How to Become a Forensic Technologist

Find out how to become a forensic technologist. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in criminal justice.

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Should I Become a Forensic Technologist?

Also called crime scene investigators, these professionals work independently where crimes have occurred and in labs. These techs occupy a highly technical sector of police work involving criminal investigations by gathering and examining physical evidence as it relates to investigations. Forensic technologists may serve as specialists for any number of areas, including ballistics and firearm examination, DNA testing, toxicology, fingerprinting or biochemistry. Additionally, they may be called upon as expert witnesses in criminal trials. Observing the results of violent crimes may be a negative for some individuals.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; master's degree may be preferred
Degree Field Forensic science, biology, chemistry, criminal justice
Experience Experience in law enforcement or an internship may be preferred
Key Skills Composure, problem-solving skills, detail oriented, technical field specific skills
Salary (2014) $55,360 per year (Median salary for forensic science technicians)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014).

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Any bachelor's degree program should consist of coursework involving biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and statistics. Although criminal justice is a popular major for those interested in forensic science, many employers look favorably on students who majored in the sciences. Additionally, programs accredited through The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) and established with the Forensic Educational Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) may be beneficial.

Success Tip:

  • Choose a specialty. Students in a bachelor's degree program can choose courses to build their expertise in crime scene investigation, forensic sciences, computer forensics, forensic psychology, police forensics, forensic toxicology, environmental forensics or DNA forensics.
  • Meet workplace-specific qualifications. An individual may have to meet eligibility for becoming a police officer in addition to earning a college degree for some agencies. Individuals should find out what the specific requirements are for their state and the agency for which they hope to work.

Step 2: Get an Internship

Internships can lead to full-time employment, and interning while in school is a way to gain experience and enhance a resume. Accredited universities offering degrees in forensic sciences often have partnerships set up with government agencies, state crime laboratories or various regional centers for forensic sciences.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

Graduates may not initially become a forensic technologist straight out of school, but working in lower-level laboratory positions for organizations related to law enforcement or government can start off a career as a forensic technologist. Alternatively, gaining employment with an industrial or private forensic testing laboratory can provide opportunities to shape a future career.

Success Tip:

  • Consider a master's degree. Graduating from a 2-year master's degree program can help one attain better job placement and prepare an individual for supervisory roles and promotions earlier in his or her career.
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