Careers in DNA Analysis: Job Options and Degree Requirements

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

DNA analysts may extract DNA from hair, bodily fluids or other samples found at crime scenes and compare the samples to others in a database or collected from suspects. They may also work for corporations to perform tests to determine paternity or ancestry. Those that work in the medical research field test samples for evidence genetic diseases.

Essential Information

Individuals interested in biology, genetics and the use of scientific technology may consider a career in DNA analysis. DNA analysts extract DNA from a source, use laboratory tools to validate the DNA and compare the DNA sample to other samples. DNA analysts often provide information that is relevant to testing for genetic disorders and diseases, paternity testing and criminal investigation.

Career Title Forensic Science Technician
Required Education Bachelor's
Other Requirements Voluntary certification is available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 27%
Median Salary (2015)* $56,320

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

DNA analysts often work in government and medical fields. Because DNA analysis is accurate and is a critical part of criminal and medical investigations, it is a rapidly growing field. Individuals may pursue scientific careers that focus on the examination and testing of DNA.

Forensic Scientists

'Forensic' means 'dealing with the law,' so forensic investigations are those that relate in some way to legal matters, such as criminal proceedings. Forensic scientists may choose to specialize in DNA analysis and seek government jobs, including careers with federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Forensic scientists may also seek work at universities or in private labs. These analysts examine, test and analyze evidence using serological, biological and chemical technology. Forensic scientists may be asked to provide expert opinions or serve as witnesses during investigations and court proceedings.

Crime lab professionals isolate DNA strands from hair, bodily fluids and other samples discovered at crime scenes. These can be compared to other samples in a database. These specialists provide detailed analysis of DNA evidence. Their findings are an important factor in ensuring that criminal proceedings are fair and accurate.

Research and Development

Research and development encompass basic research, research applications and the development of new products, processes or technologies. Research and development are primarily carried out by private companies. Biotechnology, including DNA analysis technology, accounts for a significant share of research and development conducted in the U.S. According to the DNA Initiative, the need for advancements in DNA testing innovations is growing. Researchers are needed to validate new technology and tools that can be used in DNA analysis.

Degree Requirements

Undergraduate Degree

Students interested in DNA analysis may pursue a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry or forensic science. Forensic science programs should be accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Program participants will typically be expected to complete coursework in genetics, molecular biology, statistics and biochemistry and complete extensive laboratory experience.

Graduate Degree

Individuals seeking advanced training for a forensic science career may pursue a master's degree in forensic science. Most forensic science graduate programs take two years to complete and provide students with valuable laboratory experience that allows them opportunities to gain comprehensive knowledge of cutting edge DNA technology. Graduate program participants may be expected to complete course work in advanced forensics, criminalistics, molecular biology and ethics.

Career and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for forensic science technicians is expected to grow 27% from 2014-2024, while the number of jobs for biological technicians is expected to grow 5%. The BLS reported that in 2014, forensic science technician jobs paid a median salary of $56,320, and biological technician jobs paid a median salary of $41,650.

DNA analysts must have a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry or forensic science. Their education should include extensive laboratory experience to prepare them for the working environment of a DNA analyst. Certification is not required, but is an option for those entering this field.


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