Most people have heard about crime scene forensics through television shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. CSI and other programs certainly glamorize forensics work, but the career is interesting even without the glamour. Forensic science technicians are professional puzzle solvers of high-stake crime-solving puzzles. Specifically, your duties in this career will include:
- Collecting and analyzing physical evidence from crime scenes
- Properly storing evidence
- Preparing reports in order to document findings
- Providing information to investigators and other law professionals
- Offering expert testimony in courts of law
Forensic Science Career Training
Career training in forensic science can be earned through a certificate program, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree. Courses might include biology, clinical lab science, criminology, and toxicology depending on the crime scene or criminal justice program. Online courses are available at all levels of study, which means you do not have to rearrange your schedule in order to earn your degree. While a certificate can be earned in as little as one year, an associate's degree usually takes two years, and a bachelor's degree usually takes four years to complete. If you begin with a certificate or associate's degree, and later return to school, previously earned credits can often be transferred to a bachelor's degree program. This should reduce the amount of time it takes for you to complete your bachelor's degree.
In addition to what you learn from your classes, you will be most successful in forensics if you demonstrate a few characteristics. First, it is important for forensic science technicians to remain calm under emotionally-distressing circumstances. In this job, you will need to analyze bodily fluids of victims of heinous crimes. Remaining calm will be essential. It will also be important to remain an objective investigator of scientific evidence. It will be your job to collect evidence, not determine its meaning. That will be left to police and detectives. Other traits that are helpful in this career are strong communication, organizational, and computer skills.
Forensic Science Job Opportunities
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts a significant need for forensic science technicians in the next decade, an increase of 31 percent between 2006 and 2016. This represents 4,000 additional forensic employees. The BLS notes that forensic science technicians with bachelor's degrees will experience the best job opportunities. For technician assistants or trainees, a certificate or associate's degree is usually sufficient.
According to the BLS, the 2007 median salary for forensic science technicians was $47,680, with the lowest 10 percent earning a median of $29,170 and the highest 10 percent earning a median of $76,440 per year. The primary employers of forensic science technicians are state and local governments. Other industries hiring these technicians are psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, investigation and security services, and the federal government. Of these, the federal government pays the highest mean wage, although they hire the fewest forensics employees.