|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree; master's for advancement|
|Degree Field(s)||Biology, chemistry, physics, or forensic science|
|License/Certification||Voluntary certification available|
|Key Skills||Strong written/oral communication, organizational, and public speaking skills; attention to detail and good manual dexterity|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||27% growth|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)||$56,320 (for most forensic science technicians)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
A forensic autopsy technician assists a forensic pathologist before, during, and after an autopsy. A technician also handles the clerical duties involved in the autopsy process. Technicians typically need a bachelor's degree in science such as biology, chemistry, or physics. Many forensic autopsy science technicians go on to earn master's degrees to advance their careers. Although not required to enter the field, some forensic science technicians also pursue professional certifications and licenses.
A forensic autopsy technician will help prepare the room, paperwork, and body, and assist the pathologist with the actual autopsy. Duties may include filling out paperwork before, during, and after an autopsy; setting up and labeling collection containers; weighing samples and organs; and cleaning up after the autopsy. A technician may also be involved in:
- Accepting bodies into a morgue
- Contacting relatives of the deceased
- Preparing toe tags
- Assisting with evidence collection at crime scenes
- Transferring bodies to funeral homes
Although a high school diploma and significant work in the field may qualify some candidates for jobs as forensic autopsy science technicians, a bachelor of science is usually needed to get a job. Future forensic autopsy technicians should also study laboratory science and writing, which can help them learn how to organize and write scientific reports, as well as math and statistics. Good speaking skills are important in this field, so in addition to classes in public speaking, participating in extracurricular activities like debating teams or drama clubs may be helpful.
Undergraduate areas of specialization may include DNA studies, pathology, and toxicology. A master of science in forensic science may be a good choice for students who want to advance in their careers and become supervisors or pathologists, doctors who study human body fluids and tissues. Areas of study may include chemistry, criminalistics, forensic biology, or toxicology.
The American Academy of Forensic Sciences provides a list of undergraduate and graduate programs in forensic science, or closely related areas of study, that have been approved by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, which can be found through www.aafs.org.
Job Opportunities and Salaries
Forensic science technicians in general may work for crime laboratories, medical examiner offices, morgues, or police departments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of forensic science technicians may increase by as much as 27%, or much faster than average, from 2014 to 2024. Competition for jobs is expected to be strong as popular television shows have generated a lot of interest in crime scene investigations and forensic science. Candidates with both an undergraduate degree in natural science and a graduate degree in forensic science may stand out in the job market. The BLS reported in May 2015 that the median annual salary for most forensic science technicians in general was $56,320.
A bachelor's degree in science is usually required for a job as a forensic autopsy technician who assists a forensic pathologist before, during, and after an autopsy. As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2015, forensic science technicians in general earned a median annual salary of $56,320. Job opportunities in this highly competitive field are expected to grow by 27% through 2024.