Forensic Science Technicians

There are many jobs available with a degree in Biological Laboratory Science. Possible careers (gone over in BLS orientation) include industry research, academics, government, sales or marketing, and project management. Other career paths include professional degrees or postgraduate degrees. The career I am most interested in is the Forensic Science Technician career.

The Salary for Forensic Science Technicians varies greatly. The lowest 10 percent paid $34,600 and the highest 10 percent paid $97,200. State governments are the highest paying starting around $59,250, local government and testing laboratories falling in the middle at $58,950 and $48,000 respectively, while medical and diagnostics laboratories start at the least amount at around $40,650.

Forensic science technicians work in both laboratories and on crime scenes. These duties include according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: at crime scenes “analyzing crime scenes to determine what evidence should be collected and how; take photographs of the crime scene and evidence; make sketches of the crime scene; record observations and findings, such as the location and position of evidence; collect evidence, including weapons, fingerprints, and bodily fluids; catalog and preserve evidence for transfer to crime labs; reconstruct crime scenes”. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in laboratories the duties required are “performing chemical, biological, and microscopic analyses on evidence taken from crime scenes; exploring possible links between suspects and criminal activity, using the results of DNA or other scientific analyses; consulting with experts in specialized fields, such as toxicology (the study of poisons and their effect on the body) and odontology (a branch of forensic medicine that concentrates on teeth)”.

To be a Forensic Science Technician it is required to have a bachelor’s degree in a natural science, such as chemistry or biology, or in forensic science. Many forensic scientists will have an undergraduate degree in the natural sciences and a master’s degree in forensic science. Forensic science technicians will receive on-the-job training before they can work on cases independently. Certifications and licenses are not usually necessary for the entry-level of this job.

Ideally, I would like to work in either Illinois or New York Certain areas in Illinois and New York have a good need for forensic scientists, normally located close to a large city. Illinois has an employment of 450 and a location quotient of .69. New York has an employment of 840 and a location quotient of .81. These numbers are higher than the average for the United States.

Possible employers include the New York City Department of health/mental hygiene, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of State Police State of Massachusetts. All three of these companies are state or government-run. I am interested in a state or government-run company because I would like to have the flexibility of traveling.

Some of the skills a forensic science technician employer is looking for are communication, critical-thinking, detail-oriented, math, science, and problem-solving skills. For communication skills, a forensic science technician is required to write reports and testify in court. They also have to be able to work well with other law enforcement officials and specialists. Critical-thinking skills are also a good skill to have, this includes using their best judgment when matching physical evidence (like DNA and fingerprints) to suspects. Since forensic science technicians need to be good at collecting and analyzing the evidence they find, they must also be detail-oriented and able to notice small changes in mundane objects. Forensic science technicians need a solid understanding of statistics and natural sciences to be able to analyze evidence. They will also use scientific tests and methods to help law enforcement officials solve crimes.

I was surprised to find that Illinois has the top annual mean wage of forensic science technicians at $87,660. According to bls.gov, this job is expected to increase by 14 percent by 2028. Forensic science technicians only held about 16,700 jobs in 2018.

A major advantage is that the career is set to increase within the next 10 years. Another advantage for me is that crime scene investigators may work staggered day, evening, or night shifts and may have to work overtime because they must always be available to collect or analyze evidence. I enjoy having my work changing it helps me grow as a person and keeps me on my toes. A disadvantage is that there are not a lot of jobs as a forensic science technician available. Though this job is said to have a 14 percent increase by 2028 the fast growth will result in only about 2,400 new jobs over the 10 years. Though it is nice to have a changing schedule the unpredictability of the schedule will make plans and activities outside of work difficult. With all the research compiled I now feel more confident that this is the career that I want to pursue.