- Find a job in forensic science.
Though the job of a forensic science technician isn't exactly like what you see on TV, it is very much a vital and interesting criminology career. Forensic science technicians ensure vital evidence is located, properly handled and analyzed in order to identify and find criminals and assist in their successful prosecution.
Job Functions and Work Environment
Forensic science technicians, sometimes called crime scene investigators, crime scene technicians or forensic scientists, work in a number of different environments. Some are primarily restricted to laboratory analysis, meticulously testing evidence collected and submitted by detectives. Others respond to crime scenes along with the police and investigators.
Crime scene technicians often collect evidence directly from the scene and ensure it is handled properly. Evidence handling procedures are vital in that they ensure the evidence is preserved correctly and that it is not tampered with prior to, during or after analysis. For example, fibrous material containing blood evidence must be collected in a paper bag as opposed to plastic in order for it to dry safely without encouraging mold, and must be kept in refrigerated dry storage. Failure to handle evidence correctly can result in a guilty criminal going free.
The bulk of the work of a forensic science investigator is done indoors, where analysis occurs. The work hours are generally Monday through Friday, though crime scene investigators who respond to scenes are subject to call out at any time.
- Learn more about a day in the life of a forensic science technician
Forensic science investigators may specialize in a number of areas within the forensic science discipline, including:
- Tissue or body fluids
- Forensic engineering and crash reconstruction
- Blood and blood splatter
Education And Skill Requirements
Generally, a bachelor's degree in Forensic Science or another natural science is required to get a job as a forensic science technician. However, it may be possible to get your foot in the door with a certificate from a vocational or technical school. You may also be able to gain entry level employment as a lab technician, working under the direct supervision of a scientist. If you are able to demonstrate proficiency as a lab tech, you may be able to work your way up to a forensic scientist.
In addition to a degree, forensic science technicians need to have strong written and oral communication skills. Crime scene technicians work closely with detectives and investigators and must be able to communicate their findings and their expert opinions clearly and articulately.
Often, forensic scientists must make reports that will be used in court proceedings. This means verbal communication is of vital importance. Forensic science technicians must also have excellent computer skills and need to be technologically inclined as they routinely deal with sensitive electronic lab equipment.
Job Growth and Salary Outlook
According the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary for forensic science technicians was $55,040 annually, or $23.97 per hour, in 2008. Salaries ranged between $32,000 and $83,000 across the U.S. for the same year.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2010-2011 states that there were approximately 12,800 forensic science technicians employed in the United States in 2008. Employment of crime scene technicians is expected to grow in number by 20% by 2018, due largely in part to the fact that more and more law enforcement agencies are utilizing technology and DNA analysis to solve crimes. This expected growth rate is much higher than the Bureau of Labor and Statistics' average project rate of 12% for all jobs.
Is a Career in Forensic Science Right for You?
If you are scientifically inclined and have a keen understanding of the scientific method, you will likely easily grasp the importance of proper evidence collection and handling. Work as a forensic scientist can be grueling and gruesome, as you will often be working with scenes an evidence from violent crimes. A strong stomach is a must. However, if you are excited by the notion that your work and attention to detail can help serve justice and solve crime, and you have a strong desire to help others, a career as a forensic science investigator may be exactly what you are looking for.