The forensic science technician plays an integral role in investigations and the analysis of evidence. These professionals are likely to work alongside other forensic science specialists in the field or even in a laboratory setting. When choosing this field, most professionals choose crime scene processing or laboratory analysis individually, but it is not uncommon to see people working in both settings.
During a normal working day, forensic science technicians work hard to collect evidence from a crime scene and also work to analyze the evidence collected in order to help solve crimes. Due to the nature of the career in general, it can be expected that technicians in this field may be subjected to conditions that are harsh or stressful in nature. Forensic science technicians truly do take a hands-on approach to solving crime, and account for a large percentage of the work that goes into evidence collection and analysis.
Becoming A Forensic Science Technician
Becoming a forensic science technician is an excellent way to get involved in the forensic science field. The knowledge and experience gained in positions such as this one can contribute to a lifelong career solving crimes through the use of science.
There are multiple ways that science can be attributed to criminal investigations, as a technician, you can work to connect these 2 entities to effectively provide answers to the questions that crime can raise. If you may consider becoming a forensic science technician in the future, you should be aware of the demands that a career such as this one places on those involved. It is not likely that you will find many forensic science technicians working in a standard office setting.
Since this job requires collection of evidence from crime scenes, professionals are often found working hard to secure crime areas and collect whatever evidence is possible from the scene. This evidence is then transported back to a laboratory or investigative facility for a full analysis and write-up. Technicians working on the analysis of evidence may use various scientific methods for identifying unknown substances, conducting DNA testing on blood and other bodily fluids, and documenting crime scenes in an understandable fashion.
Different Academic Levels of Forensic Science
This career typically requires that applicants hold at minimum a Bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science. Since it is important to know the various techniques to maintaining a clean crime scene and not disturbing potential evidence, most agencies want to be assured that graduates have received ample education through bachelor’s level programs.
Even after completion of a bachelor’s level program, most organizations require that new employees take part in team training prior to being released to work in the field. Quality assurance is a major point for this career, so continuing education and training may also be a part of working as a technician.
Entry-level master’s degree earners can also get a proper introduction to forensic science from this position, which is a great starting point for more prominent positions in the future. The best way to get started in the forensic science field is to take a position that puts you right into the act of collecting and analyzing evidence.
Salary Information for a Forensic Science Technician Career
The average forensic science technician makes $56,320 per year working in the United States (BLS; 2015). The amount that you make as a professional in this field has a lot to do with the amount of experience you have in the field and the area in which you live.
The most experienced technicians have the potential to earn closer to the higher end of the spectrum, at $94,410 on average per year, while new entries may earn closer to the lower end, which is $34,000 per year on average (BLS; 2015). The potential to earn can only grow as you gain experience in the field and prove yourself as a expert in forensic sciences.
Most forensic technicians hold a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science, although it is possible to see master’s level graduates working at this level as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that this field should see a growth of 27% from 2014-2024, which indicates the need for more students in forensic science educational programs (BLS; 2015).
Technology and Forensic Science Careers
The advancement of technology plays a huge part in the spread of popularity in this career path, with more jobs becoming available as more methods of evidence collection and analysis are being released.
Depending on where you live, it is possible that careers such as this one are more prominent than in other areas of the country. Largely populated areas that have bigger law enforcement agencies are more likely to employ more forensic science technicians that cities with smaller populations and lower crime rates. Areas of the United States such as California, Florida, Texas, Arizona, and New York have shown higher prevalence for forensic science technicians than other states, likely due to the populations and crime rates of these areas.
The current highest earnings for forensic science technicians can be found in California, where the annual mean wage is $80,150 per year (BLS; 2016). Take this into consideration when deciding where you want to work and where to find the most opportunity. You should research your respective state to determine the health of the job market prior to enrolling in a degree program.
What Does A Forensic Science Technician Do?
Beginning with the call from law enforcement agencies, forensic science technicians start their process of collecting and analyzing evidence before ever reaching the crime scene. Planning, implementing, and following up are major parts of effective crime scene management and evidence analysis.
Although different agencies may have different protocols, the entire responsibility of professionals in this field are focused the same general objective – solving crimes. Through the use of proven-effective collection techniques and rigorous testing, forensic science technicians work hard to provide a solid backing of evidence that can be used to help bring justice to those that commit crimes.
Our experts have researched some of the job responsibilities associated with this field in order to give you a better idea of what to expect while working in this field. Take a look below at some of the duties carried out by technicians at the scene of a crime and in the laboratory.
At the Crime Scene
Depending on the crime scene, there may be variations in the responsibilities of the forensic science technician. The overall goal at the site is to effectively collect as much evidence as possible, without disturbing the integrity of what is gathered. Through accurate collection processes, the evidence collected can provide information that can help solve the crime and convict criminals during court proceedings.
Our experts have some of the common job assignments that forensic science technicians are responsible for during a crime scene investigation.
- Assessment of the scene of the crime
- Developing proper collection methods and protocols that may be unique to each crime scene
- Taking pictures and videos of the crime scene prior to disturbing evidence
- Drawing sketches or diagrams of the crime scene for later analysis
- Carefully documenting the location and status of evidence prior to gathering it
- Collecting fingerprints using specialized collection kits
- Using gloves and labeled bags to collect physical evidence (guns, notes, clothing, etc.)
- Using black lights to properly identify blood and other bodily fluids for collection
- Keeping an accurate inventory of evidence collected prior to taking it back to the crime lab
Each setting of this career can require different responsibilities that you should become familiar with when deciding on forensic science technician as a career.
At the Crime Lab
After the evidence has been gathered, forensic science technicians working in the laboratory perform different tests and analysis on evidence to positively identify substances, confirm or exonerate suspects, and tie everything together to a definitive end.
- Perform tests to identify unknown substances through the use of chemistry or biologics
- Use DNA testing to link known offenders to the crime scene through blood and bodily fluids
- Perform ballistics tests on weapons
- Examine remains to confirm identity of deceased
- Compare dental records to remains for identification purposes
- Perform handwriting comparison analysis
- Thoroughly examine seized computers or other technology devices for evidence
- Work with experts in specialized fields such as ballistics, physiology, or toxicology to decipher evidence
- Test hypotheses using reconstructed crime scenes or situations
Depending on the types of evidence collected, the testing procedures may vary significantly. Here are some standard forensic responsibilities that are conducted from within the crime lab.