How to Become a Forensic Science Technician:
The Definitive Guide


Are you the first person to watch the new true-crime documentary?

Are you interested in crime scenes, handling evidence, and helping to discover the truth?

If you have a knack for technology and enjoy analyzing blood spatter, a Forensic Science Technician might be just the job for you.

Forensic Science Technicians work in several different areas from local, state, and government law enforcement, coroner’s office, crime labs, and even hospitals.

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What is a Forensic Science Technician?

A Forensic Science Technician is someone who handles the evidence at crime scenes.

They will then take it back to a laboratory and analyze the evidence, seeing if there are any pieces of information, whether physical or DNA, to provide an answer to the crime that was committed.

You will often see Forensic Science Technicians testifying in court, working in labs, and even as independent consultants.

The role of a Forensic Science Technician is to evaluate and pick apart every inch of a crime scene, so each piece of evidence is secured, then later they look at the individual pieces of evidence.

Duties

You will often find a Forensic Science Technician at a crime scene or in a lab.

The duties that are required by this career at a crime scene include:

  • Analyzing crime scenes
  • Taking photographs for evidence
  • Making sketches
  • Recording findings
  • Collecting and cataloging evidence
  • Reconstructing crime scenes

The duties in the lab may include:

  • Performing analyses on evidence
  • Exploring possible links between suspects and victims
  • Consulting with others

Salary

The average salary for a Forensic Science Technician in the United States is around $49,000 a year.

The range typically falls between $40,000 and $60,000.

Those that are just beginning their careers as a Forensic Science Technician will likely make around $40,000 a year.

While those that have been in the field longer with more experience and specializations can make around $60,000 a year.

Salary can vary depending on factors like education, location, and certifications.

This means that Forensic Science Technicians that have more education and live in a bigger city will make more money than those who live in smaller towns with less experience and education.

Average National Salary: $49,000

$40K
$45K
$49K
$56K
$60K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%
*Salary information last updated 2020

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$46,019
Alaska$55,056
Arizona$48,557
Arkansas$45,295
California$54,859
Colorado$48,966
Connecticut$53,140
Delaware$51,569
Florida$46,657
Georgia$47,517
Hawaii$51,529
Idaho$46,354
Illinois$50,439
Indiana$47,983
Iowa$47,001
Kansas$46,608
Kentucky$46,215
Louisiana$47,050
Maine$47,345
Maryland$50,639
Massachusetts$53,435
Michigan$49,152
Minnesota$50,243
Mississippi$42,728
Missouri$46,805
Montana$44,521
Nebraska$45,037
Nevada$50,341
New Hampshire$49,850
New Jersey$54,299
New Mexico$44,889
New York$52,698
North Carolina$46,854
North Dakota$46,117
Ohio$47,954
Oklahoma$46,166
Oregon$48,917
Pennsylvania$49,015
Rhode Island$51,765
South Carolina$45,970
South Dakota$42,041
Tennessee$44,619
Texas$48,228
Utah$46,531
Vermont$47,296
Virginia$48,818
Washington$52,453
West Virginia$43,514
Wisconsin$48,376
Wyoming$43,711

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $55,056

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $55,056
California - $54,859
New Jersey - $54,299
Massachusetts - $53,435
Connecticut - $53,140

How to Become a Forensic Science Technician

Step 1Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The first step in your journey to becoming a Forensic Science Technician is enrolling in a university program.

Entry-level Forensic Science Technicians typically have at least a Bachelors’s degree.

Some of the majors that you may want to consider include forensic science, biology, chemistry, and even physics.

A forensic science major will likely have courses that discuss basic science as well as:

  • Pharmacology
  • Statistics
  • Computer modeling
  • Biochemistry
  • Criminal Justice

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences also suggests taking several English courses to gain strong written and verbal communication skills.

Within the forensic science major, it is possible to have a specialty such as toxicology, DNA, or pathology.

A Forensic Science Technician needs a lot of practice within a lab, so expect to basically live in the laboratory for much of your university life.

Most Bachelors’ degrees in science require an internship at some point.

Typically, students will network with other scientists and have firsthand experience with crime scenes and evidence.

It doesn’t matter where you apply for your internship, you can work locally, at a state or even federal level.

It may also be possible to find an internship at a police station or hospital.

Even if your university does not require that you work an internship, it is desirable for employers to see that you have experience in the field.

Step 2Go to Graduate School

Oh, you thought you were done with school after getting a Bachelors’s degree?

That could be the case if you’d like to stay as an entry-level Forensic Science Technician, but we all know that you want a promotion at some point.

How does that happen?

Well, you’ll need to go to graduate school.

Many Forensic Science Technicians have a Masters’s degree in forensic science or another natural science.

Since the field is competitive, it is suggested that you go for your Master’s degree.

Some of the jobs that you may be to get as a graduate degree holder include:

  • Secret Service
  • FBI
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Financial Crime Investigation
  • Forensic Computers
  • Professional Investigator
  • Postal Inspection Service

One of the great things about technological advancements is that you can go to graduate school mostly online.

