Forensic laboratory technicians assist in criminal investigations by analyzing physical evidence. While some schools offer a 4-year degree in forensic science, aspiring forensic laboratory technicians typically pursue a bachelor's degree in science programs like chemistry or biology. A degree in one of these programs will provide the knowledge in laboratory procedures, statistical analysis, and results interpretation that is required by the profession.
There are different certifications that can be earned such as DNA, ballistics, or drug analysis. Some programs may possibly need hands-on crime lab experience.
Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology
Bachelor's degree programs in biology prepare individuals with the skills needed to analyze human cells and DNA, which are often found as evidence in crime scenes. Students in a biology program study advanced research methods, statistics, and physics. Typical coursework may include the following:
- Evolutionary science
- Plant biology
Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry
Future forensic laboratory technicians who major in chemistry gain the lab skills and knowledge needed to detail the elements found in drugs, poisons, or bombs. In a chemistry program, students may study physics and calculus in addition to chemistry. Specific coursework may include the following:
- Inorganic chemistry
- Organic chemistry
- Physical chemistry
- Analytical chemistry
- General chemistry
Bachelor of Science Degree in Forensic Science
Students majoring in forensic science gain a foundation in hard sciences and statistics while learning how laboratory testing and analysis aid criminal investigations. The following courses may be included in a forensic science program:
- Laboratory procedures
- Result interpretation
- Crime scene reconstruction
- Documentation techniques
Popular Career Options
Forensic laboratory technicians work primarily for government agencies. Some hiring organizations accept entry-level forensic laboratory candidates. Others can require 2-5 years or 10-20 years of experience. Individuals who majored in forensic science have generally participated in at least one cooperative work experience in a criminal laboratory setting. Many agencies provide additional in-house training specific to forensics once an individual is hired.
Forensic laboratory technicians can opt to earn certifications, including those offered by the American Board of Criminalistics (www.criminalistics.com). Forensic scientists who have worked in the field for at least two years, meet minimum education requirements and pass required exams can earn diplomate or fellow status. Recertification is required every five years; however, fellows must also take a proficiency test annually. Voluntary certifications are also available through the International Association for Identification (www.theiai.org) and the American College of Forensic Examiners International (www.acfei.com).
Forensic laboratory technicians can participate in week-long conferences, which include workshops and seminars on a number of work-related topics, from advances in science, to techniques for courtroom testimony. The FBI also sponsors continuing education training for government-employed forensic laboratory workers.
For everyday training, forensic scientists can look to reference books and other printed resources. Several organizations publish journals, such as the Journal of Forensic Sciences and Forensic Science Communications, which discuss advances in technology as well as topics of interest in forensic science.
Students who would like to be forensic scientists have the option of getting a bachelor's in forensic science, biology or chemistry. Certifications are available for students once they meet the requirements.