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What Is a Forensic Technician?

Forensic technicians may be called upon as expert witnesses to testify in court.
Forensic technicians handle tasks such as physical and trace evidence and DNA analysis.
Forensic technicians may conduct autopsies.
Forensic labs specialize in evaluating evidence.
Forensic technicians collect evidence and take photographs at a crime scene.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 July 2014
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A forensic technician, also known as a criminalist, is a professional who specializes in collecting and analyzing physical evidence related to the commission of crimes. Forensic technicians work in the lab and in the field, and they are primarily employed by government agencies, although they can also work for private companies such as labs which specialize in evaluating evidence for small police departments and agencies which cannot retain their own forensic technicians. Job prospects in this field are generally very bright, especially in urban areas.

To become a forensic technician, someone can either complete a two year training program, or obtain an associate's degree in a topic related to forensics, and then pursue additional training in forensics. Most people start out working under the supervision of experienced scientists and technicians, gradually expanding their skills until they can work independently.

Forensic science involves the application of science and math to situations which involve the law. As a result, a forensic technician is not just a good scientist. He or she is also familiar with the protocols for handling evidence to ensure that it is not compromised, ensuring that it can be used in court, and forensic technicians can write up final reports and testify as expert witnesses, using their scientific skills to help a prosecutor make a case, or occasionally testifying on behalf of the defense.

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Working conditions and hours for forensic technicians vary. Some work primarily in the lab, but they may need to be available day and night to evaluate fresh evidence as it comes in, which could result in working a night shift. Others work mostly in the field, being available to assist with criminal investigations at all hours, and some split their time between the field and the lab. Forensic technicians handle things like physical and trace evidence, ballistics, DNA analysis, and autopsies, depending on their areas of specialty and interest.

The work of a forensic technician starts with the collection of evidence. He or she travels to the site where the evidence is found, documents the conditions with a camera or the assistance of a photographer, and carefully collects and marks the evidence before bringing it to the lab, logging it in, and analyzing it or passing it on to another forensic technician or lab for analysis. After the analysis, the technician who performs the analysis writes it up, highlighting key information which could help investigators, and the evidence is put into storage while the report ends up in the file relating to the crime. The technicians who collect and analyze the evidence may also be called upon to testify about the evidence in a court of law.

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Discuss this Article

Mae82
Post 3

For those looking to make the most money, the highest end of the pay scale for a forensic technicians in the USA is for those working at the federal executive branch of the government, where you can make around $83,970 a year on average.

For those searching for an interesting career, this job looks amazing.

Can anyone think of any other jobs in criminal science that pay like this?

drtroubles
Post 2

A forensic technician is a pretty well paying job for the amount of education required to get started.

Being curious, I went and looked it up online and it said that in the USA the average pay for a forensic technician is about $50,310 a year. That is really good for only two years of post-secondary schooling.

You can also up your pay by pursuing additional training and education.

lonelygod
Post 1

Having watched numerous episodes of Criminal Minds and the many versions of C.S.I it is interesting to read what a real forensic technician does.

I think this job has been too glamorized on television. It sounds like it would be a lot of hard work and would require a lot of patience, especially when dealing with the amount of record keeping that is required to make sure that the evidence holds up in court.

I guess though, that television shows about forensic would be pretty boring if we had to sit around and watch people fill in forms in triplicate, as well as filing them.

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