Criminology Careers: Bloodstain Pattern Analyst

Learn about this job's duties, salary, and educational requirements

Blood Splattered
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Dexter Morgan – the title character in the popular show "Dexter" that aired on Showtime from 2006 through 2013 – captured the imaginations of a new generation of viewers interested in criminology careers. Dexter's "vigilante" activities may have been questionable – to say the least – but the character nonetheless piqued an interest in a career as a bloodstain pattern analyst, also known as a blood spatter expert.

What do bloodstain pattern analysts do?

Like most forensic science technicians, a blood stain pattern analyst's primary purpose is the collection and analysis of physical evidence – in this case, blood. Bloodstain pattern analysts examine the location and shape of blood drops, stains, puddles, and pools.

Often called blood splatter or blood splatter experts, these crime scene technicians are called to sometimes gruesome scenes to gather crucial evidence regarding violent crimes. Bloodstain pattern analysts use their expertise to determine:

  • The type of weapon used
  • The direction of travel of a victim or suspect
  • The trajectory of a projectile
  • The number of wounds a victim may have suffered
  • How events unfolded during a violent crime

This information can help detectives and investigators determine what kind of situation they're dealing with – suicide or murder? It can provide vital information for successful prosecution if the answer is murder.

The responsibilities of a bloodstain pattern analyst often include:

  • Responding to crime scenes
  • Interacting with biohazardous material (blood and body fluids)
  • Taking photographs
  • Collecting samples
  • Writing reports
  • Testifying in court

Blood spatter experts work beside criminal investigators and they work closely with other analysts. They necessarily spend a lot of time around potentially hazardous body fluids, so exposure is always a danger if proper precautions aren't taken.

The work shift may technically be Monday through Friday during traditional business hours, but blood splatter analysts are subject to being called out to crime scenes and they can find themselves working at all hours.

Most bloodstain analysts work for large metropolitan police departments or state-run crime laboratories. With experience and training, blood splatter experts may be able to find more lucrative work in the private sector working as contractors or expert witnesses for private attorneys.

Education and skills required to be a blood spatter expert

Like other forensic science technicians, bloodstain pattern analysts should have strong backgrounds in scientific studies. A bachelor's degree in one of the natural sciences is usually required.

Bloodstain pattern analysts are also required to undergo additional training. Standardized training in basic analysis has been developed by the International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts. Other advanced training and courses are available as well and are recommended as analysts become established in their careers.

Getting hired as a blood spatter expert

As technology advances and the demand for more accurate criminal investigations increases, the growth potential for blood stain pattern analysts is expected to be high. The BLS indicates that projected job growth through 2024 is about 27 percent, which is significantly higher than for some other careers. It's expected to be one of the most competitive careers during this time, however.

The median salary for forensic science technicians was more than $56,000 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Is a career as a bloodstain pattern analyst right for you?

Bloodstain pattern analysts are often called to horrific and gruesome crime scenes. A career as a blood splatter expert is by no means for the faint of heart or anyone with a weak stomach. Blood splatter analysis does offer a tremendous and rewarding challenge for those with inquisitive minds, however. If you enjoy piecing together puzzles and problem-solving, and if you don't mind the sight of blood, working as a bloodstain pattern analysts may be the perfect criminology career for you.