What Does a Fingerprint Technician Do?

Mary McMahon

A fingerprint technician handles record-keeping related to fingerprints for a government agency or private firm that uses biometric systems. This can include taking fingerprints, updating records, and assessing the quality of prints to determine if they can be used for valid identification. Some training may be available on the job, and some technical schools and colleges offer basic education in the subject, which may lead to a certification people can use in job applications. Professional organizations are also available, offering credentials a fingerprint technician can use in employment and to establish credibility on the witness stand.

Fingerprint technicians may need to work with microfilm.
Fingerprint technicians may need to work with microfilm.

Part of this job can involve taking fingerprints and training other personnel so they can collect accurate and usable fingerprint information. This includes the use of electronic fingerprinting equipment as well as inked cards in some locations. The training involves proper handling to make sure the prints are crisp, clear, and usable, including a check to confirm that the prints are acceptable before concluding the session.

Taking fingerprints is part of a fingerprint technician's job.
Taking fingerprints is part of a fingerprint technician's job.

Fingerprint technicians also look at fingerprints to classify them, compare them with records, and determine if they can be used to generate a match. Electronic matching equipment is available and can be used to compare against large databases automatically, but manual matching is sometimes necessary. A fingerprint technician can also verify results returned by a computer by comparing the samples to confirm their accuracy. Technicians can sort and file incoming fingerprint data, update records in the computer associated with prints, and teach people how to use the system appropriately.

A fingerprint technician is trained in the use of a fingerprint collection kit.
A fingerprint technician is trained in the use of a fingerprint collection kit.

Another aspect of the work can include records digitization. Facilities with old records on paper or microfilm may need to convert them to digital files for reference. This is a painstaking process, because the fingerprint technician needs to scan the old record, confirm the scan is of good quality, create a file, and verify it. With clean samples and good equipment, this can be a relatively fast procedure, but at other times, substantial work may be required.

Typically there are several classifications of fingerprint technician, based on experience and training. As people develop more skills, they can rise up in the ranks within an organization. Promotions may result in higher pay and better benefits, including more vacation time. When transferring between organizations, it can be advisable to find out if a rank will transfer, or if a technician will be bumped back to a lower grade because of differing classification systems used by different agencies.

Fingerprint records are handled by a technician.
Fingerprint records are handled by a technician.

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