Becoming a Forensics Lab Technician: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a forensics lab technician's job description, salary estimates and educational requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a forensics lab technician career.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Forensics Lab Technician

Forensics lab technicians work to solve crimes and resolve legal matters by investigating crime scenes and evidence. The most common pros and cons of this career are profiled below.

Pros of Becoming a Forensics Lab Technician
Forensics lab technicians help solve crime through their research and analysis*
The median hourly wage of forensics lab technicians was $26.61 per hour in 2014*
Technicians experience a wide variety of daily activities and cases*
Forensics lab technicians may work in any part of the country*

Cons of Becoming a Forensics Lab Technician
Seeing disturbing evidence is a regular part of the job*
Technicians may need to undergo lengthy lab or police training*
High competition is expected for forensics lab technicians between 2012 and 2022*
Forensics lab technicians may need to be on call after normal work hours*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Salary Info and Job Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that forensics lab technicians earned a median salary of about $55,000 in 2014; the top 90 percent earned a median of about $91,000, while the lower 10 percent earned a median of about $33,000. Career opportunities are expected to grow at a pace slower than the national average of all occupations between 2012 and 2022. However, the field is experiencing a spike in interested candidates. Because of this, it may be harder for you to land a job as a forensics lab technician without competitive experience and education. Better job prospects are expected for those with a bachelor's degree in a forensic science, chemistry or related field (www.bls.gov).

Job Description and Duties of Forensics Lab Technicians

Forensics lab technicians examines either samples they personally collected from a crime scene or evidence provided by a detective or police officer. They work in laboratories with highly technical equipment used to determine information such as DNA patterns, blood splatter direction, time of death, fingerprint identification and other pieces of evidence used to solve crimes. Forensics lab technicians also prepare detailed reports and are often required to testify their analysis in court. Most forensics lab technicians are employed by local, state or federal entities.

What Are the Requirements?

Educational Requirements for a Forensics Lab Technician

Most forensics lab technician positions require a bachelor's degree in a field such as chemistry, forensic science or a related field, per the BLS as of 2012. Some technicians, however, have entered the field with an associate's degree with related experience and/or technical training. Extended on-the-job training or apprentice programs are also common for beginning technicians; these may last up to three years. Additionally, technicians must typically pursue additional training throughout their careers in order to stay current with new technologies and advancements in forensic science.

What Do Employers Look For?

Forensics lab technicians need to be extremely detail-oriented, as the minutest detail can change an entire police investigation or convict a criminal. Technicians also need to have good communication skills because they work with other crime enforcement professionals and may testify in court. They must pass all physical aptitude, drug use and criminal background tests. In addition, the following skill set for forensics lab technicians is found on job postings found in April 2012:

  • A California county administration requires an entry-level candidate who is able to perform quality assurance and maintenance of equipment in addition to forensics analysis. This person should have at least a relevant bachelor's degree and a state driver's license.
  • The city of San Francisco needs a technician candidate who can prepare detailed case reports and interpret results. This person would work for the chief medical examiner/coroner.
  • A toxicology analysis company in Virginia requires a lab technician who is able to screen samples for the purpose of discovering workers' drug usage for client companies.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Many crime scene technicians are police officers that have specialized training in forensic science; therefore, competitive candidates may want to consider earning a badge. Someone with college-level knowledge of criminology, the legal justice system or law enforcement may also gain added attention from potential employers, since they may have a greater understanding of the system for processing evidence and testifying in court. Another option is to specialize in an area such as cybercrime, computer forensics or blood spatter analysis. Being advanced in a niche area may help you stand out among colleagues with only a general knowledge of the field.

Some organizations that are either privately controlled or officiated by a government entity may offer forensic science certification. One example is the American Board of Criminalistics, approved by the Forensic Specialty Accreditation Board, which offers recognition in areas such as drug, fiber or fire debris analysis. Formal acknowledgment of skills in one of these areas can help you attain a position in a forensics lab.

Alternate Career Choices

If you decide that becoming a forensics lab technician is not right for you, but you still wish to work in law enforcement, you may want to become a police officer. Typically, police officers earn high school diplomas and undergo cadet training, whether through a college or on-the-job training. Police officers assist in solving crimes by obtaining evidence and interviewing suspects and witnesses. This field is expected to grow at a pace that is slower than the average for all occupations between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. The same source noted that police officers earn slightly more than forensic lab technicians with a mean hourly wage of about $27 as of 2011.

If you wish to work in a lab but not with criminal cases, you can take a job as a clinical or medical lab technician. You still work with bodily fluids and other samples, but primarily for the purpose of health and healing. Lab technicians need only minimal postsecondary training to attain work; they may earn an associate's degree or certificate. Employers may prefer that technicians be certified. With licensure and further schooling, technicians can become technologists and earn a higher salary, reported the BLS. The source also stated that there would be about average growth in this field from 2010-20.

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Featured Schools

The George Washington University

  • MSHS in Clinical Microbiology
  • BSHS in Medical Laboratory Sciences

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University Global

  • MS in Nursing
  • Master of Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor: Health Science
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)

Which subject are you interested in?

Grand Canyon University

  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • MBA: Health Systems Management
  • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

What is your highest level of education?

College of Health Care Professions

  • Medical Assistant-Certificate

What is your highest level of education completed?

University of the Southwest

  • MBA Healthcare Administration

What is your highest level of education?

South College

  • Bachelor of Science in Health Science with a Concentration in Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Bachelor of Science in Health Science with a Concentration in Computed Tomography
  • Associate of Science in Health Science

What is your highest level of education completed?