A criminalist works in the forensic science or law enforcement field. Their duties depend upon the agency or place they work for, but they are often responsible for conducting crime investigations, studying crime scenes, gathering and examining evidence, processing evidence, and coordinating with investigators. They must also prepare and process documents, present detailed results and reports to investigators, and sometimes testify in court.

Criminalist Responsibilities

Here are examples of responsibilities from real criminalist resumes representing typical tasks they are likely to perform in their roles.

  • Perform restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) and PCR analysis.
  • Perform preventive maintenance on GC instruments and maintain preventive maintenance records in binders and LIMS.
  • Analyze controlled and non-control drugs using FTIR, GC/MS, GC/FID, and HPLC methods.
  • Examine crime scene evidence for presence of biological fluids and conduct DNA typing of those fluids as required.
  • Analyze samples for the presence or absence of control substances using GC-MS, FTIR, microscopy and other chemical tests.
  • Revise standard operating procedures and training manuals.
  • Establish operating procedures for processing and identification of control substances.
  • Complete technical reviews of other DNA analysts' casework files to verify scientific accuracy and procedural integrity.
  • Develop a computerize firearms inspection worksheet that provide a print inspection report and create a firearms database.
  • Perform confirmatory testing on QC and proficiency samples.
Criminalist Traits
Detail oriented involves being extremely mindful and observant of all details.
Math and science skills combine the basic components of reduction and addition with observation and measurement.
Problem-solving skills is the way that one is able to effectively solve a problem in a timely manner.

Criminalist Job Description

Perhaps the hardest question to answer when deciding on a career as a criminalist is "should I become a criminalist?" You might find this info to be helpful. When compared to other jobs, criminalist careers are projected to have a growth rate described as "much faster than average" at 14% from 2018 through 2028. This is in accordance with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What's more, is that the projected number of opportunities that are predicted to become available for a criminalist by 2028 is 2,400.

Criminalists average about $30.66 an hour, which makes the criminalist annual salary $63,763. Additionally, criminalists are known to earn anywhere from $34,000 to $118,000 a year. This means that the top-earning criminalists make $84,000 more than the lowest earning ones.

It's hard work to become a criminalist, but even the most dedicated employees consider switching careers from time to time. Whether you're interested in a more challenging position or just looking for a fresh start, we've compiled extensive information on becoming an evidence technician, fingerprint technician, computer forensics technician, and latent fingerprint examiner.

Criminalist Jobs You Might Like

Criminalist Resume Examples

Criminalist Skills and Personality Traits

We calculated that 19% of Criminalists are proficient in Present Evidence, Body Fluids, and Laboratory Equipment. They’re also known for soft skills such as Detail oriented, Math and science skills, and Problem-solving skills.

We break down the percentage of Criminalists that have these skills listed on their resume here:

  • Present Evidence, 19%

    Recognized, documented and interpreted the significance of physical evidence through the application of a wide variety of scientific disciplines.

  • Body Fluids, 8%

    Analyzed biological specimens to include isolation, identification, & genetic characterization of body fluids.

  • Laboratory Equipment, 7%

    Operated and maintained laboratory equipment and conducted analysis of forensic evidence including gunshot residue and trajectory.

  • Law Enforcement, 6%

    Developed a photography training class for new law enforcement personnel to include scene and evidence photography.

  • Quantitative Analysis, 6%

    Performed quantitative analysis on samples that met certain requirements.

  • DNA, 5%

    Performed DNA extractions from crime scene evidence submitted to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner's Forensic Biology Dept.

"present evidence," "body fluids," and "laboratory equipment" aren't the only skills we found criminalists list on their resumes. In fact, there's a whole list of criminalist responsibilities that we found, including:

  • Detail oriented can be considered to be the most important personality trait for a criminalist to have. According to a criminalist resume, "forensic science technicians must be able to notice small changes in mundane objects to be good at collecting and analyzing evidence." Criminalists are able to use detail oriented in the following example we gathered from a resume: "prepared detailed reports and documentation for investigative use and court proceedings. "
  • Another trait important for fulfilling criminalist duties is math and science skills. According to a criminalist resume, "forensic science technicians need a solid understanding of statistics and natural sciences to be able to analyze evidence." Here's an example of how criminalists are able to utilize math and science skills: "recognized by senior leadership for designing and implementing an efficient system to log and inventory evidence using ms excel. "
  • Criminalists are also known for problem-solving skills, which can be critical when it comes to performing their duties. An example of why this skill is important is shown by this snippet that we found in a criminalist resume: "forensic science technicians use scientific tests and methods to help law enforcement officials solve crimes." We also found this resume example that details how this skill is put to the test: "assisted mental patients with life surviving skills, recreational activities, conflict resolution. "
  • See the full list of criminalist skills.

    Before becoming a criminalist, 71.6% earned their bachelor's degree. When it comes down to graduating with a master's degree, 19.4% criminalists went for the extra education. If you're wanting to pursue this career, it may be impossible to be successful with a high school degree. In fact, most criminalists have a college degree. But about one out of every nine criminalists didn't attend college at all.

