Evidence technicians, also known as forensic science technicians, assist police detectives in collecting, processing, and analyzing evidence from a criminal investigation. 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.
This role, however, is not the same as a crime scene investigator, who is typically a sworn police officer. An evidence technician is usually a scientist who has expertise in the collection and processing of criminal evidence and is a civilian, and not an officer.
Evidence Technician Duties & Responsibilities
This job generally requires the ability to do the following work:
- Collect, preserve, and analyze evidence from a crime scene, including fingerprints and bodily fluids
- Record observations of the crime scene with photographs and sketches
- Catalog and preserve evidence for transfer to crime labs
- Perform chemical, biological, and microscopic lab tests and analyses on evidence taken from crime scenes
- Examine links between suspects and criminal activity, using the results of DNA or other scientific analyses
- Consult with experts in specialized forensic science fields as needed
- Prepare and explain detailed reports that explain findings and investigation methods
- Testify about findings and methods in court as needed
Evidence technicians must exercise extreme caution to ensure the integrity of the evidence and the methods of collection. They help ensure that evidence is not thrown out by a judge because of shoddy collection or preservation work.
Once evidence technicians transport the evidence back to the lab, they use forensic science to help 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.
Evidence Technician Salary
An evidence technician's salary can vary depending on location, experience, and other factors.
- Median Annual Salary: $57,850
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $95,600
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $33,880
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017
Education, Training & Certifications
Beyond formal education, most evidence technician jobs require on-the-job training both in the lab and at crime scenes.
Education: Evidence technician jobs most often require at least a bachelor's degree related to the work to be performed, such as chemistry, biology, or forensic science. Getting a master's degree in forensic science or further certification in a specific area of study, such as pathology or toxicology, can give job candidates an advantage.
The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) maintains a list of accredited college-level academic programs that meet its high standards.
Experience: Prior job experience is not required for evidence technician positions, as long as the job candidate has the appropriate education. Once starting a job, the candidate will usually train under a senior evidence technician to hone the necessary skills to succeed.
Evidence Technician Skills & Competencies
To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities:
- Analytical skills: The job requires analyzing physical evidence, such as fingerprints and DNA, to match it to suspects.
- Problem-solving skills: Evidence technicians apply scientific tests and methods to help law enforcement officials solve crimes.
- Communication skills: Often, evidence technicians must be able to effectively write and explain reports that reveal their methods and findings. They must also be able to testify about these methods and findings in court.
- Attention to detail: Successfully collecting and analyzing evidence requires noticing even the smallest of details.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects above-average job growth for forensic science technicians of 17 percent from 2016 to 2026, compared to average job growth for all jobs in the same period at 7 percent. However, because the field is relatively small, that growth will likely only result in about 2,600 jobs over the period, so competition for these jobs could be strong.
Evidence technicians spend much of their time in a laboratory, and some may only work in the labs. Others may also work at indoor and outdoor crime scenes to document, collect, and preserve evidence. In some cases, they may be called to crime scenes by detectives investigating major crimes like murders, burglaries, robberies, and rapes.
Technicians working in labs often work a standard full-time work week, but they may be called to work outside of normal business hours to work on urgent cases. Evidence technicians who also collect evidence at the scene of a crime can also have more sporadic work hours.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in becoming an evidence technician may also be interested in these career paths, listed along with their median salaries:
- Chemist and material scientist: $76,280
- Medical and clinical laboratory technician: $51,770
- Police and detectives: $62,960
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017