The responsibility of examining crime scene evidence falls on the crime laboratory analyst, who may specialize in a specific area of forensics. They also serve as expert witnesses in court proceedings. These professionals should possess a bachelor's degree at minimum in a relevant forensic science field.
Crime laboratory analysts are forensic scientists who specialize in the analysis of crime scene evidence to help identify suspects and exonerate the wrongly accused. They apply principles of genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology to their work and use several analytical methods and special equipment to test firearms, body fluids, blood spatter and DNA. They need at least a bachelor's degree in forensic science, microbiology or a related field, preferably from a program that includes an internship in a crime lab; a doctoral degree may be required for career advancement. Many employers also require a period of on-the-job training.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related field|
|Other Requirements||On-the-job training often required|
|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).
Crime laboratory analysts perform scientific examinations in areas such as DNA identification testing, for which they use the Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS) to interpret findings for law enforcement agencies and courts. They take part in forensic autopsies, process fingerprints and prepare evidence reports. Crime laboratory analysts are required to testify as expert witnesses in state and federal courts as a routine component of their job duties.
Crime laboratory analysts typically earn a 4-year degree in biochemistry, microbiology, forensic science or biological science, and they must have successfully completed college coursework that provides a basic understanding of forensic DNA analysis. Before graduation, students also typically serve as interns at crime laboratories, health departments and medical examiner's offices under general supervision. Employers may provide additional training or education for new laboratory employees. For advanced positions such as lab director, a Ph.D. may be required.
Salary and Employment Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most forensic science technicians work in crime laboratories run by city, county or state governments. The BLS projected an employment growth rate of 27% for these professionals from 2014-2024, which is much faster than average, and technological developments could spur the use of forensic evidence in legal proceedings. In May of 2015, the BLS reported a median annual salary of $56,320 for forensic science technicians nationwide.
Forensic technicians working in a crime lab analyze evidence collected from a crime scene. A college degree is required, and on-the-job experience is favored by employers. Jobs in this field are projected to grow rapidly from 2014-2024.