Bloodstain pattern analysts, also known as blood spatter experts, collect and analyze physical evidence—specifically, blood. They are specialists in forensic science and crime scene investigation and examine the location and shape of blood drops, stains, puddles, and pools.
Bloodstain Pattern Analyst Duties & Responsibilities
This job generally requires the ability to do the following work:
- Analyze crime scenes
- Photograph crime scenes and evidence
- Record observations
- Write reports
- Reconstruct crime scenes based on observations and analysis
- Use computer software to aid in the reconstruction of crime scenes
Bloodstain pattern analysts sometimes are called to gruesome scenes to gather crucial evidence regarding violent crimes. At other times, they might deal only with a single drop of blood or fingerprint. Trace evidence invisible to the naked eye might be collected using swabs or special lighting.
Like most other forensic science technicians, bloodstain pattern analysts use their expertise to determine the type of weapon used and perhaps the direction of travel of a victim or suspect. Analysts can determine the trajectory of a projectile, the number of wounds a victim suffered, and how events unfolded during a violent crime.
This information can help detectives and investigators determine what kind of situation they're dealing with, such as whether or not a death was suicide or murder. It can provide vital evidence for successful prosecution.
Analysts take photographs, collect samples, write reports, and testify in court. They sometimes create computer simulations to clarify reports or testimony.
Bloodstain Pattern Analyst Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track pay specifically for bloodstain pattern analysts, but it keeps data on forensic science technicians, which can be expected to be comparable.
- Median Annual Salary: $58,230 ($27.99/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: >$97,200 (>$46.73/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: <$34,600 (<$16.63/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Education, Training, & Certification
It’s possible to get a foot in the door with just an associate’s degree if you also have related experience, but a four-year degree generally is the minimum requirement for the field.
- Education: Bloodstain pattern analysts should have strong backgrounds in scientific studies. A bachelor's degree in one of the natural sciences, such as chemistry or biology, usually is required.
- Certification: Different states have different requirements in regards to certifications and might have their own programs, but training developed by the International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts is a common standard. Such advanced training is recommended as analysts become established in their careers. The International Association for Identification and the American Board of Criminalistics offer certifications.
- Training: Additional on-the-job training is common after you're hired. New recruits typically work extensively and under the tutelage of experienced analysts before ever handling cases or evidence on their own, sometimes for as long as two to three years.
Bloodstain Pattern Analyst Skills & Competencies
In addition to a background in science and training in law enforcement, there are other skills beneficial to anyone pursuing a career as a bloodstain pattern analyst.
- Communication: Analysts need to be able to communicate verbally and in writing with other law enforcement officials and forensic science technicians at the scenes of crimes as well as forensic science technicians about what certain details at a crime scene might mean.
- Problem Solving: Analysts use scientific methods to solve problems and recreate what happened at a crime scene. Reaching conclusions requires meticulous work with small details in order to see the bigger picture. Analysts must question everything and eliminate all other possibilities before reaching conclusions.
- Attention to Detail: Examining blood evidence requires the ability to notice minute details and subtle differences. Evidence must be handled according to precise procedures to maintain integrity.
- Photography: Taking photographs of a crime scene from all available angles and perspectives helps analysts to study details long after the crime scene has been cleaned.
- Computer skills: Software specific to recreating crime scenes is helpful for analysts when illustrating their findings. Being proficient with such software is an important part of the job.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth for forensic science technicians from 2016 through 2026 to be about 17%. That's significantly higher than the 7% growth projected for all careers.
A career as a bloodstain pattern analyst is not for the faint of heart or anyone with a weak stomach. The work involves responding to crime scenes and interacting with biohazardous material, such as blood and other bodily fluids. Exposure is always a danger if proper precautions aren't taken.
Analysts typically work beside criminal investigators and work closely with other analysts as well. Most analysts are employed by large metropolitan police departments or state-run crime laboratories. With experience and training, blood splatter experts can sometimes find more lucrative work in the private sector working as contractors or expert witnesses for private attorneys.
A typical work shift might be Monday through Friday during traditional business hours, but bloodstain splatter analysts can be called out to crime scenes at any time. They can find themselves working at all hours and for long hours. Work on weekends and holidays should be expected.
How to Get the Job
Seek out opportunities on job search sites specific to forensic science or apply directly with law enforcement agencies.
Know what to include on your resume by emphasizing the types of skills important in law enforcement careers.
Know what to expect so you can be prepared for everything on a typical law enforcement application.
Comparing Similar Jobs
The skills necessary to be a bloodstain pattern analyst translate well to many careers in science. Other potential career paths, along with median annual salaries, include:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018