What is a Crime Lab Analyst?

Cassie L. Damewood

A crime lab analyst, also known as a crime lab technician, police science technician or forensic science technician, is the person who examines evidence found at crime scenes or accidents by law enforcement officers and crime scene technicians. He normally works in a laboratory of a police station or investigation bureau. In some situations, he may be asked to assist in gathering evidence samples during field operations.

A crime lab analyst may focus on DNA found on clothing from a crime scene.
A crime lab analyst may focus on DNA found on clothing from a crime scene.

Although a crime lab analyst may be qualified to examine all types of evidence, his career normally focuses on one area of forensic analysis. He may specialize in DNA and bodily fluids, chemical compounds or ballistics. An analyst may also concentrate on handwriting analysis, polygraph interpretation, blood spatter patterns or print interpretation like those left by fingers, shoe soles or tires.

A crime scene analysts evaluates evidence.
A crime scene analysts evaluates evidence.

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Almost any substance, particle or speck can provide information that helps solve a crime or track down a criminal. A crime lab analyst frequently examines DNA evidence left behind by a perpetrator, the most common link used by investigators. Other clues are regularly found in much less conspicuous forms and brought to the lab for analysis. A sliver of glass or a chip of fingernail polish can provide a lead to a suspect, as well as dirt on a victim’s shoes or traces of food or drink found inside a mouth or in stomach contents.

One duty of a crime lab analyst is to testify in court, when necessary.
One duty of a crime lab analyst is to testify in court, when necessary.

To adequately and thoroughly perform his job, a crime lab analyst usually utilizes a wide range of laboratory equipment and processes to help solve cases. He frequently uses microscopes to examine minuscule samples and particles. To reveal substances invisible to the naked eye, he often invokes X-ray, ultraviolet light and infrared photography techniques.

In addition to having laboratory skills, a competent crime lab analyst is typically expected to keep meticulous records. He is commonly called upon to testify in court and scrupulous record keeping is frequently vital to how a jury or judge decides a case. Demonstrated expertise in laboratory analysis and evidence handling are also important assets. Crime lab training programs, often required by laboratories, can help analysts with these skills.

Educational requirements for a crime lab analyst vary but appear to be getting more stringent. There are several well-respected two-year degree programs in crime lab analysis that are acceptable to some employers. Others require a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology, toxicology, criminology, forensics or science. More recently, a master’s degree or Ph.D. in these concentrations is being required by some organizations. Completing an internship at a crime lab is highly recommended to aspiring crime lab analysts.

A crime lab analyst might help at a crime scene.
A crime lab analyst might help at a crime scene.

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