Forensic science technicians investigate crimes. They document crimes scenes with photographs and written reports. Forensic science technicians collect, store, test and evaluate evidence. Technicians utilize various types of equipment such as ultraviolet light, microscopes, spectrographs, x-ray machines and infrared photography. They also provide reports which include documentation of their findings and include the laboratory techniques which were utilized. Their findings often help to determine if a defendant is innocent or guilty of a crime.
Sometimes they may offer information and expert opinions to investigators. In addition, forensic science technicians often appear in court to provide expert witness testimony regarding laboratory findings. While in court, they typically identify and classify evidence that was collected at crime scenes.
Many in the profession specialize in different fields, including performing tests on weapons or substances such as fiber, hair or body fluids. Some specialize as crime scene technicians or laboratory technicians. Many technicians specialize in DNA analysis. Document technicians evaluate handwriting and the paper.
Instrument technicians are asked to match the marks located on victims to the tools that may have been used in the crime. Photography technicians are responsible for taking photographs of crime scenes. Fingerprint technicians evaluate fingerprints and footprints and some also analyze tire treads.
- Gather evidence at crime scenes
- Analyze evidence
- Properly store evidence
- Determine the relationship among all the evidence
- Analyze guns
- Evaluate tool marks
- Evaluate fingerprints
- Analyze tire prints
- Consult with other experts
- Prepare reports of their findings
Technicians must be detailed oriented, precise and methodical. They also need good communication and organizational skills. Regarding their work environment, the laboratories are typically ventilated and clean. Due to being in contact with physical evidence they are sometimes exposed to diseases, fumes and chemicals. They often wear protective and disposable clothing such as paper suits and gloves.
Forensic science technicians work closely with FBI investigators and state and local police. They also work with medical experts and with other forensic science technicians that have a specialty. In addition, sometimes they present their findings in court. They usually work 40 hours a week and are required to be on call.
Advancement opportunities are provided by taking civil service examinations. The exams typically require knowledge of the latest techniques in the profession. Some may advance to supervisory jobs.
In 2006, the median hourly earnings for forensic science technicians was $21.79. There were approximately 13,000 forensic science positions in 2006. The employment growth rate for forensic technicians is projected to be much faster than the average for all other types of employment. The increase is primarily due to the growth in usage of forensic science to examine and solve crimes.
Forensic Science Technicians Degrees, Certification, and Licensing
A large number of employers require a bachelor's degree in forensic science or crime technology. The bachelor's degree programs provide training in scientific crime detection, criminal investigation and evidence, investigative photography, fingerprint science, criminal law and court procedures.
The bachelor's degree programs that have received accreditation from the American Academy of Forensic Science typically take five years to complete. Two-year programs are also available but the trend is towards hiring those with bachelor's degrees in the subject. Some colleges offer a master's degree in the topic.
To increase the chances of gaining employment in the profession, some candidates acquire certification in the field. Certification is provided by agencies such as the American Board of Criminalistics and the National Registry in Clinical Chemistry. The American Board of Forensic Toxicology and the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners also offer certification.
Often forensic science technicians have to pass a background check and a drug test. Also, they cannot have a criminal record or a history of drug use.
- American Academy of Forensic Sciences
- Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction
- International Crime Scene Investigators Association
The major employers of forensic science technicians are police departments which contain a crime laboratory. State, local and federal government agencies are also primary employers.
Schools for Forensic Science Technicians are listed in the Browse Schools Section.