Government Job Profile: Evidence Technician

Forensic scientist inspecting toolkit at crime scene, police tape in foreground
••• Monty Rakusen / Getty Images

Interested in protecting the public from the bad guys, but a little hesitant to carry a handgun on your belt? If you want to be involved in crime scene investigations and preferred a chemistry set to playing cops and robbers as a child, a career as an evidence technician might be for you.

Evidence technicians assist police detectives in collecting, processing, and analyzing evidence. They apply science to bolster the criminal cases detectives hand over to prosecutors.

Job titles for evidence technicians vary. For our purposes, an evidence technician is not a crime scene investigator. A crime scene investigator is typically a sworn police officer, while an evidence technician is usually a civilian who has expertise in the collection and processing of criminal evidence.

Since forensic science dramas became a popular television show subgenre in the early 2000s, the work of evidence technicians and other forensic scientists has become more familiar to the general public. Because of this, law enforcement personnel and prosecutors have become increasingly concerned with the "CSI effect," which purports that juries are less likely to convict criminals in the absence of forensic evidence. The CSI effect is yet to be empirically proven through academic research.

What Education Does a Technician Need?

Evidence technician jobs most often require at least an associate degree related to the work to be performed. Many community colleges offer degree plans for those seeking evidence technician jobs.

Getting Relevant Experience

Experience is not required for evidence technician positions as long as the job candidate has the appropriate education for the position. Once starting a job, the candidate will train under a senior evidence technician to acquire the necessary skills to succeed in the position.

The Day-to-Day Activities

Evidence technicians spend much of their time in a lab and at crime scenes. They may be called to crime scenes by detectives investigating major crimes like murders, burglaries, robberies, and rapes. While at the scene, evidence technicians collect and catalog pieces of evidence. They often take photographs as they work through the crime scene.

Evidence technicians must work in all weather conditions and perform tasks that may be strenuous for some people. Those with certain physical disabilities may find this work too challenging.

Evidence technicians exercise extreme caution to ensure the integrity of the evidence and the methods of collection. They ensure that evidence is not thrown out by a judge because of shoddy crime scene work.

Once evidence technicians transport the evidence back to the lab, they use forensic science to help the evidence tell the story of what transpired at the crime scene. Detectives use the test results and expert reports from evidence technicians to build their cases against alleged perpetrators.

The evidence can include bodily fluids and even body parts, so the job is not for the squeamish. An evidence technician cannot choose the evidence to be processed. No matter how gross, an evidence technician must perform the job duties.

What Does the Job Pay?

According to Payscale.com, as of January 2018, an evidence technician salary typically falls between approximately $30,000 and $50,000 annually, depending on an applicant's experience, the cost of living in the area, and other factors.