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Forensic Examiner: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a forensic examiner. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and continuing education requirements to find out if this is the career for you.

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A forensic examiner investigates crime scenes, recording, analyzing, and gathering clues and evidence. They may specialize in a specific area of forensics. A relevant bachelor's degree and lab experience are typically needed to be a forensic examiner, and can also lead to certification.

Essential Information

Forensic examiners provide scientific evaluations of evidence that is used to aid law enforcement investigations and court cases. They visit crime scenes, collecting evidence like fingerprints and blood samples that can be examined for clues in a laboratory. These professionals typically complete a bachelor's degree program in forensic science or a related field, such as chemistry and biology. Some specialize in particular areas such as DNA or ballistics. Professional certification is available, and employers may require that examiners keep their knowledge updated through continuing education courses.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements On-the-job training; continuing education courses may be required
Certification Voluntary
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 27% for forensic science technicians
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $56,320 for forensic science technicians

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

Job Description for a Forensic Examiner

Forensic examiners, also known as forensic science technicians or crime scene investigators, analyze physical evidence and provide scientific conclusions for the justice system. They provide analytical assistance and expert opinions used during law enforcement investigations, criminal court cases, civilian court cases and regulatory proceedings. Examiners can be generalists or specialize in one of many fields, including:

  • Accounting
  • Ballistics
  • DNA
  • Fingerprinting
  • Pathology
  • Questioned documents
  • Toxicology

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Duties of a Forensic Examiner

Forensic examiners are responsible for collecting and preserving the integrity of evidence at crime scenes. They collect hair, fiber and blood samples, lift fingerprints and footprints, make measurements and take photographs. In the laboratory, examiners use equipment and chemical solutions to classify materials and identify unique characteristics, such as the markings that match a bullet to a particular firearm.

Forensic examiners are also responsible for documenting their findings and creating detailed reports. Their analysis can be used to recreate crime scenes, confirm or rule out a suspect's involvement, determine a cause of death and verify handwriting on documents.

Salary and Employment Outlook

Between 2014 and 2024, employment was expected to grow by 27% for forensic science technicians, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted. The BLS reported in May 2015 that forensic science technicians saw a median income of $56,320.

Requirements to Become a Forensic Examiner

Forensic examiners are generally required to complete a bachelor's degree program in a science related area, such as forensics, biology, chemistry or physics. Relevant coursework includes English composition, genetics, statistics and geometry. Experience with laboratory equipment and techniques can provide a competitive advantage, though most employers provide at least some training on the job.

Working examiners typically must take continuing education courses provided by professional organizations, such as the American Board of Criminalistics (ABC), American College of Forensic Examiners International (ACFEI) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The ABC and ACFEI also offer voluntary certification programs in different forensic fields that validate an examiner's expertise and can enhance employment opportunities. Generally, examiners must complete a bachelor's degree program and have at least two years of experience to be eligible to receive a certification.

Earning a bachelor's degree in forensic science or similar field is the first step to becoming a forensic examiner. Practical training is provided on the job, and enough work experience qualifies one for certification. These professionals may engage in specified fieldwork or perform more general duties.

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