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Forensic Science Technicians

At a Glance

  • Use the natural sciences to solve crimes
  • Run many kinds of tests, including DNA analysis
  • Also known as "criminalists"
  • Sometimes wear protective clothing
  • Most have a bachelor's degree

Career summary

Forensic science technicians study physical evidence to solve crimes.

#closest match is 2616 forensic scientists, check 2/23/15 lh

Forensic scientists usually specialize in one of the following areas:

Crime scene investigation

Crime scene investigators determine what and how much evidence to collect. They take photos and make sketches of the crime scene. They collect physical evidence that includes:

Laboratory analysis

Forensic science technicians who work in laboratories examine the evidence in order to reconstruct the crime scene. They try to determine the relationships among all the evidence in order to link a suspect to the crime.

Technicians analyze guns and tool marks. If a gun was used, they may analyze bullets, gunshot residue, and the paths bullets take when shot. They examine weapons left at the scene to see if they were legally obtained and identify the owner.

Technicians also analyze impression evidence. This may be a shoe or tire print made in soil or bite marks in food. They also analyze body fluid evidence, such as bloodstains or saliva. They may look for poisons, illnesses, or drugs.

Forensic science technicians interpret lab findings and often confer with experts or other technicians. They might consult a medical expert about the exact time and cause of a death. They might also consult a technician who specializes in DNA typing.

Forensic science technicians prepare reports of their findings. They keep records of their investigation methods and lab techniques. Technicians often have to testify in court about evidence or lab work.

Forensic science technicians are also known as criminalists.

Related careers

This career is part of the Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to forensic science technicians.

Common work activities

Forensic science technicians perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, forensic science technicians:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Forensic science technicians frequently:

It is important for forensic science technicians to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for forensic science technicians to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Forensic science technicians need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a forensic science technician, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most forensic science technicians have a bachelor's degree in applied science or technology. Some have a bachelor's degree in biology or chemistry. It is possible to work as a technician if you do not have a bachelor's degree in a life science. However, you need to take many science and math courses in college. Physics and chemistry are especially important. Courses with a laboratory component are also vital.

Work experience

A summer job in a lab is excellent preparation for working in this field.

On-the-job training

While in school, you should consider participating in an internship in a forensic science lab. This experience is very helpful for getting a job. Once on the job, you will receive additional training. The length of training varies by employer. Some labs provide up to one year of training.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements. Forensic science technicians need a strong background in math and science. Take as many advanced classes as you can.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers prefer applicants who have laboratory experience. Such experience may come from coursework or from work experience, such as internships. Forensic experience is very helpful. Some employers prefer applicants who have a master's degree in criminalistics or forensic science. Others require only a bachelor's degree.

It is important for people in this field to be able to derive and present their findings without bias.

#Removed comments about seeking national certification after seeing Frontline documentary, "The Real CSI", which aired 4/17/12, especially with its review and critique of the American College of Forensic Examners International and its method for awarding certification. Also questions about the supposed "science" behind fingerprint examining techniques, bite marks, etc. with DNA presented as the main technique based on scientific methodologies, cj


Take as much science as possible while in school. To learn more about this job, contact a police department that has a crime lab and ask if you can tour its facility.

Costs to workers

Workers may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues. Those who voluntarily seek certification within their specialty area may need to pay an examination and certification fee. Workers who join a union must pay an initiation fee and quarterly dues.

#Tech job w/ WA State Patrol 4/3/12 states must join union. Cj

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Forensic science technicians (SOC 19-4092)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $16.52 $21.66 $28.32 $35.38 $40.86
Monthly $2,863 $3,754 $4,908 $6,131 $7,081
Yearly $34,360 $45,040 $58,920 $73,600 $84,990
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $22.60 $27.29 $33.14 $38.48 $44.71
Monthly $3,917 $4,729 $5,743 $6,669 $7,748
Yearly $47,010 $56,759 $68,927 $80,040 $92,976
    Vancouver Hourly $22.60 $27.90 $33.59 $38.15 $44.03
Monthly $3,917 $4,835 $5,821 $6,611 $7,630
Yearly $47,003 $58,036 $69,887 $79,365 $91,598
United States Hourly $16.63 $21.32 $27.99 $36.75 $46.73
Monthly $2,882 $3,695 $4,851 $6,369 $8,098
Yearly $34,600 $44,340 $58,230 $76,440 $97,200

Wages vary by employer and the technician's level of education and responsibility.

Technicians who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include health insurance, sick leave, paid vacation, and a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

In Washington, the outlook for forensic science technicians is affected by population growth, the crime rate, and funding for federal, state, and local criminal investigative work. Scientific analysis of evidence is often used extensively by both the prosecution and defense in criminal cases. Washington has a small number of workers in this occupation, so competition for jobs will be strong.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Forensic Science Technicians (SOC 19-4092)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 391 20.5% 16.1% 65
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 150 23.3% 13.4% 26
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 109 18.3% 14.1% 17
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 17 23.5% 14.6% 2
    King County 135 23.0% 19.6% 23
    Pierce County 47 21.3% 15.2% 8
    Snohomish County 36 11.1% 12.4% 5
    Spokane County 18 22.2% 13.9% 3
United States 16,700 14.4% 5.2% 2,400

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is expected to be very strong. Most growth will come in digital forensics and DNA specialties. Because most technicians work for government agencies, growth in this occupation is related to funding for their departments.

Competition for jobs will be strong because of the interest in forensic science and crime scene investigation created by television shows. Those with an advanced degree should have the best prospects.

Other resources

Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (external link)
American Academy of Forensic Sciences (external link)
410 North 21st Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
American Chemical Society (external link)
1155 Sixteenth Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
American Society of Criminology (external link)
1314 Kinnear Road, Suite 212
Columbus, OH 43212
American Society of Questioned Document Examiners (external link)
P.O. Box 15831
Long Beach, CA 90815
Explore Health Careers: Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) (external link)
International Association for Identification (external link)
2131 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 403
Hollywood, FL 33020
National Association of Medical Examiners (external link)
362 Bristol Road
Walnut Shade, MO 65771
Society of Forensic Toxicologists, Inc. (external link)
1955 W. Baseline Rd. Ste 113-442
Mesa, AZ 85202
What is Forensic Toxicology? (external link) (PDF file)
Young Forensic Scientists Forum (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster