Crime Lab Technician: Career Summary, Occupational Outlook and Education Requirements
Crime lab technicians work with law enforcement agencies in order to solve crimes by collecting and analyzing evidence. Typically, prospective crime lab technicians need at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in forensic science, criminal justice or biology, to work in the field. Get more details on starting a career in this field below.
What You Need to Know About a Career As a Crime Lab Technician
Crime lab technicians, also known as forensic science technicians, typically specialize in particular fields, including fingerprinting and firearms, DNA analysis and ballistics testing. These professionals typically work for government law enforcement agencies. Obtaining a job in this field is highly competitive. Forensic science certificate and degree programs are available to prepare aspiring crime lab technicians for employment.
|Degree Options||Criminal Forensics Certificate, Associate of Applied Science in Forensic Science, Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science Technology|
|Job Outlook||Expected job growth of 17% from 2016-2026*|
|Salary||$57,850 (median salary May 2017)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Does a Crime Lab Technician Do?
Crime lab technicians gather evidence from crime scenes to help detectives and other law enforcement personnel in the pursuit of justice. Sometimes, crime lab technicians are called to a crime scene to assist in handling materials, which may be important to a criminal investigation. Others stay solely in a laboratory setting, focusing on analyzing and organizing this material. Crime lab technicians may also be called to court to testify on matters regarding a criminal investigation.
What Is the Occupational Outlook for Crime Lab Technicians?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 15,400 forensic science technicians were employed in 2016, and employment is expected to go up to 18,000 by 2026. This represents a much faster than average job growth for this time period. As of 2016, about 86% of crime lab technicians worked for state or local government agencies. However, a handful are employed by hospitals, medical laboratories and testing laboratories.
Federal government jobs generally pay more than those at the state or local levels or in the private sector. In 2017, the average salary for federal forensic science technicians was $105,650. During this time, local government technicians earned $62,040 and state government technicians made $60,910 on average.
What Are the Educational Requirements to Become a Crime Lab Technician?
Most agencies that hire crime lab technicians require a bachelor's degree at minimum, with many preferring that students have majored in either forensic science technology, biology or criminal justice. A few schools offer degrees in forensic science while most have either certificate or concentration programs. Many law enforcement agencies offer training in specific fields, such as ballistics, fingerprinting or DNA analysis, which could help with career advancement.
A forensic science technology bachelor's degree program includes classes in subjects like these:
- Organic chemistry
- Statistical analysis
Programs may also include a capstone class, research project and/or an internship requirement. Students are introduced to a wide range of analysis equipment and procedures, including polarized microscopy, ultraviolet spectrophotometry, fluorescence spectrophotometry, gas chromatography, liquid chromatography and nuclear magnetic resonance.