Criminalist — Degree, Career & Average Salary
A criminalist’s goal is to examine physical evidence objectively using investigative skills, natural sciences and practical experience. The main objective is to separate important evidence from trivial matter using scientific methods that help to identify, sort and compare the evidence. This job allows a criminalist to prepare evidence that is useful for a trial or for further investigation.
Therefore, the criminalist, also known as a forensic science technician, has the important job of interpreting evidence. Accurate interpretations of evidence and test results may help to identify the circumstances under which a crime was committed and may reinforce or detract from a witness statement. The interpretations often are produced as written reports, but the criminalist may also need to testify in court.
If you want to become a criminalist, you need to require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in physical, biological or forensic sciences. Applicants also must complete at least 24 semester hours of either biology or chemistry and math. Also, because scientific advancements are constant, the criminalist must stay informed about updates in the field with continued education.
Criminalists often work in sheriff or police offices, state and regional agencies, forensic laboratories, medical examiners’ offices, colleges, universities, attorney’s offices and in federal agencies such as the FBI and DEA. Work also can be obtained through various private enterprises, and some work may need to be conducted at crime scenes. Many of the skills required for this job include serology, DNA typing, trace evidence analysis, firearms and tool mark identification and testing, impression evidence evaluation and drug identification.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, experienced criminalists earn annual salaries between $35,000 and $50,000. Salaries of Federal crimanalists usually are higher, and the more education you obtain, the higher your salary possibilities. Also, salaries may vary depending upon location.