By: Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN, CBC
According to U.S. News and World Report, forensic science technicians rank #8 overall in best science jobs. In collaboration with other investigators, forensic science technicians help discover the truth about crimes. They collect evidence, take photographs of crime scenes, and process evidence.
In this guide, you’ll learn what a forensic science technician does, how to become one, how much they make, and more.
Part One What Is a Forensic Science Technician?
A forensic science technician is a specially trained individual that works with crime scene investigators and other officials to collect and analyze evidence, and collaborate with other professionals.
Forensic science technicians will generally need to earn a bachelor’s degree, followed by an advanced training program and a proficiency exam (more on that in part four) in order to get into this career.
Forensic science technicians must be detail-oriented and organized to ensure that evidence follows the proper chain of command and is not mishandled or tainted.
Part Two What Do Forensic Science Technicians Do?
Forensic science technicians perform a variety of duties. Some of these responsibilities will vary depending on the work environment. Forensic science technicians typically do the following:
- Analyzing crime scenes to determine what evidence should be collected and how
- Taking photographs and videos of the crime scene and evidence
- Making sketches of the crime scene
- Recording observations and findings
- Collecting evidence
- Cataloging and preserving evidence for transfer to crime labs
- Reconstructing crime scenes
- Testifying in court
- Performing chemical, biological, and microscopic analyses on evidence
- Exploring possible links between suspects and criminal activity
- Analyzing the results of DNA or other scientific analyses
- Consulting with experts in specialized fields
- Overseeing the maintenance and calibration of laboratory equipment
- Preparing written reports based on evidence analysis
- Coordinating work with other members of the forensic team and with outside agencies
- Inputting data into computer programs and utilizing relevant computer database information
- Ensuring all laboratory protocols and regulations are followed
Part Three Forensic Science Technician Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, forensic science technicians earn an average annual salary of $60,590 or $29.13 per hour.
The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,630, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $100,910.
Highest Paying States for Forensic Science Technicians
Where can you earn the most as a forensic science technician? These are the top-paying states according to the BLS:
- California - $88,090
- Illinois - $85,690
- Massachusetts - $79,200
- Oregon - $76,970
- Alaska - $74,100
Highest Paying Cities for Forensic Science Technicians
And these are the top-paying metropolitan areas for Forensic Science Technicians per the BLS:
- San Francisco – Oakland – Hayward, California - $106,360
- Oxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura, California - $95,760
- Los Angeles – Long Beach – Anaheim, California - $94,060
- Washington – Arlington 0 Alexandra, District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia - $89,750
- Toledo, Ohio - $89,710
Forensic Science Technician Salaries by Level of Experience
Payscale.com reports that Forensic Science Technicians can earn a higher annual salary with increased years of experience. Here's what you can expect to earn as your skills grow in this field:
- Less than 1 year of experience earn an average hourly wage of $17.63
- 1-4 years of experience earn an average hourly wage of $17.57
- 5-9 years of experience earns an average hourly wage of $16.00
- 10-19 years of experience earns an average hourly wage of $20.25
Part Four How to Become a Forensic Science Technician
To become a forensic science technician, you will need to complete the following steps:
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
The minimum requirement for most forensic science technicians is a bachelor's degree. Most students major in a natural science subject like biology, chemistry, or forensic science.
Forensic science degrees require classes in algebra, criminal behavior, an overview of criminal justice, criminal procedure, digital forensics, impression-evidence analysis, ethics in criminal justice, and basic and applied research in criminal justice.
Step 2: Complete Advanced Training or an Apprenticeship
After graduation, most jobs will have specific training programs to gain the needed experience to learn the correct procedures for gathering, recording, and tracking evidence that prepares you for the proficiency exam and to work on cases independently.
Step 3: Pass Proficiency Exams
Before you begin working on your own, you may be required to pass a proficiency exam depending on the state you live in. Information can be found on each individual state’s licensing website. Additionally, each job location may have its own proficiency exam preference.
Step 4: Earn a Certification
While certification is not required, it is recommended. The American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators provides the Diplomate of the ABMDI (D-ABMDI) certification official recognition that an individual has acquired basic knowledge and demonstrated proficiency in the standards of practice necessary to properly conduct a competent, thorough medicolegal death investigation.
Certification Eligibility Requirements
- You’ll need to be at least 18 years old
- You need to have a High school diploma or GED
- You must currently be employed in a Medical Examiner or Coroner office or equivalent federal authority with the job responsibility to "conduct death scene investigations" at time of application and examination.
- You’ll need experience as a Medicolegal Death Investigator.
Part Five Where Do Forensic Science Technicians Work?
Forensic science technicians can work in a variety of locations but are generally employed by local or state government. Other work locations include:
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories
- Testing laboratories
- Coroner office
- Government agencies
- Police department
Forensic Science Technician Hours
Forensic science technicians work a variety of schedules and may not have a set schedule. This means work may be staggered on day, evening, and/or night shifts. Someone must always be available to collect or analyze evidence.
On the other hand, technicians working in laboratories usually work a standard workweek, but may have to be on call.
Forensic Science Technician Benefits
Regardless of the workplace setting, full-time and part-time forensic science technicians enjoy similar benefits. While actual benefits may vary depending on the institution, most include the following:
- Attendance at local and national conferences
- Bereavement leave
- Certification Reimbursement
- Continuing Education Reimbursement
- Dental Insurance
- Dependent health insurance coverage
- Discounts on extracurricular activities
- Family Leave of Absence
- Health insurance
- Holiday Pay
- Life Insurance
- Maternity Leave
- Paid time off
- Relocation assistance
- Relocation packages
- Retirement Options
- Vision Insurance
Part Six What is the Career Outlook for a Forensic Science Technician?
The employment of forensic science technicians is projected to grow 14 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, there aren't that many forensic science technicians, with only 17,200 employed throughout the United States as of 2019. So, this projected growth will result in only about 2,400 new jobs over the 10-year period.
Part Seven Resources for Forensic Science Technicians
Check out these additional resources for more information on Forensic Science Technicians:
- American Academy of Forensic Sciences
- The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD)
- Forensic Magazine
- National Institute of Justice
- International Crime Scene Investigators Association
- American Board of Criminalistics
Part Eight Forensic Science Technicians FAQs
How long does it take to become a forensic science technician?
- Most forensic science technician jobs require a minimum of a bachelor's degree that can be achieved in three to four years. With training, certification, and additional competencies it may take an additional two years until you are able to work independently.
Is a forensic science technician a good job?
- According to U.S. News and World Report, forensic science technicians rank #8 overall in best science jobs. Forensic science technicians have a low unemployment rate and high job satisfaction.
Is it hard to get a job in forensic science?
- It can be difficult to work in the forensic science field because it is small and there are a limited number of openings. There is a 14% projected growth for forensic science technicians.
What qualifications do I need to be a forensic scientist?
- Forensic science technicians generally need at least a bachelor's degree in a natural science, such as chemistry or biology, or in forensic science. A master’s degree in forensic science can help improve job options and can lead to career advancement.