It may be possible to begin a career as an evidence technician with a high school diploma and certificate or degree. Requirements can vary by department; some evidence technicians are required to be law enforcement professionals and may need more specific training.
Evidence technicians, sometimes referred to as crime scene investigators, forensic science technicians or evidence specialists, go to crime scenes to locate and process pieces of evidence. They follow strict protocols when gathering evidence. Law enforcement professionals wishing to take on these duties must typically complete a training program; however, those without a law enforcement background will need to pursue formal education in a field like crime scene technology.
|Career Titles||Evidence Technician (Law Enforcement)||Evidence Technician (Non-Law Enforcement)|
|Required Education||40-80 hours of specialized coursework on top of the training and/or degree required by their department||Certificate or degree|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||4% for all police and detectives*||27% for all forensic science technicians*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$60,270 for all police and detectives*||$56,320 for all forensic science technicians*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Evidence Technician Training Programs
Many evidence technician training programs are designed specifically for members of law enforcement, which may limit civilians' ability to enroll in certain programs. Basic training programs in evidence collection can usually be completed within 40-80 classroom hours. Coursework topics include molds and impressions, crime scene search techniques, evidence documentation, fingerprint gathering, crime scene photography, DNA recovery and evidence analysis preparation.
Since the majority of these training programs are meant to be taken by active law enforcement agents, students are often required to bring equipment from their own police departments or other law enforcement agencies. Such equipment can include digital cameras, evidence gathering kits, laptop computers and department copies of evidence-processing documentation.
Degree and Certificate Training Programs
Individuals not currently involved in law enforcement may choose to prepare for evidence technician careers by completing degree or certificate programs related to criminal justice. Completing degree or certificate programs in criminal justice provides students with a broader understanding of the legal system, but may not provide enough specific training with evidence processing. Specific programs that focus on evidence collection and preservation include crime scene technology or crime scene management.
Coursework in crime scene technology includes investigation tactics, criminal law, crime scene processing, investigative photography, trace evidence gathering, fingerprint analysis and criminology. Many degree programs also require students to participate in internship programs so that they may gain a better understanding of how investigators handle evidence at real crime scenes.
Evidence Technician Education Requirements
Since evidence technicians are typically law enforcement professionals, required education may depend on the jurisdiction. For example, some local and state police departments have their own training academies, while others require 2-year or 4-year degrees. Forensic technicians usually need a 4-year degree for entry-level positions in their field, but forensic technicians are different than evidence technicians, since they physically conduct tests on evidence, whereas evidence technicians strictly collect and preserve the evidence for testing.
Salary and Employment Outlook
According to the BLS, employment growth for detectives and criminal investigators is projected to be 4% from 2014 to 2024, which is slower than average. Forensic science technicians are expected to see job growth of 27% during the same period. When it comes to salary, police and detectives made a median annual wage of $60,270 in 2015, and forensic science technicians made a median annual salary of $56,320 that same year.
With faster-than-average job growth expected for forensic science technicians between 2014 and 2024, the job prospects for individuals planning to pursue careers as evidence technicians are promising. It is important to check with specific police departments for specific employment qualifications - some evidence technicians need to be law enforcement professionals.