Fingerprint Analyst: Training Requirements and Career Info
A fingerprint analyst is a type of forensic scientist who collects, analyzes and examines fingerprint evidence. Working as part of a crime laboratory requires training in criminal investigation methods and forensic science. A bachelor's degree, professional training and certification can lead to a career in this popular field.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), occupations such as fingerprint analyst generally require a 4-year degree in forensic science or in a natural science discipline such as biology or chemistry (www.bls.gov). Both the BLS and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) recommend broad coursework in the biological sciences, chemistry, math and criminalistics or criminal justice. They also stressed the importance of strong written and oral communication skills to effectively report findings to supervisors and present information to general audiences, including delivering court testimony.
A high school diploma or an associate's degree and extensive job training programs may be accepted in lieu of a bachelor's degree, the BLS stated. Training for fingerprint analysts includes laboratory bench skills, scientific knowledge and the use of a variety of laboratory and computer equipment, according to October 2011 job postings listed by the AAFS and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD). In these job postings, employers expected fingerprint examiners and analysts to be able to process, enhance, examine and compare fingerprints using a variety of photographic and computer equipment. Additionally, fingerprint analysts must understand how to use fingerprint databases, including the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which allow analysts to input, scan, search and compare records.
Along with formal education, job training and work experience are also essential to work in a forensic laboratory. The AAFS stressed that forensic scientists and criminalists, including fingerprint analysts, must stay current with the latest advances in technology through continuing education.
Many employers prefer candidates who have achieved professional certification. Industry organizations, including the International Association for Identification (IAI), offer 5-year certifications in two categories (www.theiai.org). Employers encourage or require certification because it serves as a reliable standard for competency in the discipline.
To become an IAI Tenprint Examiner, candidates must complete 80 hours of continuing education credits, 16 hours of training in delivering courtroom testimony and an equivalent combination of an associate's degree and two years of job experience. The exam is comprised of fingerprint comparisons, written and technical components, case presentations and oral board reviews.
The IAI Certified Latent Print Examiner certification requires candidates to complete 80 hours of continuing education and latent print training, a bachelor's degree and two years of job experience. Examinees are tested on latent print comparison, inked impression patterns and a multiple-choice examination. Individuals may also be required to give an oral presentation.
Fingerprint Analyst Career Info
Forensic science technicians had an average annual salary of $55,730 in May 2012, the BLS reported. It also noted forensic science technicians are most often employed by state and local governments and medical or diagnostic laboratories.
The BLS predicted forensic science technicians could see a 6% increase in jobs between 2012 and 2022. It attributed growth to advances in technology and a growing awareness of forensic identification techniques.
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