Criminalist Job Description
Criminalists--not to be confused with criminologists--work in forensic science, assisting in crime scene evidence and crime solving work in the laboratory. A criminalist may visit a crime scene to evaluate the site, document traces of evidence, gather physical specimens, collect photographs, and transport the materials to the crime laboratory. A well-trained criminalist may track the series of events which led to a crime and gather evidence including blood, DNA, hair and tissue samples, fingerprints, bullets, weapons, handwriting, drug traces, and even vapors. Their job is to connect the physical evidence with a suspect.
In the laboratory a criminalist may employ skills in assessing molecular biology, chemistry, physics, and genetics evidence. They may have to re-create the crime scene for police investigators. They must also have a working knowledge of police science and the criminal justice system, legal terminology, and procedures used in preparing evidence and documentation for presentation in a court of law in prosecuting the perpetrators of crimes. They may also team up with specialists in ballistics, serology, weapons, tool marks, poisons, and narcotics.
Career training is provided by online or on-campus college degree and certification programs in police science, homeland security, law enforcement, criminalistics, and forensic sciences including coursework in pathology, toxicology, chemistry, or geology. Degrees begin at the associate's level, although many law enforcement agencies prefer criminalists with a bachelor's or master's degree.
Criminalists Job Outlook & Salary
Overall employment of police investigators is predicted to grow 18 percent over the 2006 to 2016 decade. *Criminalists earn between $30,000 and $80,000 a year.
*Bureau of Labor Statistics