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Forensic Science Technician

colleges offer programs related to this career near San Mateo, CA

Career Overview

When people commit a crime, they typically don't cover their tracks too well. But thanks to modern technology, crime units can collect their DNA from the crime scene to help police put criminals behind bars. You can see examples of these skilled professionals at work in television shows such as Law & Order or CSI. If this type of work sounds interesting to you and you'd like to help investigate crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence, you could pursue a career as a forensic science technician.This is not your average job, that's for sure. You will work at crime scenes, scanning the scene to determine what and how evidence should be collected, taking photographs, recording observation, and cataloging evidence to be transferred to crime labs. When you return to the lab, you will perform chemical, biological, and physical test on the pieces you've collected from the crime scene, explore possible links between suspects and criminal activity, reconstruct the scene of the crime, and consult with experts in related fields such as toxicology. For instance, if you discover a strange chemical on a victim's clothing, you will consult a toxicology specialist to help you find out what it is. Perhaps it will be chlorine from a pool, and it could help police detectives link the victim to a person on their lists of suspects.This line of work requires strong problem-solving skills. It is your job to look over the scene of a crime and decipher how each piece of evidence you collect factors into what happened. Say someone was shot, was there a struggle? Was one of them intoxicated? How did they arrive at the scene? Every item or photo you gather from the scene will help you put the puzzle pieces in place. Another important ability you will need to have is a strong eye for detail. If you overlook anything from the crime scene, you could miss out on critical clues.

Salaries and Job Outlook*

2013 Median Annual Pay
Number of Jobs in 2013
Projected Growth Rate
National
$57,850
15,070
16.8 %
California
$78,960
2,050
 

Education and Training

Degrees Required:
Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Science, Chemistry, Biology, or related field

If you want to become a forensic science technician, you'll need to complete your bachelor's degree in forensic science, chemistry, biology, or a related field. If you choose to major in forensic science, it's important to make sure your program includes extensive coursework in mathematics, chemistry, and biology. These classes help you build an important knowledgebase you will use in your profession.Once you are hired, you will receive on-the-job training before you work on cases independently. To learn proper procedures and methods for examining evidence, you will assist experienced technicians. Finally, you may need to pass a proficiency exam or otherwise be approved by a laboratory or accrediting body before you are allowed to perform independent casework or testify in court.

 
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Valued Traits & Abilities

Communication Skills
Problem-Solving Skills
Detail Oriented

Work Environment

There are a variety of places you can work as a forensic science technician. You can choose to work full time at a police department, crime laboratory, morgue, or medical examiner/coroner offices. For the most part, you may have to work outside in all types of weather when you are collecting evidence, and spend long hours in laboratories and offices. This job will be great for you if you enjoy collaborating, since you will be working on a team with fellow specialists and law enforcement personnel.If you're looking for a steady 9-5 job, you may want to look elsewhere. This work requires you to work staggered day, evening, or night shifts. Because you must always be available to collect or analyze evidence, you will need to work overtime when necessary.

* Source: BLS Data - 2013