Crime Lab Analyst Careers
Crime laboratory analysts most often work in the laboratory and not in the field, as some television shows have suggested. This does not make this career any less exciting. The lab environment is very complex and crime lab analysts play a major role in analyzing evidence and connecting that evidence to a suspect. During some criminal investigations a crime lab analyst may venture into the field to assist a crime scene technician in photographing, collecting and preserving evidence at a crime scene. In most cases, crime scene technicians collect crime scene evidence and bring it back to the crime lab for analysis.
Depending on the laboratory, crime lab analysts will sometimes specialize in certain areas of evidence analysis such as DNA or trace evidence. However, in most law enforcement departments there are only one or two lab analysts and they are responsible for analyzing all areas of the physical evidence in a criminal investigation. Typical analyses of evidence conducted by the crime lab analyst include, serology, DNA, firearms and tool marks, trace evidence, blood alcohol, toxicology, and others. The results of such analyses are used to match or link the victim to a suspect. Results are reported to law enforcement administration and investigators. A crime lab analyst may also provide expert testimony in a court of law as to the methods used for analysis and what they found.
Crime Lab Analyst Requirements and Education
A bachelors degree in forensic science, a physical science, natural science, criminalistics, chemistry, biology, pharmacology/toxicology, or physics is required. A bachelors degree in Chemistry is probably the best preparation for a career as a crime lab analyst. A biology degree with a strong background in genetics and and biochem is useful for specializing in DNA analysis. Some crime laboratories are moving toward higher education requirements, such as a masters or PhD in a relevant area. Crime laboratory analysts at labs throughout the U.S. are required to successfully complete crime lab analyst training programs prior to touching anything in the crime lab. This instruction may be waived for individuals who have been through crime lab training and worked in another crime lab. A bachelors education in the afore mentioned degree programs provides many of the required skills and abilities necessary to be successful, such as knowledge of terminology, lab ethics and etiquette and use of lab equipment. Further skills and abilities may be learned during your coursework, like the principles and techniques used to analyze evidence in a criminal investigation, how to package, handle and store physical evidence, and much more. The bottom line, if you haven't earned your bachelor's degree in a related field then this should be your first step. Try to intern in a crime lab while earning your degree. This could give you a leg up on the competition as well as help you determine if this is the right career for you.
Crime Analyst Salary and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for crime lab analysts is $51,570. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth. Crime lab supervisors will earn more. Job opportunities in this field are very competitive, but the BLS projects 19 percent growth through 2020 in this sector, which is as fast as average for all occupations.