Career Definition for a Forensic Science Technician
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 (2017)*||$57,850|
|Job Growth (2016-2026)*||17%|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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.
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.
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 17% percent from 2016-2026. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov, the median annual wage for forensic science technicians was $57,850 as of May 2017. 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 7% increase in employment is projected for police and detectives during the 2016-2026 decade, resulting in roughly 53,400 new jobs. In May of 2017, the BLS estimated that detectives and criminal investigators earned a median salary of $79,970.
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 7% for chemists and materials scientists between 2016 and 2026. They also estimated that chemists received a median wage of $74,740 in 2017.