Forensic Scientist: Job Description & Career Requirements

Dec 15, 2020

Forensic Scientist Job Description

A forensic science job description depends greatly on the specific specialization that a particular scientist has. Forensic science technicians are responsible for identifying, collecting and analyzing physical evidence related to crimes. They may use mobile equipment to perform tests on trace evidence, such as hairs, fibers or tissue, or they may take the material back to labs for evaluation. Many forensic science technicians specialize in an area of forensic science, such as handwriting analysis, fingerprinting, ballistics, DNA analysis, biochemistry and so on.

Education Associate's or bachelor's degree
Job Skills Detail oriented, interpersonal skills, organization, problem solving
Median Salary (2019)* $59,150
Job Growth (2019-2029)* 14%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Most people beginning their careers as forensic science technicians have obtained an associate's or bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as biology, chemistry or the applied sciences. A 2- or 4-year degree that gives you some combination of scientific theory and hands-on lab experience will qualify you to work in forensic science. Most forensic science technicians will receive additional on-the-job training specific to their positions.

Skills Required

A crime lab technician job description involves a number of different required skills. Because forensic science technicians process and analyze evidence for use in legal proceedings, it's important that they be diligent, methodical and precise in their work. An understanding or familiarity with the law and the legal system is also helpful for this position. Forensic science technicians also often work in teams, so good communication and interpersonal skills are important.

Job Duties

Forensic scientist job duties include the following:

  • Analyzing forensic evidence
  • Appearing in court
  • Using discretion when dealing with sensitive legal information
  • In some cases, attending crime scenes
  • Assisting other forensic scientists in a laboratory or field work setting

Work Environment

Forensic science technicians do most of their work in laboratories. These laboratories are often connected to a law enforcement agency or a university. Some of a forensic science technician's job is generally also done on a computer, either at home or in an office setting. In some cases, forensic science technicians may be asked to attend a crime scene in order to gather evidence, take samples, or otherwise participate in a criminal investigation.

Economic and Employment Outlook

The employment outlook for forensic science is much-faster-than-average growth and high job competition; employment in this sector is expected to expand by 14% percent from 2019-2029. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov, the median annual wage for forensic science technicians was $59,150 as of May 2019. Wages in forensic science technicians vary by region, specialty and years of experience.

Alternate Career Options

Those pursuing careers as forensic science technicians may be interested in related occupations that involve law enforcement and forensic science, including law enforcement detective and chemist.

Law Enforcement Detective

For those who want to bring criminals to justice, a non-scientific career as a detective may be a possibility. Detectives interview witnesses and suspects, collect evidence, analyze all the data and arrest criminals. Depending on the agency, earning a high school diploma and training at a law enforcement academy may be all that is necessary to gain entrance to this field. According to data from the BLS, a 5% increase in employment is projected for police and detectives during the 2019-2029 decade, resulting in roughly 40,600 new jobs. In May of 2019, the BLS estimated that detectives and criminal investigators earned a median salary of $83,170.

Chemist

If working with chemicals and other compounds in a laboratory sounds appealing, becoming a chemist could be the right option. Chemists analyze substances and determine the composition and structure in order to improve or create new products. A bachelor's degree in chemistry is most often required by employers, and coursework should also include math and biological sciences. The BLS predicted employment growth of only 5% for chemists and materials scientists between 2019 and 2029. They also estimated that chemists received a median wage of $77,630 in 2019.

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