Difference Between Forensic Scientist & Medical Technician

Forensic scientists and medical technicians may use similar equipment and may both work with biological samples, but their work is used for very different purposes. This article explores the differences between these professionals in greater detail.

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Comparing Forensic Scientists to Medical Technicians

Forensic scientists and medical technicians may both work with biological samples that need to be tested, but their work is actually very different. Forensic scientists participate in criminal investigations, while medical technicians perform medical tests that are used to help diagnose patients.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Forensic Scientists Bachelor's Degree $56,750 27%
Medical Technicians Associate's Degree $38,950 (for medical and clinical laboratory technicians) 18% (for medical and clinical laboratory technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Forensic Scientists vs. Medical Technicians

Forensic scientists and medical technicians may both be involved in collecting biological samples and testing them. Forensic scientists do this at crime scenes, where they retrieve other types of potential evidence as well. Medical technicians work in medical facilities and get samples from patients that are tested for medical purposes. Forensic scientists work with other law enforcement professionals and provide them with reports about their findings that can be used to identify potential suspects and help convict those charged with crimes. Both forensic scientists and medical technicians may use laboratory equipment regularly.

Forensic Scientists

Forensic scientists are also known as forensic science technicians. They can work in laboratories or at crime scenes. The focus of their work is on discovering relevant evidence that can help identify who is responsible for committing a crime. Their work hours can vary, and may include evening, overnight and weekend shifts. Forensic scientists are required to have a bachelor's degree and on-the-job training. Those who work at crime scenes will travel to those locations to perform their duties.

Job responsibilities of a forensic scientist include:

  • Assessing crime scenes to identify potential evidence
  • Photographing crime scenes
  • Gathering potential evidence
  • Performing tests on evidence recovered from the crime scene
  • Comparing biological samples with samples from suspects
  • Explaining their findings in court

Medical Technicians

Medical technicians are also known as medical laboratory technicians or medical and clinical laboratory technicians. They primarily work in medical laboratories where they perform tests on biological materials such as urine samples. An associate's degree and certification are required to enter this field, although many professionals who work as medical technicians have a bachelor's degree. They can work in hospitals or medical centers, and are typically required to work different shifts. They spend a lot of time standing and walking, and they work directly with patients throughout their shift, so they need good communication skills.

Job responsibilities of a medical technician include:

  • Collecting biological samples
  • Maintaining equipment
  • Answering patient questions
  • Teaching new staff
  • Ensuring patient files are updated with test results
  • Conferring with other medical professionals

Related Careers

A career alternative for those thinking about becoming a forensic scientist is to be a fire investigator, since fire investigators travel to the scene of a fire and gather evidence to determine the cause of the fire. Another option for aspiring medical technicians is to consider working as a veterinary technician, since veterinary technicians also perform tests on biological samples.

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