Forensic lab technicians perform practical tasks such as analyzing evidence, gathering data, setting up experiments and recording their results to assist in criminal investigations.
Forensics lab technicians help solve criminal cases by using science and technology to analyze evidence and determine the specifics of the crime. A bachelor's degree is the minimum education needed for this career, though aspiring forensic lab technicians may choose from a variety of science majors; chemistry and biology are two common choices. On-the-job training focused on investigative and lab procedures is typically required for new hires.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree in a science field|
|Other Requirements||On-the-job training|
|Job Growth (2019-2029)*||14% for all forensic science technicians|
|Median Salary (2020)*||$60,590 for all forensic science technicians|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The field of forensic science does not initially require a specified major. The prospective technician has time to choose one of the career path options available. For example, lab technicians may begin their studies with an interest in biology, then pursue a specialization field such as DNA comparison. A bachelor's degree, primarily in chemistry, physics, physical anthropology, or biology, is required to enter the job arena.
It's necessary for forensics lab technicians to have clear oral and written communication skills, as well as the ability to understand and create lab reports. Technicians are frequently called upon as expert witnesses in court trials, so students can benefit from learning basic court procedures. Many organizations hiring forensics lab technicians will give private training and send the technician to personally observe ongoing trials.
Analytical skills are the hallmark of the forensics lab technician. Regardless of the specialization, these technicians do small-scale work that can influence major investigations. Job duties require patience and the ability to work with delicate technology ranging from voice comparison software to DNA sequencing equipment. While field detectives search for clues, the forensics lab technician puts them under a microscope to analyze chemical components, ballistic striation, fingerprint whorls, or the depth of impression a typewriter key creates on a piece of paper. Attention to detail is more vital in this profession than in many others due to the fact that a single small error may unjustly condemn an innocent life or release a criminal.
In May 2020, the BLS reported that forensic science technicians in the 90th percentile or higher earned $100,910 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $36,630 or less per year. The highest-paying employer in this field in 2020 was the federal executive branch, with a mean salary of about $120,790 annually. California ranked as the top-paying state for that year with a mean of $88,090, while Illinois was close behind at $85,690 annually.
Forensic technicians must be observant, thorough and have good communication skills so that they can better work with other technicians, forensic analysts and authorities. The entry-level requirement for the position is a science-related bachelor's degree, and aspiring techs can look forward to bright employment prospects. Employment growth it will be much faster than the national average through 2029.