    Those criminalists who do attend college, typically earn either a chemistry degree or a criminal justice degree. Less commonly earned degrees for criminalists include a biology degree or a biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology degree.

    View more details on criminalist salaries across the United States.

    If you earned a degree from the top 100 educational institutions in the United States, you might want to take a look at Quest Diagnostics, BAE Systems, and New Jersey State Police. These three companies have hired a significant number of criminalists from these institutions.

    The three companies that hire the most prestigious criminalists are:

      What Evidence Technicians Do

      In this section, we take a look at the annual salaries of other professions. Take evidence technician for example. On average, the evidence technicians annual salary is $28,682 lower than what criminalists make on average every year.

      While their salaries may differ, one common ground between criminalists and evidence technicians are a few of the skills required in each craft. In both careers, employees bring forth skills like law enforcement, dna, and criminal cases.

      There are some key differences in responsibilities as well. For example, a criminalist responsibilities require skills like "present evidence," "body fluids," "laboratory equipment," and "quantitative analysis." Meanwhile a typical evidence technician has skills in areas such as "data entry," "accurate records," "ncic," and "general public." This difference in skills reveals how truly different these two careers really are.

      The education levels that evidence technicians earn is a bit different than that of criminalists. In particular, evidence technicians are 25.7% less likely to graduate with a Master's Degree than a criminalist. Additionally, they're 9.1% less likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      What Are The Duties Of a Fingerprint Technician?

      A Fingerprint Technician specializes in reviewing and classifying fingerprints, processing them according to their purpose. Although the extent of their responsibilities depends on their place or employment industry, it typically includes assisting clients in fingerprinting processes, facilitating fingerprint scanning methods, utilizing software to record and organize data, and maintaining an active communication line with staff for a smooth and efficient workflow. When it comes to employment, a Fingerprint Technician may work for government agencies, law enforcement, and forensic laboratories.

      Next up, we have the fingerprint technician profession to look over. This career brings along a lower average salary when compared to a criminalist annual salary. In fact, fingerprint technicians salary difference is $38,510 lower than the salary of criminalists per year.

      While the salary may be different for these job positions, there is one similarity and that's a few of the skills needed to perform certain duties. We used info from lots of resumes to find that both criminalists and fingerprint technicians are known to have skills such as "present evidence," "law enforcement," and "dna. "

      But both careers also use different skills, according to real criminalist resumes. While criminalist responsibilities can utilize skills like "body fluids," "laboratory equipment," "quantitative analysis," and "criminal cases," some fingerprint technicians use skills like "customer service," "citizenship," "uscis," and "fingerprint cards."

      In general, fingerprint technicians study at lower levels of education than criminalists. They're 28.9% less likely to obtain a Master's Degree while being 9.1% less likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      How a Computer Forensics Technician Compares

      A Computer Forensics Technician investigates cases from a digital perspective. They specialize in gathering and analyzing digital evidence from devices such as computers, flash drives, cell phones, tablets, and other technologies. There are also instances where they use special software and tools, recover or retrieve files, and unseal documents while adhering to government laws and regulations. When it comes to employment, they may work for government agencies, law enforcement, or even private investigators.

      Let's now take a look at the computer forensics technician profession. On average, these workers make lower salaries than criminalists with a $30,457 difference per year.

      By looking over several criminalists and computer forensics technicians resumes, we found that both roles utilize similar skills, such as "present evidence," "laboratory equipment," and "law enforcement." But beyond that the careers look very different.

      As mentioned, these two careers differ between other skills that are required for performing the work exceedingly well. For example, gathering from criminalists resumes, they are more likely to have skills like "body fluids," "quantitative analysis," "firearms," and "court proceedings." But a computer forensics technician might have skills like "test order," "digital evidence," "maintenance logs," and "quality control charts."

      When it comes to education, computer forensics technicians tend to earn lower education levels than criminalists. In fact, they're 15.9% less likely to earn a Master's Degree, and 7.5% less likely to graduate with a Doctoral Degree.

      Description Of a Latent Fingerprint Examiner

      Latent fingerprint examiners tend to earn a lower pay than criminalists by about $21,968 per year.

      According to resumes from both criminalists and latent fingerprint examiners, some of the skills necessary to complete the responsibilities of each role are similar. These skills include "present evidence," "law enforcement," and "criminal cases. "

      Even though a few skill sets overlap, there are some differences that are important to note. For one, a criminalist might have more use for skills like "body fluids," "laboratory equipment," "quantitative analysis," and "dna." Meanwhile, some latent fingerprint examiners might include skills like "fingerprint classification," "fingerprint cards," "ncic," and "iai" on their resume.

      The average resume of latent fingerprint examiners showed that they earn lower levels of education to criminalists. So much so that the likelihood of them earning a Master's Degree is 23.5% less. Additionally, they're less likely to earn a Doctoral Degree by 5.9%.