Learn How to Become a Criminalist
1) At minimum, you'll need a 4-year bachelor's degree in the field of Biology, physical science, Criminal Justice or Forensic Science to work in the criminalistics field. The title of the degree is not as important as the courses taken (biology, math, forensics, chemistry).
2) Many criminal justice degree programs contain criminalist related courses as part of their curriculum so they are worth taking a look at too.
3) Review additional criminalist qualifications below.
Criminalist Job Duties
A criminalist examines physical evidence from a crime scene to find the link between evidence, suspect and victim. Criminalists sort, analyze, and identify the physical evidence, using scientific methods, and prepare useful information for a criminal investigation or trial. They interpret the results of their analyses and tests to determine when, how, and with what the crime was committed. They prepare written reports that are presented to their supervisors as well as used as expert witness testimony in the legal system.
Criminalists work in forensic laboratories in police departments, sheriff's offices, district attorney's offices, regional and state agencies, medical examiners' offices, private companies, colleges and universities, and for federal agencies such as the DEA, ATF, CIA and the FBI.
Criminalist Education Requirements
The minimum requirement is a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, forensic science or a related science. In the future, criminalistics careers may require a master's degree, in fact, some state level agencies are looking for masters educated criminalists. Many colleges and universities offer degrees and courses in forensic science, that can prepare students criminalist and related careers. In deciding whether to get a degree in biology, chemistry or forensic science, study the courses offered to determine which area fits your professional goals in criminalistics. Chemistry or biology is required and math is a must for any student looking for a future career as a criminalist and a biology or forensic science degree should definitely cover these topics.
To keep up with the many advances in science, the criminalist must take continuing education courses during his/her career. Criminalists also have the option of taking an extremely tough examination which, if passed, allows for certification by the American Board of Criminalistics.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for criminalists is $52,840. 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. Salaries at the Federal level are usually higher.