What Kind of Work Does a Forensic Science Tech Do Day to Day?

Many students are pursuing an education in the field of forensic science after seeing people work in this industry in movies and on television shows. You can’t believe everything you see on the screen, but in many cases, your daily tasks will actually be similar to what you see on CSI. Of course, there is also a lot of less exciting paperwork and behind-the-scenes duties that you don’t see on television, as well as a number of crucial skills you need, so before you choose the forensic science tech career path, make sure that you learn what your day to day tasks will be like.

Studying a Scene

Whenever a crime is committed, the area is called a scene. Police try to preserve this crime scene until forensic investigators arrive so that evidence can be collected. Many forensic science techs work in labs, but some are field agents who do the collecting. This requires a high level of responsibility, critical thinking, and attention to detail, as even the smallest fiber could be important to finding the criminal. Everything at the crime scene also has to be documented properly, so that the forensic science techs back at the lab understand what they’re getting from the field agents. When on a scene, safety is also important. Although police are sent in to clear the area first, most forensic science techs who do fieldwork are required to be trained in firearms safety in case there are any criminals still at the scene of the crime.

Analyzing Evidence

Once the evidence is brought back to the forensics lab, it is up to the various lab techs to put the pieces of the puzzle together. This requires different skills for every scene, since no two crimes are alike. Some common skills, though, include running toxicology reports, fingerprinting, analyzing the make-up of fabrics and other materials, doing DNA testing, completing handwriting analysis, reading blood splatter patterns, and identifying firearms and other weapons. A lot of these responsibilities are very detail-oriented and require a lot of specialized training.

Interviewing

The police take care of interviewing most suspects and witnesses, but as a forensic science tech, this might be a part of your daily tasks as well, depending on what they can tell you. Interviews are not always reliable, so you may also work with a polygraph machine, more commonly called a lie detector, to track people’s responses to certain questions. This can help the team better understand the situation from those who may have been around.

Reporting Results

On television, nearly every episode of a show is wrapped up with the forensic science techs figuring out who committed a crime. That’s not necessarily how the real world works. Many cases go unsolved, and in some instances, forensic science techs don’t even know who the suspects are, in depth – they simply report on their findings to investigators. With every case, however, you’ll have to write up a report, explaining what you found and how you’ve come to certain conclusions. Evidence needs to be properly marked and stored, along with a copy of your report, so that it can be used in the future if necessary.

Giving Testimonies

Lastly, your day may include some time in a courtroom. If you worked on a case that goes to trial, you may be called in as an expert witness. Your employer will likely require training before you are allowed to testify in court, but the basic idea is simple – you get up on the stand to tell what you found with the evidence and how you found it. Both sides are trying to disprove the other, so be prepared for hard cross-examinations, questioning your technique and competence.

Online Forensic Science and Criminal Justice Degrees

Forensic science, or forensics, is a rapidly growing field of criminal investigation whereby forensic technicians employ their technical skills in the field. To become a forensic scientist, students must obtain at least an associate's degree in fields such as criminal investigation, forensic psychology, criminal justice, and more.

Kaplan University — At Kaplan University, students can get a forensic science bachelor's degree in two different concentrations: forensic psychology and crime scene investigation. No matter which program you choose, Kaplan will quickly prepare you for a career in forensic science.

American InterContinental University — AICU's justice and forensic science program is designed to be a fast-track course that will help anyone segue into a job as a crime scene forensic science analyst after only one year of schooling.

St. Joseph’s University — The MSCJ in Intelligence and Crime Analysis from St. Joseph’s University is offered online for busy adults who may already have other commitments that keep them out of class during normal hours. The flexible program will give students the skills they need to begin a criminal investigative career after graduation.

Walden University — Walden University offers their master's in forensic psychology degree program fully online. Students of this program will gain insights into how forensic psychologists work with the legal system on reducing criminal behavior within a community. A graduate of this program is well-equipped to become a psychologist in a correctional institution, mental health center, psychiatric facility, child welfare agency, and more.

See more online forensic science degrees...

Find a Forensic Science school near you

Fill out the short form below and we'll help match you with a school that suits your needs.