- Most forensic technicians hold a Bachelor in Arts (B.A.) degree in forensic science or chemistry.
- Some smaller organizations may hire individuals who hold only an Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree or high school diploma.
What you study:
You’ll study all of the following in a forensic science program:
- Molecular Biology
- Analytical Chemistry
- Forensic Science Principles
- Applied Forensics
- Introductory Criminology
Introduces the forensic technician occupation. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
Your day as a forensic technician begins at a local or state-run laboratory. Depending on where you work, you may be known as a forensic science technician, forensic tech or crime scene technician. No matter the title that you have, you will handle important duties related to the collection and analysis of evidence in criminal cases.
You arrive at work right as the crime lab opens. You stow your belongings in a locker and check in with your boss. Before you left yesterday, you began a DNA test. The results of that test should be ready. After pulling the results from specialized lab equipment, you compare them to the suspect’s DNA profile and find that the two samples are a match. You inform your boss of the match, fill out all necessary paperwork and call the lead detective on the case. After you get off the phone, you will prepare the results so that they can be logged into evidence, or recorded in case they need to be used in a trial.
Your boss comes to your work station and tells you that you and your co-workers are needed at a crime scene. You head out to the crime scene with another forensic tech. Once you’ve arrived, you talk to the detectives who are in charge of the case. They tell you that there was a home invasion and they need you to look for any evidence. With the help of the other tech, you dust for fingerprints and take casts of a footprint in the soil behind the house. You also collect glass that was broken out of a window. All of the specimens and evidence that you collect must be carefully labeled so that you can demonstrate chain of custody, or the correct handling of evidence, if you have to testify in court.
You go over the scene with your fellow tech one last time and then head back to the lab. You begin the process for inputting the fingerprints into your computer so that you can check them against a nationwide database. You then help the other tech swab the glass that you collected at the scene for blood and other fluids. There is no blood, so you surmise that the person who broke into the house was wearing gloves or used another object to break the window.
It’s almost time to leave for the day, so you clean up your work area and check to see if results have come back on the fingerprint search. Before you leave, your boss tells you that you may need to testify in court about the DNA evidence that you matched to a subject earlier in the day. You make a mental note to find out when the case will begin and head home for the day.
Certifications and Licensing
Much of the training needed to become a forensic technician will be completed on the job in an apprentice-like environment. After gaining competency in a given area, forensic techs take state-mandated exams in order to qualify them as experts in a given area of forensic science.
You will have excellent career advancement opportunities as a forensic tech. You may be able to move into a leadership role in a lab or law enforcement setting.
As a forensic scientist, you’ll work both at crime scenes and in a laboratory. You will work regular office hours but may be on-call so that you can go to crime scenes to collect evidence before it can be contaminated.
- The American Academy of Forensic Sciences: The AAFS website provides information to students and professionals in the field of forensic science. Those studying forensic science will find the section of the site dedicated to students especially helpful. Students who join AAFS also have access to a nationwide job board.
- The Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations: CFSO’s website provides information about a variety of forensic science organizations in the U.S. Hopeful forensic technicians can learn about the various organizations in this field and review information about advocacy activities on the site, which features a simple, straightforward design.
- The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook for Forensic Science Technicians: Individuals who are considering becoming forensic technicians and want to learn more about career prospects in this field should review this Bureau of Labor Statistics Handbook. With a wealth of information about forensic science careers, this site is truly invaluable to students who are exploring their career options.
Salaries by City
See typical salaries and ranges for this career below *. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.
|State||City / Region||Typical Salary||Salary Range||Job Count||% of All Jobs|
|AR||Little Rock – North Little Rock – Conway||$39,670||130||0.04%|
|AZ||Phoenix – Mesa – Glendale||$52,420||590||0.03%|
|CA||Los Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area)||$81,320||520||0.01%|
|CA||Oakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area)||$78,130||160||0.02%|
|CA||Oxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura||$73,940||70||0.02%|
|CA||Riverside – San Bernardino – Ontario||$58,360||260||0.02%|
|CA||Sacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville||$60,650||100||0.01%|
|CA||San Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos||N/A||70||0.01%|
|CA||San Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area)||$88,460||100||0.01%|
|CA||Santa Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area)||$73,670||200||0.01%|
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