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Criminalist

Career Overview

The job of criminalist is similar, if not identical, to that of a forensic science technician. Both terms have developed for individuals who are experts at gathering evidence at a crime scene and analyzing it, often in a laboratory setting.

Physical evidence is collected from a crime scene that may include a victim's body and always includes the area surrounding a crime location. Criminalists collect physical evidence at crime scenes, assisted by other investigators.

Once the evidence is brought to the crime lab, Criminalists conduct tests depending on the type of evidence. Laboratory tests may include DNA matching, blood analysis and ballistics evidence if a gun was used in the crime. Criminalists are often called to court to provide expert testimony regarding their methods and findings.

Education

Most criminalist positions require a bachelors degree in criminalistics or a related field. Many jurisdictions have civil service rankings of, for example, Criminalist I through Criminalist IV. These pay grade rankings are based on both experience and education.

Current Employment

At the end of 2006 there were 13,000 criminalists working in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Some jurisdictions refer to criminalists as forensic science technicians, which may suggest that there are more people active in the field than it appears.

Job Outlook

This profession is expected to grow much faster than the overall growth rate for professions in general. The techniques of evidence gathering and analysis has made the crime lab a highly specialized work place, so people who are interested in criminalist careers should have options at both the state and local level in the upcoming few years.

Salary Range

Lowest 10%  $14.03  $29,170
Median Salary  $22.92  $47,680
Highest 10%  $36.75  $76,440

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