Forensic Science Technicians

by Kate Williams

What Forensic Science Technicians Do

Forensic science technicians aid criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0avxorvSOM

Work Environment

Most laboratory forensic science technicians work during regular business hours. Crime scene investigators may work extended or unusual hours and travel to crime scenes within their jurisdiction.

How to Become a Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in a natural science, such as chemistry or biology, or in forensic science. On-the-job training is generally required for both those who investigate crime scenes and those who work in labs.

Pay

The median annual wage for forensic science technicians was $59,150 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of forensic science technicians is projected to grow 14 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 2,400 new jobs over the 10-year period. Competition for jobs is expected to be strong.

Forensic science technicians aid criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence. Many technicians specialize in either crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis.

Duties

Forensic science technicians work in laboratories and on crime scenes. At crime scenes, forensic science technicians typically do the following:

  • Analyze crime scenes to determine what evidence should be collected and how
  • Take photographs of the crime scene and evidence
  • Make sketches of the crime scene
  • Record observations and findings, such as the location and position of evidence
  • Collect evidence, including weapons, fingerprints, and bodily fluids
  • Catalog and preserve evidence for transfer to crime labs
  • Reconstruct crime scenes

In laboratories, forensic science technicians typically do the following:

  • Perform chemical, biological, and microscopic analyses on evidence taken from crime scenes
  • Explore possible links between suspects and criminal activity, using the results of DNA or other scientific analyses
  • Consult with experts in specialized fields, such as toxicology (the study of poisons and their effect on the body) and odontology (a branch of forensic medicine that concentrates on teeth)

Forensic science technicians may be generalists who perform many or all of the duties listed above or they may specialize in certain techniques and sciences. Generalist forensic science technicians, sometimes called criminalists or crime scene investigators, collect evidence at the scene of a crime and perform scientific and technical analysis in laboratories or offices.

Forensic science technicians who work primarily in laboratories may specialize in the natural sciences or engineering. These workers, such as forensic biologists and forensic chemists, typically use chemicals and laboratory equipment such as microscopes when analyzing evidence. They also may use computers to examine DNA, substances, and other evidence collected at crime scenes. They often work to match evidence to people or other known elements, such as vehicles or weapons. Most forensic science technicians who perform laboratory analysis specialize in a specific type of evidence, such as DNA or ballistics.

Some forensic science technicians, called forensic computer examiners or digital forensics analysts, specialize in computer-based crimes. They collect and analyze data to uncover and prosecute electronic fraud, scams, and identity theft. The abundance of digital data helps them solve crimes in the physical world as well. Computer forensics technicians must adhere to the same strict standards of evidence gathering found in general forensic science because legal cases depend on the integrity of evidence.

All forensic science technicians prepare written reports that detail their findings and investigative methods. They must be able to explain their reports to lawyers, detectives, and other law enforcement officials. In addition, forensic science technicians may be called to testify in court about their findings and methods.

Forensic science technicians held about 17,200 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of forensic science technicians were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 58%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 29
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 4
Testing laboratories 2

Forensic science technicians may have to work outside in all types of weather, spend many hours in laboratories and offices, or do some combination of both. They often work with specialists and other law enforcement personnel. Many specialist forensic science technicians work only in laboratories.

Crime scene investigators may travel throughout their jurisdictions, which may be cities, counties, or states.

Work Schedules

Crime scene investigators may work staggered day, evening, or night shifts and may have to work overtime because they must always be available to collect or analyze evidence. Technicians working in laboratories usually work a standard workweek, although they may have to be on call outside of normal business hours if they are needed to work immediately on a case.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of forensic science technicians.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Biological Technicians

Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments.

Bachelor’s degree $45,860

Chemical Technicians

Chemical technicians use special instruments and techniques to assist chemists and chemical engineers.

Associate’s degree $49,260

Chemists and Materials Scientists

Chemists and materials scientists study substances at the atomic and molecular levels and analyze the ways in which the substances interact with one another.

Bachelor’s degree $78,790

Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

Environmental science and protection technicians monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution and contamination.

Associate’s degree $46,540

Fire Inspectors

Fire inspectors examine buildings in order to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met.

See How to Become One $60,230

Hazardous Materials Removal Workers

Hazardous materials removal workers identify and dispose of harmful substances such as asbestos, lead, and radioactive waste.

High school diploma or equivalent $43,900

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.

Bachelor’s degree $53,120

Police and Detectives

Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.

See How to Become One $65,170

Private Detectives and Investigators

Private detectives and investigators search for information about legal, financial, and personal matters.

High school diploma or equivalent $50,510

For more information about forensic science technicians and related specialists, visit

American Academy of Forensic Sciences

American Board of Criminalistics

American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators

Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners

International Crime Scene Investigators Association

CareerOneStop

For a career video on forensic science technicians, visit

Forensic science technicians

O*NET

Forensic Science Technicians


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Forensic Science Technicians,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm (visited ).


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