How to Become a Crime Lab Technician in 5 Steps
Check out what education you'd need to become a crime lab technician. Learn about internships in this field, and find out where crime lab technicians can work and how much they can earn. Explore advancement opportunities for this profession. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Is a Crime Lab Technician?
A crime lab technician is a specialist who helps solve crimes by analyzing material recovered from crime scenes. Your duties include collecting and examining evidence, maintaining lab equipment and preparing reports on your findings. You might also be tasked with keeping records on past investigations, testifying in court as an expert witness and training new technicians and lab assistants. Often your work entails collaborating with police, detectives, medical professionals and other authorities participating in an investigation.
Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma
High school courses in algebra, biology, chemistry and physics can provide background knowledge in the scientific principles needed to work as a crime lab technician. English and speech courses may improve your communication skills. A high school diploma or GED is required to enroll in most bachelor's degree programs.
Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
A 4-year bachelor's degree in forensic science or any of the natural sciences, such as chemistry, physics or biology, can be sufficient to enter a career as a crime lab tech. Forensic science bachelor's degree programs train you in scientific theory and its application to law and criminal investigation. Some programs stress courses in biology, chemistry and lab procedures first and investigation second. Other programs focus on criminal investigation and integrate scientific concepts throughout the curricula.
Some schools also have separate tracks for forensic biology and forensic chemistry. Other possible course topics include statistics, photography and quantitative analysis.
Step 3: Participate in an Internship
Many forensic science bachelor's degree programs include an internship at a crime lab or in a criminal justice setting. An internship provides you with an opportunity to observe and assist professionals in their day-to-day duties and build a network of contacts. Sometimes, an internship can lead directly to a job after graduation.
Step 4: Obtain a Job
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), local and state government agencies provide most job opportunities for crime lab technicians (www.bls.gov). A small number of jobs can also be found with medical labs, architectural firms and engineering companies. Not including self-employed individuals, the BLS estimated there were about 12,390 technicians as of May 2010 with a projected 20% growth rate during the 2008-2018 decade. At that time, forensic science technicians made a median annual salary of $51,570.
Step 5: Advance Your Career
You might advance your career by accumulating experience, earning a master's degree in forensic science or through a combination of formal education and experience. Gaining familiarity with multiple specializations, such as ballistics and DNA analysis, could enhance your qualifications for a senior technician position or possibly even lab supervisor. State labs might have multiple job levels for technicians that provide a clearly defined path for promotion.
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