The types of classes that you can expect in a Masters program for a Forensic Science Technician include:

  • Forensic Chemistry
  • Forensic Biology
  • Forensic Analysis
  • Thesis Research (and eventually a Thesis paper)
  • Analysis of Drugs
  • Organizational Information Systems

In addition to classroom work, it is likely that you will be working in a lab for this degree as well.

It is also possible to choose a specialty, such as:

  • Ballistics
  • Forensic Engineering
  • Toxicology
  • Digital and Multimedia Science

Step 3Earn a Doctoral Degree

Yes, there is even more schooling to get into if you want to become the best Forensic Science Technician you can be.

In some fields of practice, it is required to have a doctoral degree.

For example, specialists in jurisprudence must possess a law degree and belong to at least one state bar.

Forensic dentists need a doctoral degree as well as some forensic pathologists and psychiatrists.

Depending on the field that you would like to get into, a medical degree or Ph.D. may be required.

This is something that you will need to look into before you begin your journey.

Step 4Certifications are Optional

Most of the time, a certification for a Forensic Science Technician is overkill, however, there are some fields that do require certain certifications.

There are several certifications provided by the American College of Forensic Examiners, the American Board of Criminalists, and the International Association of Identification.

Some of the certifications that you may want to obtain include:

  • Bloodstains
  • Crime scenes
  • Forensic photography
  • Latent prints
  • Registered Investigator
  • Diplomate of the ABC

The time it takes to finish the different certifications can vary between associations and programs.


Education

There are a couple of different roads you can travel when thinking of becoming a Forensic Science Technician.

Nearly every single Forensic Science Technician career requires a Bachelors’s degree in Forensic Science or another scientific field.

Many jobs in the Forensic Science field also require a Masters’s degree in order to increase knowledge of a specific area.

You’ll also want to think about whether the job you want requires a Doctoral degree, such as a forensic dentist or forensic psychiatrist.

Many Bachelors’s, Master’s, and even Doctoral degrees can be done online nowadays.

Typically, a Bachelors’s degree will take around four years to complete.

Some of the courses that you can expect to take in a Bachelors degree Forensic Science program can include:

  • Intro to Forensic Science
  • Chemistry
  • Pathology
  • Forensic Trace Evidence
  • Forensic Toxicology
  • Crime Scene Processing

A Master’s degree in forensic science can take around two to three years to complete.

Having a Master’s degree is not required by many fields in the forensic science industry, however, it shows employees that you understand and are serious about the career.

Some of the courses that you can expect from a Masters degree program include:

  • Fundamental Concepts of Forensic Science
  • Molecular Techniques
  • Scientific Evidence
  • Analytical Methods
  • Homicide Crime Scene Investigation

Depending on which type of degree you are seeking, you may also encounter or specialized courses such as:

  • DNA Evidence
  • Criminalistics
  • Forensic Technology
  • Analysis of Non-Human DNA
  • Forensic Fire/Arson Investigation

There are some jobs in the Forensic Science Technician field that require a doctoral degree.

A doctoral degree can take five extra years and includes a residency in a lab or clinic.

The degree types can vary here too, from Forensic Dentistry to Anthropology.

Some of the courses you may take for a doctoral degree are:

  • Analysis in Forensic Toxicology and Chemistry
  • Crime Scene Reconstruction
  • Criminal Law
  • Ethics

Video About The Career


Certifications

When it comes to certifications as a Forensic Science Technician, they are typically optional.

Through the American Board of Criminalistics, one of the first forensic science boards in the U.S. to be certified by the Forensic Specialty Accreditation Board, you can find many certifications.

These certifications include:

  • Drug Chemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Trace Evidence
  • Fire Debris Analysis

With the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, you can obtain two types of certifications, the Basic Registry Certification and the Advanced Board Certification.

The Basic Registry Certification provides recognition to people with basic knowledge of medicolegal death investigation.

The Advanced Board Certification provides recognition for people who demonstrate mastery of all the parts of medicolegal death investigation.

The American Board of Forensic Toxicology provides certifications to toxicologists with specific qualifications, these members show high intelligence in the field.

These certifications are:

  • Diplomate – Which you must have a Doctoral degree to earn
  • Specialist – Must have a Bachelors’s degree and three years of full-time employment.

Another certification can be obtained through the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners.

Applicants for this certification must be highly qualified in forensic documentation.

In order to be applicable for this certification, you must actively work in the field, hold a Bachelors’s degree, have two years of training with an ABFDE-recognized laboratory and have at least three character references.

It may not seem easy to obtain a certification as a Forensic Science Technicians, but there are so many options that you may find just what you are looking for.

All of these certifications vary in length of time it takes to complete, this is something that you will need to inquire about through the program you wish to gain the certification.

Some certifications can take as little as six weeks to complete, and some may take several months to a year.

