Should I Become a Forensic Lab Assistant?
Forensic lab assistants classify and analyze evidence in criminal investigations. They examine and test physical evidence, such as fingerprints, hair and weapons, to reconstruct crime scenes and identify suspects. Travel is typical in this occupation, and these professionals often see the grisly results of violent crimes. Both full- and part-time positions are available. Some workers may work varied schedules, such as nights and weekends. Work in the field can be completed both in the lab and on-the-scene.
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|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Fields||Forensic science or another science, such as biology|
|Experience||Entry-level; lab assistants receive on-the-job training before working on their own|
|Key Skills||Excellent written and oral communication, strong critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, attention to detail, familiarity with database, digital imaging and evidence analysis software, ability to collect evidence using appropriate kits/containers and to photograph evidence and/or crime scenes using a camera, ability to maintain composure at crime scenes|
|Salary||$58,610 (mean annual wage as of May 2014)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Loyola University Chicago, O Net Online
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Forensic lab assistants typically earn a bachelor's degree in forensic science or another natural science, such as biology or chemistry. In addition to foundational math and science courses, forensic science programs may include training in anatomy, genetics, pathology, hematology, toxicology, osteology and drug chemistry. Students may also study other aspects of forensic science, such as ethics, psychology, data analysis and criminal procedure. Some courses may include laboratory experience.
- Complete an internship. Students can develop practical knowledge through forensic science internships. Interns may collect or analyze evidence and conduct database research.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
Forensic lab assistants often work in hospitals, police stations, morgues, forensic laboratories or medical examination offices. They may work exclusively in laboratories or travel to crime scenes. Technicians typically receive on-the-job training from experienced technicians and scientists on following lab procedures, paying attention to detail and properly securing evidence.
After some time, lab assistants may be able to take on supervisory roles and training incoming assistants. Some technicians advance to positions as forensic scientists, where they lead forensic teams and ensure the overall success of projects or cases.
- Consider a specialization. With training, technicians might be able to develop proficiency in a particular area of forensic science. This includes areas such as toxicology, pathology, psychiatry, criminology or digital sciences.
Step 3: Opportunities for Career Advancement
Due to the continuous advancement of technology and science, a forensic scientist must constantly keep up with the changes to ensure that they are prepared for the work which may arise. In addition to this standard upkeep, a forensic scientist can acquire one, or several, licenses and certifications to improve the likelihood that they advance and focus their career. Depending on where a person lives, these certifications can differ.