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Career ProfileCrime Scene Technician

What They Do

Crime scene technicians, also known as crime scene investigators or forensic science technicians, have the fascinating and sometimes-grim occupation of working with police to investigate crime scenes. They gather and analyze evidence at a crime scene, as well as write reports describing their findings. Students with a strong grasp of problem-solving, math, science and critical thinking skills would do well to pursue a career as a crime scene technician.

At a crime scene, it’s imperative to follow very specific protocol in a timely manner. The common duties of a crime scene technician include:
• Determining what and how evidence should be collected at a crime scene
• Recording observations, such as the location of evidence
• Gathering physical evidence – weapons, fingerprints or bodily fluids
• Cataloging and protecting evidence for safe transfer

After gathering and analyzing data and evidence at a crime scene, technicians must articulate their findings to lawyers, detectives and other law enforcement officials. They may even be called upon to testify regarding their conclusions and collection techniques.

Expectations: Salary and Career Outlook

The salary for crime scene technicians will vary based upon location, experience, police department size and a host of other factors. In May 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the annual median salary of a forensic science technician was $58,610. This career is expected to grow six percent by the year 2022, with the competition for available positions being high.

Workplace Environment

About 90 percent of crime scene technicians work for state and local governments. They typically work in teams alongside forensic specialists, police and other law enforcement officials. This work is not for the faint of heart – technicians frequently see the often-explicit results of violent crime. A crime scene technician must always be available, and often work staggered shifts around the clock.

Education, Special Skills and Other Qualifications

A Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice or a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice Leadership will best prepare a potential crime scene technician to become employed and promoted quickly. Many police officers who have graduated from the police academy become crime scene technicians.

A certificate in crime scene technology will teach applicants methods for locating, identifying and correctly collecting important evidence. Fingerprinting, crime scene photography, sketching, note taking and report writing are some of the many skills learned in these programs. There may be requirements in anatomy, physiology and chemistry. A good crime scene technician will stay abreast of advances in technology and science that can further sharpen their collection and analysis skills.