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Detailed Guide for

Forensic Science Technicians in San Diego County

May also be called: Crime Lab Technicians; Crime Scene Technicians; Criminalists; Evidence Technicians; and Forensic Analysts

Specialties within this occupation include: DNA Analysts; Fingerprint Experts; Forensic Ballistics Experts; and Handwriting Experts

What Would I Do?

Due to the popularity of television programs that prominently feature this occupation, Forensic Science Technicians occupy a unique place in the public's imagination. Do Technicians, however, in reality do what is portrayed on the small screen? They do, but in less glamourous circumstances. Forensic Science Technicians collect, identify, classify, and analyze physical evidence related to criminal investigations. They perform tests on weapons or substances, such as fiber, glass, hair, bodily fluids, and tissue, to determine the significance to the investigation.

Many Forensic Science Technicians prepare written findings and displays for court presentations and may be called upon to present fair and impartial court testimony as a qualified expert witness. Sometimes they work closely with other scientific investigatory agencies to coordinate findings or to seek alternative methods of analysis. Technicians may also conduct research into new methods and procedures of forensic science analyses.

DNA Analysts perform forensic human DNA tests and analyses of evidentiary samples, such as blood, saliva, or semen, encountered in the course of criminal investigations. Analyses of these samples provide a genetic blueprint that is unique to each person, which is then used to try and match with a suspect. Proper handling and storage is essential to preserve DNA test samples.

Fingerprint Experts use laboratory techniques to analyze fingerprints collected at the crime scene. Sometimes they do the collecting as well: "lifting" prints off various surfaces, photographing, and then exposing them. They must learn how light and chemicals work in tandem to expose the print for analysis.

Forensic Ballistics Experts analyze the bullets and weapons found at crime scenes. They can determine, among other things, the proximity between the weapon and the victim, the trajectory of the bullet, and the type and model of the weapon used. Ballistics Experts can often tell the difference between a homicide, a suicide, and an accidental shooting.

Handwriting Experts analyze various printed or handwritten documents, such as wills, personal letters, ransom notes, and income tax returns, to determine the documents' age and authenticity.

Tools and Technology

Forensic Science Technicians use a variety of tools including biological evidence collection kits, cameras, footprint lifters, laboratory scalpels and scissors, lasers, magnifiers, and specimen collectors. They also use technology such as analytical or scientific, charting, e-mail, and graphics software.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Keep records and prepare reports detailing findings, investigative methods, and laboratory techniques.Information Ordering
Confer with ballistics, fingerprinting, handwriting, documents, electronics, medical, chemical, or metallurgical experts concerning evidence and its interpretation.Coordination
Testify in court about investigative and analytical methods and findings.Law and Government
Reconstruct crime scenes to determine relationships among pieces of evidence.Inductive Reasoning
Collect evidence from crime scenes, storing it in conditions that preserve its integrity.Science
Visit morgues, examine scenes of crimes, or contact other sources to obtain evidence or information to be used in investigations.Near Vision
Prepare solutions, reagents, and sample formulations needed for laboratory work.Chemistry
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Forensic Science Technicians work under a variety of conditions. Most work indoors, usually in well-lit, clean, and ventilated laboratories, while others may have to split time between a laboratory and crime scenes. They often work regular hours, but may be called upon to help in pending investigations during any hour of the day. They may experience distress and unpleasantness from collecting evidence from crime scenes. Forensic Science Technicians often are exposed to human bodily fluids and weapons. However, these working conditions pose little risk if proper safety procedures are followed.

Forensic Science Technicians employed by public agencies are usually included in the agency's law enforcement collective bargaining unit.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Forensic Science Technician may appeal to individuals who enjoy activities that involve working with ideas and require an extensive amount of thinking. Potential Technicians also should like to work with practical, hands-on problems and solutions as well as follow set procedures and routines.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Forensic Science Technicians in California is $78,319 annually, or $37.65 hourly. The median wage for Forensic Science Technicians in San Diego County is $77,842 annually, or $37.42 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$61,793$78,319$101,886
San Diego County$61,854$77,842$93,699
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Forensic Science Technicians typically receive benefit packages, including health, dental, and life insurance as well as vacation, holiday pay, sick leave, and retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Job opportunities for Forensic Science Technicians are expected to be ample. Employment growth in state and local government should be driven by the increasing use of forensic science to examine, solve, and prevent crime. Crime Scene Technicians who work for state and county crime labs should experience favorable employment prospects resulting from strong job growth.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Forensic Science Technicians is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Forensic Science Technicians are expected to increase by 5.0 percent, or 100 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Forensic Science Technicians
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
2,0002,1001005.0800
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 10 new job openings per year is expected for Forensic Science Technicians, plus an additional 80 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 90 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Forensic Science Technicians
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
108090
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

A bachelor's degree is generally the minimum educational level that employers will consider for a position as a Forensic Science Technician. The degree should be in forensic science, criminalistics (with an emphasis in chemistry), criminal justice, or one of the physical or biological sciences, such as biochemistry, physics, or biology. In California, the completion of a degree in one of these majors should be supplemented by 8 semester or 12 quarter units of general chemistry and 3 semester or 4.5 quarter units of quantitative analysis in order to be eligible for employment at a public agency. Moreover, those Forensic Science Technicians interested in specializing in a certain forensic field ought to major in a closely related program; for instance, prospective DNA Analysts should major in biology or chemistry.

Experience

Entry-level Forensic Science Technicians should have, at the minimum, one year of experience in a laboratory setting. Novice Technicians usually work under the direction of a senior Technician, until they have demonstrated the ability to work on cases independently.

Early Career Planning

Prospective Forensic Science Technicians should take biology and chemistry classes as well as English, computer science, mathematics, and public speaking. Many institutions in California also offer Regional Occupational Programs (ROPs) in forensic science. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Although there is no requirement for Forensic Science Technicians to continue their education, they should continue to be aware of innovations in evidence collection and laboratory techniques in order to stay current in their occupation.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Forensic Science Technicians are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Local Government 79.4%
State Government 17.7%
Architectural and Engineering Services 1.3%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

General information and employment applications may be obtained through governmental agency websites. Job fairs, college career centers, or newspapers may also advertise job openings. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Forensic Science Technicians.

  • Government Offices
  • Law Enforcement Agencies - Government

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Forensic Science Technicians usually begin work as trainees in routine positions under the direct supervision of a scientist or a more experienced Technician. As they gain experience, Technicians take on more responsibility and carry out assignments under only general supervision. Some may eventually become supervisors.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Forensic Science Technicians with links to more information.

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Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification19-4092
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Forensic Science Technicians19-4092.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)IRC
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Forensic Science and Technology.430106
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Forensics, Evidence, and Investigation210540