Those who want to become a crime lab analyst will need a strong academic background in the physical or forensic sciences. Most crime lab analysts complete internships or on-the-job training programs. Below explains how to become a crime lab analyst.
Crime laboratory analyst positions generally require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in criminology, criminal justice and forensic or physical sciences. The most common degrees are in the scientific fields of biology, chemistry, biochemistry or molecular biology. Crime lab students should select coursework that helps them attain skills and knowledge in their target specialization areas. For instance, students should take natural science classes if they want to specialize in fingerprints or advanced biology courses if they want to specialize in DNA analysis. Forensic science bachelor’s degree programs will emphasize math, physics, biochemistry, organic chemistry and select anthropology topics. Programs will also teach about the criminal justice system, law enforcement practices and evidence gathering and processing rules.
Almost all state and federal employers will require crime lab analysts to have a master’s degree. A master’s degree in forensic science will teach students about forensic medicine, entomology, anthropology and environmental. Students who specialize in serology and forensic DNA will study genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology and blood spatter interpretation. These programs are designed to meet the educational guidelines set by the FBI National Standards for DNA Technical Leaders. Students who concentrate in forensic drug chemistry will learn about organic synthesis, drug chemistry and drug pharmacology. Forensic toxicology specialists will learn about toxicology, drug metabolism and forensic pharmacology. These programs will provide hands-on experience through plenty of lab work and required internships.
In addition to a formal education, crime lab analysts receive on-the-job training that takes a few months to a few years to complete. All state and federal crime labs have mandated proficiency tests that must be completed before crime lab analysts can process evidence, analyze cases and give testimonies in courtrooms. Successful analysts must be detailed-oriented, analytical thinkers and organizational professionals. Because of the necessity of presenting perfect documentation, crime lab analysts must effectively communicate both orally and in writing. Employers usually require that crime lab analysts pass drug tests, background screenings and numerous interviews before being hired.
According to the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, crime lab biology analysts compare hair and blood samples for similar features. DNA analysis is conducted to determine if a perpetrators’ individual code is present within crime scenes. Hair sample analysis is used to determine whether hair collected at a crime scene belongs to suspected criminals. Crime lab chemical analysts evaluate evidence, such as soil, blood and clothes, to provide insight into crime scenes. Crime lab analysts who specialize in document examination will examine suspected forgery, compare handwriting samples and assess document attributes. Firearms crime lab analysts usually specialize in ballistics, explosives evidence and firearm identification. Fingerprinting analysts use digital technology to identify criminals and psychophysical analysts use polygraph tests to determine whether individuals are being honest.
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A career in crime lab analysis has become more popular in recent years, with many more schools offering degree programs in criminology, criminal justice and forensics. Finding a career as a crime lab analyst will be a rewarding and fulfilling career for those interested in this field.