Forensic science technicians usually require a bachelor's degree. A master's degree may be needed for senior level or supervisory positions. Additional on-the-job training may be help new hires learn a particular specialty. Certification is available, but often not required.
How to Become a Forensic Science Technician
Forensic science technicians analyze and process crime scene evidence. They may choose from a variety of career paths, including evidence technician, crime scene investigator, fingerprint examiner and criminalist. Most employers require a bachelor's degree with extensive coursework in chemistry and biology.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Projected Growth (2016-2026)*||17% for forensic science technicians|
|Median Salary (2018)*||$58,230 for forensic science technicians|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Forensic Science Technician Schooling Requirements
The basic requirement for most forensic science technician jobs is a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a natural science, such as chemistry, biology, molecular biology or physics. While forensic science is offered as a major at some schools, many colleges and universities offer this field of study as a concentration of another major, such as chemistry. According to the American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS), aspiring forensic scientists should choose a major that provides extensive coursework in math and a minimum of 24 academic units of biology or chemistry (www.aafs.org).
In addition to extensive math and science coursework, forensic scientist classes may also involve criminal justice, criminal law, forensic archaeology, statistics, public speaking and composition. Individuals often take continuing education courses throughout their career to further their forensic scientist training. The AAFS accredits forensic science programs through Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). A list of accredited programs is provided on the AAFS website.
Graduate Degree Options
A master's degree may be required for senior-level, supervisory and management positions in forensic science. A master's degree field of study often correlates with a forensic science technician's career specialty. For example, a supervisor who works in DNA analysis might pursue a master's degree in molecular biology or genetics, while a drug analyst might pursue a master's degree in chemistry. According to the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD), science-based graduate programs with extensive lab coursework provide the best training for forensic science career advancement (www.ascld.org).
Entry-level forensic science technicians may be hired by police departments, coroner offices, forensic laboratories, academic institutions and government agencies. Once hired, they are often trained in a particular specialty, including DNA analysis, trace evidence, drug analysis, latent fingerprints, toxicology or firearms. Training periods may last from six months to two years.
In addition to learning about lab procedures and gaining experience with lab equipment and computer programs, trainees learn how to write reports, store evidence and give courtroom testimony. According to the ASCLD, forensic science technicians must often choose between working in the lab as a scientist and working in the field as an investigator alongside a crime scene unit. Many crime scene investigators are also trained as police officers.
The American Board of Criminalistics (ABC) offers voluntary certification to forensic science technicians who have a bachelor's degree in a natural science field and two years of forensics work experience (www.criminalistics.com). There are two levels of certification--'Fellow' and 'Diplomate'--each requiring applicants to pass a comprehensive 3-hour exam. The ABC also offers 'Affiliate' membership to candidates who have not yet obtained two years of work experience.
Forensic science technician is a career which expected to grow at a much faster rate than the job market as a whole between 2016 and 2026, according to the BLS. Forensic science technicians could expect to earn a median salary of $58,230 a year, as of 2018.