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Crime Lab Assistant: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a crime lab assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and skills needed to find out if this is the career for you.

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Among several duties, a crime lab assistant handles and examines evidence alongside a team of professionals. Besides having the necessary skills, an undergraduate degree in forensic science or similar field is needed at minimum.

Essential Information

Crime laboratory assistants, also known as 'forensic science technicians' or 'crime lab technicians', gather evidence from crime scenes and perform tests, such as DNA analysis, to help solve crimes. They typically work in laboratories and have bachelor's degrees in forensic science or a related field. Attention to detail and being comfortable in a lab setting are also important.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in forensic science or a similar natural science
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 27% for forensic science technicians
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $56,320 for forensic science technicians

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Crime Lab Assistant Job Description

Crime lab assistants (CLAs) work in laboratories and at crime scenes. They must follow safety procedures and protocol to collect crime scene evidence, such as guns, hair, and bodily fluids in which they later analyze and test for relevance to a crime. They may also collaborate with experts, including medical professionals, ballistic experts, and handwriting analysts.

Duties of a Crime Lab Assistant

As a professional in the forensic science field, crime lab assistants perform an array of complex scientific tasks that are important to a criminal investigation. Typical duties of a CLA may include:

  • Operating and maintaining laboratory equipment.
  • Gathering and properly storing crime scene evidence.
  • Identifying, classifying, and testing evidence.
  • Preparing reports and maintaining detailed records of research findings, investigative methods, and laboratory techniques.
  • Appearing and testifying in court about crime scene evidence and relevant tests and findings.

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Crime Lab Assistant Requirements

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some of the requirements to become a CLA include earning a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a similar natural science and possessing a basic grasp of legal procedures (www.bls.gov). Other requirements include attention to detail, oral and written communication skills, reasoning abilities, mechanical ability, and computer skills.

Salary of a Crime Lab Assistant

The median salary for forensic science technicians in May, 2015 was $56,320, according to the BLS. The 2015 median annual salary for technicians in the lowest-paid tenth percentile was $34,000, and in the top-paid tenth percentile was $94,410. Industries that employed the most forensic science technicians included government, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and scientific research. States that hired the most technicians in 2015 included California, Florida, Texas, Arizona, and New York.

Crime Lab Assistant Job Outlook

The BLS reports that jobs for forensic science technicians are expected to grow by 27% from 2014 to 2024 which is a must faster rate than average. Jobs in state and local government will increasingly use DNA analysis to solve and prevent crimes, accounting for much of this expected growth. Job openings in this field are also expected due to retirement and to professionals leaving the field (www.bls.gov).

A forensic science or relevant bachelor's degree is required to be a crime lab assistant. Analytical and technical skills are vital as these professionals perform a number of tasks that demand the strictest precision.

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