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Forensic Laboratory Technician: Employment Info & Career Requirements

See what it takes to become a forensic laboratory technician. Get the details about education, training, and job prospects to determine if this is the right career for you.

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Career Definition

Forensic laboratory technicians perform and assist with the technical duties related to forensic analysis of evidence and crime scenes. Forensic laboratory technicians collect and secure evidence at crime scenes; collect fingerprint images; assist in photographing crime scenes; and prepare samples and solutions for processing, filing, and record keeping. They are also often responsible for calibrating and documenting equipment, tools, instruments, and safety devices.

Become a Forensic Laboratory Technician

Required Education

While some labs may accept a combination of education, relevant work experience, and training, many require a bachelor's degree in a relevant field to become a forensic laboratory technician. A four-year degree program in biology, chemistry, biochemistry or forensic science and experience working in a laboratory environment is preferred. Courses in analytical and organic chemistry, biology, criminal justice, criminal procedure, and criminology will help prepare you for a career in forensic science.

Required Skills

To be successful as a forensic laboratory technician, you should have a good attention to detail, good interpersonal skills, and work well as part of a team. Depending on the state, the workplace and your specific role, you may need more specialized knowledge, such as OSHA safety requirements or information from material safety data sheets.

Economic and Career Outlook

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the employment outlook for forensic science technicians will grow at a slower-than-average rate of 6% from 2012-2022. Minimal growth in this field is expected due to the continued importance of forensic evidence in conducting investigations and prosecuting offenders. The BLS states that forensic laboratory technicians had a median salary of $52,840 in May 2012.

Alternate Career Options

Police Officer

A police officer is responsible for upholding laws and protecting people and property from crime. Police officers perform patrols, write tickets for infractions, make arrests of those suspected of committing a crime, complete related paperwork, and testify in court as required. They may work for local, state, federal or tribal law enforcement agencies.

Aspiring police officers usually have to be 21 years old and have a high school diploma to qualify for admission to their jurisdiction's training academy. Minimum physical and written test scores may also apply; some agencies require that applicants have some college education or a degree. A driver's license is also required. The BLS predicts that jobs for police officers will increase 5% from 2012-2022. Police officers earned a median salary of $55,270 in 2012, according to the BLS.

Private Detective

A private detective uses interviewing, information gathering, critical thinking, and analytical skills to investigate problems for clients, such as lawyers, businesses or ordinary citizens. They may work on cases as varied as missing persons, background checks, divorce cases or financial crimes.

Even though there's no standard preparation for a career as a private detective, having college experience and previous law enforcement experience are common among private detectives. On-the-job training is also common. State licensing requirements for private detectives vary by location, and special requirements may apply for armed private detectives. Voluntary professional certification is also available. The BLS estimates that private detective jobs will increase 11% from 2012-2022. The median salary for private detectives was $45,740 in 2012, per the BLS.

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