What Is a Crime Lab Assistant?
If you have an inclination toward math and science, expert attention to detail and an interest in law enforcement, a career as a crime lab assistant might be the right fit for you. Using techniques such as chemical analysis, DNA analysis and fingerprinting, you help to reconstruct the scene of a crime and identify victims, offenders or both.
Job Duties of a Crime Lab Assistant
Crime lab assistants, also called forensic science technicians, collect, preserve and analyze evidence found at crime scenes. It is common to specialize in one or more areas. If you choose biology, you may focus on DNA identification. In the field of chemistry, you can analyze blood marks and other chemical substances. As a ballistics technician, you may match bullets to the gun that fired them. If you work with fingerprinting, you'll compare collected fingerprints to those in the database.
Crime lab assistants may work for police departments, the FBI or private labs. They operate advanced equipment and computer programs to analyze evidence. Using your findings, you may reconstruct the scene of the crime, such as indicating where and how someone broke in or how a victim died. You write reports on your conclusions and often testify in court as an expert witness.
Important Facts About Crime Lab Assistants
|Licensure/Certification||Various professional licenses and certifications available|
|Key Skills||Composure, detail oriented, physical stamina, math and science|
|Work Environment||Offices, police departments, laboratories, morgues|
|Similar Occupations||Chemists and materials scientists, biological technicians, epidemiologists|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
To become a crime lab technician, you typically must earn a bachelor's degree in forensic science, chemistry, biology or another natural science. You may also specialize in a specific area of interest by pursuing a master's or doctoral degree. A degree program in forensic science teaches you skills such as crime scene photography, toxicology and evaluation of trace evidence. The program usually includes many labs and lab reports.
Courses you may take include the following:
- Public speaking
- Criminal justice
Classes in biology and chemistry apply those sciences to the study of forensics, teaching subjects like DNA and body fluid analysis. Physics and calculus, as well as forensic-related computer classes, teach you to evaluate the data you gather. Anthropology courses study how to determine age, gender, stature, mode of death and other related facts by examining skeletal remains.
Criminalistics introduces you to the study of forensic science, while criminal justice courses educate you about the court system and its terminology. Training in public speaking prepares you to present court evidence. You may even take classes in which you testify before a mock court.
To complete your degree, you might also take an internship with a local law enforcement office. This gives you the opportunity to assist experienced forensic scientists and to practice working in the field.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment prospects for forensic science technicians are above average. From 2016-2026, a 17% increase in employment that would add 2,600 new jobs is expected. Competition for positions should be strong, because many people are interested in this field.
Also per the BLS, in 2018, local governments employed the highest number of forensic science technicians, followed by state governments, diagnostic labs, and architectural and engineering services. That same year, forensic science technicians earned a median annual wage of $58,230.