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How to Become a Crime Lab Technician in 5 Steps

Explore a career as a crime lab technician. Read about education requirements, work responsibilities, salary and potential job growth to see if this is the right career choice for you.

What Does a Crime Lab Technician Do?

A crime lab technician, or forensic science technician, helps law enforcement officials solve crimes by using scientific principles and laboratory procedures to analyze material recovered from crime scenes. A crime lab technician must be familiar with the chemicals used to evaluate evidence in the lab as well as the tools and technology needed to analyze fingerprints, DNA samples and ballistics. Technicians might also be responsible for researching links between known suspects and sharing findings with lawyers and law enforcement.

The following chart gives you an overview of this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree, Master's degree recommended
Education Field of Study Biology, Chemistry, Forensic Science
Key Skills Scientific analysis and lab skills, math, written and verbal communication
Job Growth (2018-2028) 14% for all forensic science technicians*
Average Salary (2018) $62,490 for all forensic science technicians*

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Crime Lab Technician?

As a crime lab technician, your duties include collecting and examining evidence, maintaining lab equipment and preparing reports on your findings. You might also be tasked with keeping records on past investigations, testifying in court as an expert witness and training new technicians and lab assistants. Often your work entails collaborating with police, detectives, medical professionals and other authorities participating in an investigation.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

High school courses in algebra, biology, chemistry and physics can provide background knowledge in the scientific principles needed to work as a crime lab technician. English and speech courses may improve your communication skills. A high school diploma or GED is required to enroll in most bachelor's degree programs.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A 4-year bachelor's degree in forensic science or any of the natural sciences, such as chemistry, physics or biology, can be sufficient to enter a career as a crime lab tech. Forensic science bachelor's degree programs train you in scientific theory and its application to law and criminal investigation. Some programs stress courses in biology, chemistry and lab procedures first and investigation second. Other programs focus on criminal investigation and integrate scientific concepts throughout the curricula.

Some schools also have separate tracks for forensic biology and forensic chemistry. Other possible course topics include statistics, photography and quantitative analysis.

Step 3: Participate in an Internship

Many forensic science bachelor's degree programs include an internship at a crime lab or in a criminal justice setting. An internship provides you with an opportunity to observe and assist professionals in their day-to-day duties and build a network of contacts. Sometimes, an internship can lead directly to a job after graduation.

Step 4: Obtain a Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), local and state government agencies provide most job opportunities for crime lab technicians (www.bls.gov). A small number of jobs can also be found with medical labs, architectural firms and engineering companies. Not including self-employed individuals, the BLS estimated there were about 15,970 technicians as of May 2018, with a projected 14% growth rate during the 2018-2028 decade. As of May 2018, forensic science technicians made a median annual salary of $58,230.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

You might advance your career by accumulating experience, earning a master's degree in forensic science or through a combination of formal education and experience. Gaining familiarity with multiple specializations, such as ballistics and DNA analysis, could enhance your qualifications for a senior technician position or possibly even lab supervisor. State labs might have multiple job levels for technicians that provide a clearly defined path for promotion.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Biological technicians are similar to crime lab technicians, though these professionals assist with research leading to developments in medical science. They prepare and analyze biological samples while also helping to maintain a clean, sanitary environment in the lab. Another career option is becoming a chemist. Chemists research and develop new products through chemical processing and testing. They complete tests for safety purposes and report their findings. Both of these career options require a bachelor's degree.