DNA Analyst: Salary, Education & Responsibilities

DNA analysts work behind the scenes to help police find the right suspects in violent crimes by using their investigative skills and knowledge of biology. Read on to see if this career could be right for you. Schools offering Sequence Analysis and Genomics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career at a Glance

The advancement in DNA testing technology over the last few decades has been revolutionary to the criminal justice system. Forensic DNA analysts test evidence for DNA to identify guilty suspects and exonerate those found innocent. The table below provides a brief overview of the salary, education and requirements for this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree required; master's degree preferred
Education field of study Chemistry
Biology
Molecular biology
Forensic science
Certification Not required, but can improve employment prospects
Key Responsibilities Collect DNA samples, test samples, analyze data, testify in court
Key Skills Analytical, critical thinking, eye for detail, problem solving skills
Salary (2017) $57,850 (Forensic Science Technicians) *
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 17% (Forensic Science Technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is a DNA Analyst?

DNA is the most reliable form of evidence in many criminal investigations. DNA is very much like a fingerprint as each individual has a different DNA profile. A DNA analyst, also known as a forensic biologist, examines and identifies biological samples to isolate and identify the DNA. Crime scenes often have DNA present in the form of hair, blood, saliva, skin and other bodily fluids. The forensic biologist must analyze the evidence carefully to attempt to identify the right suspect involved in the crime.

What Do they Do?

A DNA analyst normally works in a laboratory to carry out laboratory work. After a crime, he or she is called to the scene to collect evidence and examine the crime scene. For example, the DNA analyst may analyze a blood splatter pattern for DNA and establish whether the DNA profile matches the victim, or if it could possibly be the DNA of the suspect. A DNA analyst will usually be required to present the evidence in court.

What Do You Need to Study to Become a DNA Analyst?

DNA analysts typically study biology, chemistry, microbiology or forensic science. According to the BLS, it is advised that those who would like a career in forensics study forensic science as an undergraduate degree. Students who do not have an undergraduate degree in forensic science will be required to study forensic science at the master's level. People with a master's degree are expected to have an advantage in obtaining employment.

DNA analysts usually require on-the-job training and a newly employed DNA analyst will usually work under senior members of staff for guidance and mentorship before working independently.

What Is the Salary and Job Outlook of a DNA Analyst?

According to the BLS, the overarching career group of forensic science technicians earned a median salary of $57,850 annually in 2017. The BLS reported that from 2016 to 2026, there is an expected 17% growth in employment for these professionals. This is more than the average among all occupations (from 15,400 to 18,000 jobs). In comparison, Payscale.com reported a median annual salary of $52,232 for forensic DNA analysts in 2019.

Is Certification a Requirement of Employment as a DNA Analyst?

Certification is voluntary for DNA analysts. However the BLS reported that certification can improve credentials for employment. The American Board of Criminalistics (ABC) has a certification process appropriate for DNA analysts.

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