Crime Lab Technician Education Requirements and Job Duties
Crime lab technicians require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties, and training to see if this is the right career for you.
|Required Education||Associate's or bachelor's degree; a degree in forensic science is recommended|
|Other Requirements||On-the-job training|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||27% (forensic science technicians)*|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)||$56,320 annually (forensic science technicians)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Crime lab technicians help criminal investigators solve crimes by collecting evidence at crime scenes and analyzing it in a laboratory. They must hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related science field. Employers may also require additional formal education and on-the-job training. These positions may appeal to those interested in science and criminal justice.
Most employers, especially federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, prefer applicants who hold a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related science, such as biology, chemistry, molecular biology, physics, and microbiology. Individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in a science other than forensic science may enroll in certificate and graduate courses in forensic science at universities, colleges, and 2-year schools. Every crime lab technician must be proficient at using a microscope and have a strong knowledge of chemistry and statistics.
Curriculum for Education
Bachelor's degree programs in forensic science generally include courses in several areas of science, as well as criminal justice. Courses typically include toxicology, crime lab procedures, criminalistics, criminal justice administration, biochemistry, odontology, trace evidence, and physical evidence.
Students are also required to complete an internship in a crime lab. Interns don't gather and analyze crime scene evidence, but they observe others who perform such duties. Some aspiring lab technicians who pursue a bachelor's degree in forensic science also major in criminal justice or study it as a minor.
Most crime lab technicians work for local and state governments, which typically offer on-the-job training. Training is also provided by companies that operate private labs, which handle contracts for law enforcement agencies and other clients. Crime lab technicians hired by the federal government usually undergo training at the FBI's Forensic Science Research and Training Center in Quantico, VA.
Depending on the jurisdiction where a lab technician works, he or she may collect evidence at crime scenes, work only in a laboratory analyzing evidence collected at the crime scene or perform both duties. Job responsibilities of crime lab technicians also depend on the specialties they choose. Specialties include ballistics, fingerprints, hair, fibers, explosives, computers, DNA testing, glass, and body fluids.
Every crime lab tech uses special instruments, equipment, and other materials to collect or examine evidence. Most crime lab technicians work as part of a team that may include other technicians, criminal investigators, and medical experts. After examining evidence, crime lab technicians write reports on their findings and often present them during testimony at criminal trials.
Aspiring crime lab technicians who meet more than the minimum education requirements have the best job prospects. The number of crime lab tech positions is anticipated to increase 27% between 2014 and 2024 due to the rising use of various forensic science methods to collect and process evidence, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, this is a popular field, so competition for jobs may be high. Crime lab technicians, also called forensic science technicians, earned a median yearly salary of $56,320 in 2015.
To recap, crime lab technicians may perform a variety of tasks inside and outside the laboratory, and they generally need an associate's or bachelor's degree related to forensic science along with additional on-the-job training.