances. You would gather evidence from the scene of a crime and use the correct procedures to preserve clues. You might also take pictures of evidence, collect fingerprints, visit morgues and examine crime scenes to find clues and information.

By examining the evidence, you would figure out how it is significant to the reconstructed crime scene and report your discoveries, laboratory techniques and investigative methods to officials. As a forensic science technician, you might contribute your expert opinion during a trial as a witness, describing how you came to your conclusions.

What Should I Study?

Earning a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related field can qualify you for entry-level work as a forensic science technician. In a 4-year forensic science program, you can learn such skills as latent fingerprint processing, forensic photography, biological identification and deciding the cause of death. Your courses might include crime scene investigation, crimes scene photography, administration of justice and criminal evidence.

Alternatively, you might seek a bachelor's degree in criminal justice with a concentration in forensics to gain a thorough knowledge of delinquency, crime scene investigation theories, criminal behavior and the necessity of using scientific methods to analyze evidence. You would study crime scene investigation techniques, the theory of forensic science, police investigation and legal processes. Graduate programs in forensic science are also available if you want to continue your studies or if you're entering the field with a background in the natural sciences. Practicing your skills in a hands-on forensic laboratory is important to all these programs.

What Is the Job Outlook?

Between 2014 and 2024, forensic science technician jobs were predicted to grow much faster than average, at 27%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Due to increased interest in the field, higher demand is expected for those with relevant graduate education and specialized expertise in DNA or forensics related to technology.

How Much Might I Earn?

As of May 2015, the BLS reported that forensic science technicians earned an average annual wage of $60,090. The majority of these workers made between $34,000 and $94,410 yearly. Most professionals in the field worked for the state or local government or for medical and diagnostic laboratories. The federal government was the top-paying industry, with the mean annual wage being $100,400, though there were relatively few positions.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Biological and chemical technicians also perform tests on materials, although their focus is typically on products that are being developed instead of crime scene analysis. Biological technicians need a bachelor's degree, while chemical technicians need at least an associate's.

Police and detectives may also be involved in responding to the scene of a crime, analyzing the scene, reviewing and retrieving evidence, and determining who perpetrated the crime. These jobs have varying requirements, from a high school diploma up to a college degree, and usually require candidates to complete a training academy. Private detectives perform similar tasks to police officers, though they work for private clients, and their education requirements also range from a high school diploma to a degree.

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