Primarily employed by government agencies, forensic technicians apply scientific principles in laboratories or in fields. Indoors, forensic technicians analyze and test evidence from crime scenes by applying a variety of methods to help investigations. Outdoors, they gather evidence and assist criminal investigations. They also provide testimonies on their findings in court.
Typical Day On a typical day, forensic technicians mainly examine and test evidence obtained from crime scene investigators. Evidence may range from fibre samples to weapons to strands of hair. Although some forensic scientists are generalists, most specialize in certain areas such as toxicology, biology or firearm analysis. For instance, toxicology specialists examine body fluids for traces of drugs, poison or alcohol while those in firearm analyze bullets, cartridges and guns.
Forensic technicians apply science and mathematical principles, operate and maintain sophisticated equipment, monitor experiments, make observations, use complex computer programs, and record results that may lead to the development of conclusions. After testing evidence, they interpret results to classify and identify evidence while recording and drafting their findings, investigative methods and techniques. They preserve the evidence and then consult experts concerning evidence. Lastly, they determine relationships between pieces. If a case comes to trial, technicians testify on evidence or laboratory techniques and provide opinions based on their findings in court.
Working Conditions Although forensic technicians mainly work in laboratories with regular hours, there may be several occasions when they work irregular hours to meet certain deadlines or to monitor experiments. Other scientists who work outdoors may work irregular hours, assisting investigations and collecting evidence at crime scenes at any time of day.
Forensic technicians are often exposed to hazards but by following proper safety procedures, they can minimize risk.
Education Since forensic science is the application of science and mathematics to situations involving law, a background in physics, chemistry and math is vital. Therefore, it is highly recommended to take science and math courses in high school. Due to the involvement of sophisticated computer programs and complicated testimonies, computer science and law are also recommended.
The minimum requirement for a forensic technician is a Bachelor of Science degree, however, employers prefer applicants that have master’s degree. Although there are no forensic science programs, degrees with some connection to forensic science is offered. For example, biology, chemistry or more specialized areas like toxicology.
Knowledge of legal procedures is also helpful when preparing for a testimony. Applicants with experience in usage of laboratory equipment usually require a shorter period of on-the-job training.
Job Prospects The need to replace retired technicians will leave many openings. Job opportunities are expected to be great for graduates of science technology programs who harbors a lot of experience in laboratory equipment. As technology develops, becoming increasingly complex, employers will begin to seek highly developed technical skills. Great communication skills will also be popular among employers. Overall, jobs are expected to increase faster than average for forensic technicians.
Technicians begin working as trainees under supervision of a more experienced scientist and as they gain experience, they hold more responsibility and carry assignments under general supervision. Some may eventually become supervisors.
Benefits Forensic technicians earned a median annual salary of $51 480 in 2009. However, earnings depend on education, level of responsibility, experience and employer. As the scientist moves higher up in the career ladder, he/she earns a higher annual salary. Scientists with master’s degree or PhD usually earn more than those with bachelor’s degrees because they are able to move higher up in the career ladder. The higher the position the technician holds, the more they are paid.
In addition to salary, forensic technicians receive extended health care, dental coverage, paid vacation and sick days.
Inquiry/Thinking Forensic scientists involves a high degree of analytical thinking when examining evidence. This skill allows them to draw connections between pieces of evidence, form general conclusions and helps them consider every angle. Without it, they would never be able to see the relationships and could not help in investigations.
Communication Forensic technicians require communication skills mainly because they are required to report their findings orally and in writing. They should be able to communicate ideas very clearly. If not, the records and reports that detail their findings, investigative methods and techniques will not be clear and concise, confusing many co-workers. If they are horrible at oral communication, they would not be able to properly express their results when giving a testimony in court.
Knowledge Forensic technicians involves knowledge of many different subjects such as: chemistry, english, law and government, science and math. The fundamentals of forensic science revolves around science and math in a law based scenario. Science and math helps scientists examine evidence which is a large part of their daily routine. English is a very useful bridge to connect thoughts, findings and results of all scientists. Also, knowledge of laws are very important clearly when in court.
Science Forensic science mainly revolves around physics and chemistry. Chemistry, being the science of matter, is the reason why forensic technicians are able to determine who committed the crime. Chemists analyze evidence such as blood, hair, DNA or firearms. Ballistics, the science of flight of mechanics is a sub-category of physics. By applying physics to bullets, we can analyze bullets and their impacts to determine useful information
Technology Technology is a large part of a forensic technician. As the technology around the technician develops, she/he needs to be able to quickly learn to use the new laboratory equipment in a very short span of time. Everyday, a forensic technician uses many difference types of technological developments, for instance, microscopes and computer programs.
Society Forensic technicians help maintain a peaceful society by contributing to the apprehension of criminals. If the society were to develop into a governed place, there would be no need for forensic technicians as well as several other jobs that act as peacekeepers. On the other hand, if the society began to worsen, there would be a higher demand for the jobs that involve the capture of criminals to keep the world less tyrannous. Many criminal cases largely influence the media. There are many captivating mysteries and books written to date.
Environment Forensic technicians use the environment around the crime scene as a large indicator of clues about the criminal. For example, a footprint in the mud can already narrow down many suspects. A change in environment, per say finding the corpse at a location that is not the crime scene can throw investigators off track. It is also environmentally damaging for the ecosystems and animals around the crime scene. The investigators that examine the crime scene will chase away animals and if the body is not found for a long time, the rotting corpse will attract many unwanted pests.