A forensic science technician is a crime analyst who conducts detailed laboratory examinations and computer-based analyses of evidence collected in criminal cases. They generally work for local, county and state law enforcement agencies. Their findings are incorporated into official reports that form the basis of legal proceedings.
Forensic science technicians perform a variety of scientific operations in secure settings, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This includes testing evidence and troubleshooting proposed crime scenarios for casework purposes. They respond to requests from crime scene units to process new evidence and perform quality assurance tests on evidence that has already been scrutinized. They prepare and maintain detailed records based on laboratory, statutory and accreditation requirements. These reports cover case handling, chronology and communication with internal and external professionals.
Senior forensic science technicians will apply specialized procedures and take corrective action to resolve evidence issues of abnormal or highly sensitive cases. They are the ones who establish, review and monitor quality control procedures. They train new forensic techs in day-to-day processes, which include lab preparation, work-site decontamination, materials handling, evidence storage and instrument setup and troubleshooting. They also handle equipment maintenance and basic repair. They cooperatively work with other forensic and law enforcement units to maintain quality and processing standards.
Required Skills and Abilities
Forensic science technicians must be familiar with the theories, principles and practices of biology, analytical chemistry and the physical sciences. They must have excellent statistical and mathematical skills in order to analytically process evidence. They need to have the ability to apply state laws and federal regulations pertaining to forensic science procedures. Forensic science technicians need to have experience in accreditation standards and quality control procedures.
Forensic science technicians must be aware of their surroundings and have a strong safety mindset. This is because they must follow the proper procedures and standard laboratory rules regarding the safe handling of toxins, chemicals and biohazards. Technical skills are needed to handle supplies and equipment used in forensic laboratories. This includes sensitive scientific equipment and advanced software programs that interface with instrumentation.
Because forensic science technicians are employed by the government and deal with critically important crime scene evidence, job candidates must have an accredited bachelor’s degree in forensic science. Alternatively, forensic science technicians can have an advanced degree in science, such as biochemistry and organic chemistry, and other specific majors, such as criminal justice and information technology. Students who do not have a degree in forensic science will most likely be expected to earn an accredited forensic science certificate.
These programs will teach students how to safely work with chemicals and biohazards while following established protocols. Students will learn about standard quality checks and performance analyses. They will be trained to recognize anomalies, create hypotheses and use appropriate tests. Technical writing and communication classes teach students how to maintain accurate records and concise summaries. Computer skills are taught through introducing students to the proprietary software programs favored by law enforcement crime scene units.
Related Resource: Become a Criminologist
Anyone who wants to become a forensic science technician should visit the American Academy of Forensic Science website to learn more about the field of forensic science.