What is a Crime Lab Analyst?

A crime lab analyst provides valuable analytical support to a criminal investigation. While there are many different applications for this career path, it’s important than those interested in following this professional course attain some basic and generalized skills within specific fields of study. In the course of this article, we’ll examine the specifications and details with which anyone seeking a career of forensic lab analysis should be familiar.

Points of Differentiation

On one hand, those government and professional organizations in need of the skills of lab analysts have benefited from the popularization of the field through television and film. However, because the magic of Hollywood is, at best, a flight of verisimilitude, it falls to many professionals in those organizations to set the record straight. The investigation of criminal events tends to fall into two main groups—the crime scene investigation units, who assess and observe the scenes of violent crimes in the field, and the professionals who analyze and process the evidence collected by the field investigation teams. While both groups are vital to the solution of criminal events, this article focuses on the analysts who process materials, use scientific method to investigate questions posed by field crews, and accurately report the results.

As within any professional setting, there are several different designations that have been grouped under the heading of Crime Lab Analyst, and not all are equal in rank or the academic requirements needed to perform their duties. While the advancement of technologies used to assess and analyze material and data have made many opportunities available to those without master’s or post-graduate degrees, individuals with those levels of academic achievement can and do work within the crime analyst community. Typically, these individuals can command a greater level of authority and a higher salary, but they are supported by skilled teams.

Analysts may fulfill roles such as forensic technicians, who make reagents and maintain the functional routines of the laboratory environment. They may be fingerprint analysts or bring skills from other fields into the lab. Photographers and those skilled with document authentication or historicity are often much in demand when it comes to solving crimes. As well, entomologists play a critical role in establishing the timeframe of a crime scene, from the moment of perpetration to that of discovery.

Relative Qualifications

While there are now many associate-level degree programs that provide analyst certification and a career-focused education, many government laboratories do specify that prospective applicants should possess degrees in natural science, criminalistics/criminology or a comparative body of experience enacting professional duties in a specialized laboratory setting. Some agencies may even prefer a wide array of skills, such as the use of cameras, lab equipment, lab processes, and application of critical reasoning specific to analysis of criminal activity.

It’s often considered especially beneficial for students of lab processes to seek programs of study that provide an internship experience as a part of the course of study. This allows students to attain real experience and build the social contacts that are essential to a successful career in crime lab analysis. They can then further their body of knowledge via focused employment following their graduation.

Related Resource: Become a Crime Lab Analyst

Without criminal analysis laboratories, our culture would be reduced to inaccurate means such as speculation. Processing and expert analysis of data and materials drawn from the scenes of crimes allows a more focused line of inquiry, which leads to apprehension and prosecution of those truly responsible for the crimes. In essence, every crime lab analyst, however humble, plays a vital role in the enactment of justice.