Certification Example:

forensic science technician certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 4+ Years

Due to the fact that there are so many different fields to get into on the Forensic Science Technician track the amount of time it takes to train for a specific certification can vary.

Some certifications can take as little as six weeks to complete.

While others can take several months or up to a year.

If you plan to work as a forensic dentist or a forensic psychiatrist, you should be prepared to work for a medical degree, which can take up to seven years.

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Job Outlook

Forensic Science Technicians shouldn’t have much to worry about in the career department for the next ten years or so.

The career is estimated to grow around fourteen percent in that time.

Even with the large growth in employment, the job market may still be small as there are fewer Forensic Science Technician jobs than others in the same field.

State and local governments will be looking to hire Forensic Science Technicians to help with their overbearing workload.

Technological and scientific advances will also allow for more jobs due to the increase in the reliability and usefulness of computers and forensic data.

Employment Growth Projection: 14%

16,700
2018
19,100
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 2,400 jobs.

Forensic Science Technician: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Forensic Science Technician?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

Forensic Science Technician ranks number 8 in Best Science Jobs.

There are a lot of opportunities within this career to climb up the ranks, which gives people the ability to make more money.

However, there is quite a lot of stress in this career, as you will be working with crime scenes and very sensitive material.

Also, there is not a lot of flexibility with this job, as you will need to be ready to go to a crime scene at any hour of the night or day.

Average Salary

Average Salary: Medium

The average salary for a Forensic Science Technician is around $49,000 a year in the United States.

When just starting out in the business, you can expect to make a little less.

Those that don’t have the experience and training will likely start out around $40,000 a year.

Once you have some experience, specialties, and knowledge about the field, it is possible to make up to $60,000 a year.

Living in a large population can increase the amount that you make a year, due to more crime being committed.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

The job growth outlook for a Forensic Science Technician looks to be growing around fourteen percent within the next ten years.

State and local governments typically hire many Forensic Science Technicians to deal with the ever-growing caseloads.

One of the best parts of the job is that technological advancements have made it even easier.

Even with the advancements in technology, it may be difficult to find the correct Forensic Science Technician job due to the availability of equipment in some areas.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 4+ Years

Most Forensic Science Technician jobs require that you have at least a Bachelors of Science in either chemistry or biology

A Bachelors’s degree typically takes around four years to complete.

After graduation, you’ll want to start an internship or training program.

An internship can give you insight into the work environment and can last from six months to a year.

There are also some certifications you can obtain, which can last from 6 weeks to several months, depending on the specialization.

Forensic Science is a field in which you will always need to educate yourself, so the duration of this education should be a lifetime.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

A Forensic Science Technician has a very delicate job to do handling crime scenes and evidence.

Some of the personal skills that you want to have in order to be a success in this field include:

  • Math and Science skills
  • Communication skills- You’ll likely have to speak to law enforcement and other important people.
  • Ability to hold composure-Crime scenes can be scary.
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Detail-oriented personality
  • Problem-solving skills

If you have these characteristics you would do wonderful in a job like this.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much does a Forensic Science Technician make?

On average in the United States, a Forensic Science Technician makes around $49,000 a year.

This amount can vary depending on several factors, how much education you have, how much experience you have, and where you work.

Most Forensic Science Technicians just starting out in the career will make around $40,000.

It’s possible to make $80,000 or more a year with education and time commitment.

Q. What does a Forensic Science Technician do?

A Forensic Science Technician has an important job, and it’s done in two parts.

First, the Forensic Science Technician must examine a crime scene for evidence.

They will then take the evidence that they’ve collected and analyzed it in a lab.

This can help police and investigators solve crimes like robberies and murder.

Much of the time, a Forensic Science Technician will keep in close contact with law enforcement so that everyone is on the same page.

Q. How long does it take to become a Forensic Science Technician?

The time it takes to have a career as a Forensic Science Technician is around four years for an entry-level position.

For this type of job, you’ll need to have a Bachelors’s degree, and this takes around four years to complete.

If you want to have a specialty as a Forensic Science Technician, then you will want to earn a Master’s degree.

This can take another 2-3 years to complete.

Some careers within the forensic science field require a Doctoral degree, which can be another 5 years.

All in all, it can take up to ten years to complete your education.

Q. Is there a demand for Forensic Science Technicians?

As long as there is crime, there will be a need for Forensic Science Technicians.

Although this can be considered a bad thing, crime allows for Forensic Science Technicians to work in a field that interests them.

The more technological advancements in use today provide more jobs for Forensic Science Technicians throughout the country.

There are jobs in the local sector, state level, and even government level.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Forensic Science Technician?

Again, this will depend on you.

Do you want to earn a Bachelors’s degree?

If so, that can cost anywhere from $18,000 to $40,000 depending on the school you’d like to attend.

Then, if you want to work toward a Master’s degree, this can be another $50,000 dollars in student loans.

Achieving Doctoral status will require another $50,000.

It can cost over $100,000 to become a Forensic Science Technician.


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