Forensic science technician: the basics

A forensic science technician has lots of varied work to do; here, you will find basic information about this job, including tasks, work envirionment, requirements, and definitely not least – the forensic science technician salary.

What a forensic science technician does

He or she must typically collect, clasify and analyze physical evidence from the scene of a crime, or any other evidence related to criminal investigations. He’s the man which bags and tags. However, others specialize more on lab work: performing tests on weapons and human samples (hair, forensic DNA analysis, tissue samples), analyze any hardware data relevant, and many, many more.

Typically, the work environment is a harsh one – the people are usually great, but you have to deal with all sort of nasty situations which lead from a criminal investigation, while putting up with long hours and unexpected calls to action.

I want to focus a little more on the tasks a CSI technician has to do:

  • Arrive at the crime scene whenever needed, and take photos
  • Conserve any evidence – bagged and tagged
  • Keep a record of any methods and techniques used, as well as any collected or observed evidence
  • Use substances when needed, mostly for fingerprint collection and bodily fluids
  • Visit morgues or any other such sources of evidence
  • Testify in court
  • Operate any lab equipment required that’s available
  • Perform hardware data and image analysis
  • Reconstruct crime scenes
  • Pretty much any forensic analysis needed – many unexpected things can occur in an investigation

As you can see, quite a lot of things to do, all of which require significant knowledge from different fields – no one said it’s an easy job, but it’s often rewarding.

Forensic technician salary and requirements

The average salary is $51,570 per year, which adds up to $24.79 per hour – these data were calculated for 2010, but haven’t changed much since then. Basically, salaries can vary significantly, but rarely go below $20.000/year and over $100.000. The salary varies with experience and depends on your particular work flow, but generally lies in those areas.

In order to work in this field, you’re required to have at least a bachelor degree (some exceptions may occur, but extremely rare). Other than that, requirements vary greatly, but you’re not typically required to have a degree in crime scene investigation – actually few colleges give that. Anything from chemistry to environmental sciences could work – again, it greatly depends on the employer, and if you’re really interested in working in this field, check with your local agency.

The employement in the field is expected to grow significantly, with about 20 percent in the next 10 years.

Abilities, skills and work style

Being a forensic technician is a lot about how you think and what your skills are. Two crucial skills are being observant and having good logic, deductive thinking. You have to always be able to put things into context, imagine what happened, gather evidence and if logic is not your thing – then this is not your job. Typically, lots of evidence escapes sight, and good observation skills can make the difference between a successful and a failed investigation.

Oral and written expression, problem sensitivity, and documenting are all required skills. CSI technicians are usually ordered people as well, so that’s a bonus. A relatively new requirement is computer knowledge. More and more information is found on hard drives or even phones, and that’s relevant, useful information. Computer forensics is an ever growing field and there are many important jobs in this field. Also, computer forensics is one of the best paid fields here.

Also, integrity is a not written, but required quality; you’ll be more or less enforcing the law (indirectly), and sooner or later, you’ll make mistakes. This is inevitable, and you’ll have to stand up and admit. Also, bribery is sometimes a problem, and again, your integrity has to step up.

So there you have, that’s the ABC of being a forensic technician. I’ve tried to cover the basics, and hopefully give you an idea of what this job is like. I haven’t gotten into much detail, and if necessary, I’ll detaliate each aspect of the job in a separate post. As always, if you have any questions or unclarities, be sure to send them and we’ll do the best to answer them.

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