Learn About Being a Forensic Science Technician

Career Information About Crime Scene Investigators

Scientist examining bullet in lab
••• Cultura/Jason Butcher/Riser/Getty Images

A forensic science technician is a member of the team that investigates crimes. They gather and document, or analyze, physical evidence from crime scenes. This evidence may include fingerprints, blood, hair, and bullets.

Also called a crime scene investigator (CSI), crime scene technician, criminalist, or forensic scientist, a forensic science technician may specialize in crime scene investigation that entails the collection and cataloging of evidence.

Alternatively, they may specialize in laboratory analysis that involves using scientific methods to identify and classify evidence.

Quick Facts

These are the most recent facts about forensic science technicians according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: 

  • In 2017, median annual earnings were $57,850.
  • Just over 15,400 people worked in this occupation in 2016.
  • Most forensic science technicians work full time.
  • Those who want to work in this field can look forward to an excellent job outlook. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment will have an average growth rate of 17 percent through 2026, which is much faster than the average of 7 percent for all occupations. 

The Truth About This Occupation

  • Forensic science technicians work around the clock. Expect your shifts to include days, evenings, overnights, weekends, and holidays.
  • Many people find investigating the aftermath of violent crimes upsetting.
  • You may have to work overtime or be on call to collect evidence.
  • If your job includes collecting evidence from crime scenes, you may have to be outdoors in inclement weather.

How to Become a Forensic Science Technician

If you want to become a forensic science technician, you will have to earn a bachelor's degree in a natural science like chemistry or biology, or in forensic science.

If you are studying natural science, you should take some forensic science courses. Some crime scene investigators first train to become police officers.

You will need extensive on-the-job training before you can work independently.  Through an apprenticeship with an experienced colleague, you will learn how to properly collect and document evidence. You can continue your training in a laboratory specialty such as DNA or firearms analysis.

What Employers Will Expect From You

In addition to skills and experience, what qualities do employers look for when they hire forensic science technicians? Here are some requirements from actual job announcements found on Indeed.com:

  • "Ability to work with frequent interruptions and changes in priorities"
  • "Demonstrated ability to interact and collaborate with diverse partners"
  • "Ability to establish cooperative relationships with other law enforcement agencies"
  • "Must pass intensive background investigation"
  • "Ability to work independently and with minimal supervision"
  • "Proficient using Excel, Word, Record Management Systems, and cameras"

Soft Skills Needed

In addition to very specific technical expertise, forensic science technicians also need certain soft skills.

These are strengths or attributes that you are either born with or develop through work or other experience.

  • Communication: Forensic science technicians must have excellent speaking and writing skills in order to share information with colleagues and present findings in court.
  • Problem Solving: You must be able to identify problems and use scientific methods to solve them.
  • Critical Thinking: The ability to identify and compare various solutions to problems is essential. 
  • Attention to Detail: When you're looking at the evidence, you must be able to notice minute details and subtle differences.
  • Physical Stamina: You need to be able to withstand spending many hours on your feet as you go about doing your job.