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Crime Science Tech: Career Information and Education Requirements

Crime scene techs require significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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A bachelor's degree is required to begin a career as a crime scene technician. Some law enforcement agencies may have additional training requirements. Crime scene technicians collect and process evidence from a crime that can be used by the police and prosecutors to apprehend and convict the persons responsible for committing the crime.

Essential Information

Also known as forensic science technicians or criminalists, crime science technicians (CSTs) collect evidence, including fingerprints, DNA samples and ballistics, at a crime scene and analyze it in a laboratory. They often hold a bachelor's degree in forensic science or criminal justice, but individuals with degrees in a science field can learn through a certificate program. During their training, aspiring CSTs develop the skills they'll need to perform various tests and report on their findings, which could include presenting evidence as expert witnesses in court cases.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in forensic science or criminal justice, or post-baccalaureate certificate
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 27% (forensic science technician0
Mean Salary (2015)* $56,320 (forensic science technician)

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Information

CSTs provide support to police officers investigating criminal activity, though they do not have an officer's power of arrest. They may be employed by medical examiners' offices, law enforcement agencies or forensic labs.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for forensic science technicians in 2015 was $56,320 (www.bls.gov). Job opportunities for these professionals are expected to grow 27% from 2014-2024. This is due to the growing use of scientific crime scene analysis techniques by local and government agencies. However, some positions may require relocation. The International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA) reports that only a few police departments have full-time CST positions available to civilians.

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Education Requirements

The BLS states that many positions require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related field. However, the educational requirements for CSTs can vary from one law enforcement agency to the next, according to the ICSIA. Applicants should check with their local agency before enrolling in an educational program to ensure that it meets the requirements.

Program Options

Postbaccalaureate certificate programs in forensic science or crime scene technology are among some training options available to students who already have a degree in one of the sciences. Crime scene technology associate degree programs are also available. Courses for these programs might include collection technologies, evidence photography, police procedure and fingerprinting.

Another route to becoming a CST is to complete a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in forensic investigation. Forensic science bachelor's degree programs are offered as well. Coursework often includes topics in criminalistics, evidence collection, chemistry and forensic biology.

The expected job growth for forensic science technicians from 2014-2024 is 27%, according to the BLS. This is much faster than average when compared to all other occupations. Applicants with a bachelor's degree in forensic science or criminal justice will be able to compete for job openings, while those with a science degree may need to take a certificate program before entering this job field.

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