DNA Analyst: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
DNA analysts often work in forensic crime labs where they examine samples of DNA to identify potential suspects. After conducting tests on each sample, analysts compare the identity of the sample with other known samples. If they can find a match on the system of known suspects, they can provide law enforcement agents with a positive identification. Some analysts work in privately owned forensic laboratories, where as others work in police station crime labs.
DNA Analyst Job Description
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) places DNA analysts under the category of forensic science technicians, who are responsible for analyzing evidence that can link suspects with specific crime scenes (www.bls.gov). DNA analysts focus on identifying samples of DNA, such as blood, hair follicles or other bodily fluids. Most analysts work in the laboratory preparing and testing samples. With the exception of smaller cities and counties, DNA analysts do not normally go to active crime scenes, and instead they receive the gathered evidence from law enforcement agents.
DNA Analyst Job Duties
Analysts spend most of their time in the laboratory cataloging and analyzing DNA evidence. Since the findings from the analysis can be used in court to prove the innocence or guilt of suspects, analysts must follow strict protocols regarding the custody of evidence, testing procedures and reporting guidelines. Every step of the procedure must be notated and reported, which includes when the sample was received, the quality of the sample, the tests performed and their results. Analysts are often called to appear in court as expert witnesses to verify the findings of a particular DNA analysis.
In the lab, analysts also perform routine maintenance and quality control checks. They maintain each piece of equipment, check for damages and request replacement equipment as needed. To make sure that each analysis is performed correctly, analysts often conduct peer reviews on each others findings. This can include retesting samples and double-checking the findings reports.
DNA Analyst Educational Requirements
To work in a crime lab approved by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), DNA analysts must meet the minimum requirement of a bachelor's degree related to molecular biology, genetics or forensic sciences. Undergraduate coursework in molecular genetics programs include microbiology, immunology, infectious diseases, gene development and biochemistry. Most programs include mandatory laboratory hours for students to familiarize themselves with equipment and laboratory procedures.
In June 2011, job postings for DNA analysts with state and local government agencies in Pennsylvania and Delaware requested candidates with strong communication skills, both verbally and in writing. These same employers also desired candidates who could periodically train personnel. Similarly, analysts would be expected to work well with the laboratory's team of analysts as well as other professionals.
Career Info for DNA Analysts
According to the BLS, forensic science technicians were expected to see an increase of 6% in employment from 2012-2022. The mean annual wage for the 12,440 forensic science technicians employed in 2012 was $55,730. About 7,640 forensic science technicians worked for local government entities at that time; the next largest group was employed at the state level, with about 3,500 workers.
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