Crime Lab Technician Career Facts
Crime lab technicians work in one of the most interesting and demanding jobs. They are the primary operators of lab equipment and work with other experts to analyze information from crime scenes. This can be a very high volume, intense, work environment.
The Work Environment
The crime lab operates on a high professional plane of the tough legal environment that surrounds the work of the technician. All lab test results are subjected to rigorous scrutiny by the court and legal representatives. The sheer diversity of information with which a crime lab may have to deal is a good indication of the range of the crime lab technician's work. The lab may have to test:
- Blood samples
- Biometrics (biological evidence testing)
- Weapons like ballistic information, impact information, etc.
- Pathology regarding causes of death or injury
- Scenes contaminated by attempts to cover up forensic evidence. These attempts rarely work, but add a degree of difficulty to testing.
- DNA testing: Where this is done, it's an important element in evidence, requiring strict quality controls as evidence.
Lab testing is done systematically. Tests are scheduled, and the data is organized on a strictly scientific basis. Each element of testing must be documented, and findings must be presented in the required format for acceptance as evidence by the court. It also has to be useful for police record checks, identification purposes, and be integrated with other evidence related to the case. The test results are subject to cross examination in court, and lack of required information can cast doubt on the value of evidence.
That means a lot of work for the crime lab technician, who's responsible for most of the basic testing and preparing the test reports. Acting under direction from the experts in the various fields of testing, the crime lab technician conducts a series of tests. Each of the categories above may require multiple testing using different forms of test. Every test must be documented in this way. A single piece of evidence may generate a report on a large number of tests.
Wages and Hours
The wages of a technician may vary considerably, depending on experience, position and area of work. The average salary is $25 an hour for basic crime lab technicians. The hours may also vary according to workload and requirements of test schedules.
The Career Outlook
Crime lab technicians are highly trained, experienced experts. This is a very much higher professional level of lab work, and in career terms the experience and accreditation are important elements in career progression. The career path in this field can be variable. Crime lab technicians tend to specialize in the field, and there's a clear path of career advancement in terms of promotional progression.
However, because of the very advanced levels of expertise, crime lab technicians can also cross over to other fields of lab work with excellent credentials. Specialists in some areas have particularly good job and career mobility. A crime lab technician can move to academic or industrial research on the basis of their work.