Office of Science Education skip navigation
Office of Science Education Office of Science Education LifeWorks Icons
Home > LifeWorks > Alphabetical List > Technician, Forensic Science
LifeWorks Icons
Technician, Forensic Science
Summary Job Description Education Skills, Abilities and Interests More Information
Job Description

Job CategoryLife, Physical, & Social Science

Job DescriptionForensic science technicians help investigate crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence. Most technicians specialize in either crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis.

At crime scenes, forensic science technicians, also known as crime scene investigators, typically do the following:
Walk through the scene to determine what and how evidence should be collected
Take photographs of the crime scene and evidence
Make sketches of the crime scene
Keep written notes of their observations and findings, such as the location and position of evidence as it is found
Collect all relevant physical evidence, including weapons, fingerprints, and bodily fluids
Catalog and preserve evidence before transferring it to a crime lab

Crime scene investigators may use tweezers, black lights, and specialized kits to identify and collect evidence. In addition to processing crime scenes, they may also attend autopsies.

In laboratories, forensic science technicians typically do the following:
Identify and classify crime scene evidence through scientific analysis
Explore possible links between suspects and criminal activity using the results of chemical and physical analyses
Consult with experts in related or specialized fields, such as toxicology, about the evidence and their findings
Reconstruct crime scenes based on scientific findings

Forensic science technicians reconstruct crime scenes by carefully studying information gathered by investigators and conducting scientific tests on physical evidence. For example, lab technicians may look at photographs of blood splatter patterns and conduct ballistics tests on bullets found at the crime scene to determine the direction from which a shot was fired.

Forensic science technicians who work in laboratories use chemicals and laboratory equipment such as microscopes when analyzing evidence. They also use computer databases to examine fingerprints, DNA, and other evidence collected at crime scenes in order to match them to people and things that have already been identified. Most forensic science technicians who perform laboratory analysis specialize in a specific type of evidence analysis, such as DNA or ballistics.

All forensic science technicians prepare written reports that detail their findings and investigative methods. They must be able to explain their reports to lawyers, detectives, and other law enforcement officials. In addition, forensic science technicians

Working ConditionsScience technicians work under a wide variety of conditions. Most work indoors, usually in laboratories, and have regular hours. Some occasionally work irregular hours to monitor experiments that can not be completed during regular working hours. Some science technicians may be exposed to hazards from equipment, chemicals, or toxic materials.

Forensic science technicians often are exposed to human body fluids and firearms. However, these working conditions pose little risk, if proper safety procedures are followed. For forensic science technicians, collecting evidence from crime scenes can be distressing and unpleasant.

Forensic technicians work indoors, sitting and standing during the day. They also work outdoors, exposed to the weather. Wearing protective clothing, they must use their hands to investigate crime scenes. These technicians must be accurate and exact as they draw conclusions, being careful to avoid errors.

Salary RangeThe median annual wage of forensic science technicians was $51,570 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,900, and the top 10 percent earned more than $82,990.

Crime scene investigators work staggered day, evening, or night shifts and may have to work overtime because they must always be available to collect evidence. Technicians working in laboratories usually work a standard workweek, although they may have to be on call outside of normal business hours if they are needed to work immediately on a crime scene.