How to Become a Crime Lab Analyst In 7 Steps

If you have a love of science and solving mysteries, a career as a crime lab analyst may be the perfect opportunity to put both skills to daily use.

Crime Lab Analyst

Crime bale analysts often follow a crime from the beginning to the end.

They are essential in helping other law enforcement officers solve crimes and bring about justice.

Let’s delve into the subject further.

What Does a Crime Lab Analyst Do?

A crime lab analyst, who is also known as a forensic science technician, is responsible for seeing that all the evidence from a crime scene is gathered, recorded, analyzed, and preserved for future use.

They can be found at a crime scene taking pictures and making notes regarding the scene.

They can be found in the lab, analyzing DNA, blood splatters, chemical evidence, and more.

It is the job of the crime lab analyst to see that all the evidence is analyzed so that they can present reports to law enforcement detectives regarding the method of the crime, materials or weapons used, and even possible suspects.

Duties of the crime lab analyst include:

  • Take crime scene pictures or make sketches
  • Analyze samples
  • Run tests on samples
  • Label and store evidence
  • Record detailed observations of both the crime scene and the analysis
  • Provide evidence for juries to examine
  • Testify in court as an expert witness

How Much Does a Crime Lab Analyst Make?

The national average pay for a crime lab analyst, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, is $63,740 a year, which works out to be $30.64 per hour.

Nine states pay above the average rate for this position.

Washington leads the nation in pay rate, with crime lab analysts making $66,806 yearly or $32.12 per hour.

The lowest paid positions are in Florida, where crime lab analysts make $19.69 per hour, for a salary of $40,956 per year.

For those who specialize in certain areas, the pay rate can be much higher.

This also holds for those who are sought after as expert witnesses.

Salary Information by State

State Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
New Hampshire40$73,250$35.21$89,320$55,850
New Jersey60$59,120$28.42$77,780$48,150
New Mexico160$56,780$27.30$80,870$29,820
New York730$82,100$39.47$104,330$62,510
North Carolina490$51,300$24.67$64,030$38,720
South Carolina130$49,490$23.79$65,890$36,310
West Virginia110$50,120$24.10$66,990$34,710
Puerto Rico130$35,890$17.26$49,030$25,360

Annual Average Salary: Top 10 States

The top earning state in the field is Oregon, where the average salary is $93,900.

These are the top 10 earning states in the field:

  • Oregon - $93,900
  • California - $93,630
  • Illinois - $91,380
  • Massachusetts - $87,500
  • New York - $82,100
  • Connecticut - $81,760
  • Minnesota - $76,890
  • Colorado - $75,150
  • Washington - $74,990
  • Maryland - $74,600
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Forensic Science Technicians, OCC Code 19-4092, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How To Become a Crime Lab Analyst

1. Get Your Diploma

You need to have a high school diploma or GED to continue with the college education you will need.

There are a few very small precincts that will hire you with only a diploma, but they do not pay well and are very difficult to find.

2. Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree or Even a Master’s

You will need to complete a four-year Bachelor’s degree program in a related field such as Criminology, Criminal Justice, or Forensic Science.

You may pursue a science degree but will need to supplement your education with classes in anthropology, criminal justice, or law enforcement.

For higher positions, you will need a Master’s degree in medicine, genetics, molecular biology, or entomology.

3. Gain Experience

You will now need to find a position so you can gain experience.

For most positions, you will need to complete a background check, take a polygraph, pass a drug test, and possibly undergo physical and psychological testing.

4. Complete On-the-Job Training

On-the-job training can vary depending on the location and what your eventual goal is for your career.

This training is under a supervisor and can last anywhere from a few months to several years.

If you plan on working with the government, you are looking at quite a few years of supervised training before you can even consider applying.

5. Get Certified

While not necessary, gaining your certification will make you more likely to get positions that are higher in pay.

Certification will help you stand out from the rest of the candidates.

Depending on the path you choose for certification, you will either be subject to passing a written exam or have to demonstrate a certain level of education and number of years of experience.

Two of the most popular certifications are Certified Law Enforcement Analyst (CLEA) and Criminal Intelligence Certified Analyst (CICA)

6. Specialize

Once you gain enough experience and get certified, you may want to specialize in a certain type of evidence analysis.

Some of the most common specialization areas are DNA analysis, blood splatter or tire track identification, ballistics, fingerprinting, or handwriting analysis.

7. Pursue Continuing Education

Science and technology are always evolving, so you will need to make a point of taking continuing education classes, to keep up with the changes.

This can be done either in person or online.

Some conventions and conferences will allow you to gain further education.

What Education Does a Crime Lab Analyst Need?

A crime lab analyst is expected to have at least a Bachelor’s degree.

Many positions, however, require a Master’s degree.

This is especially true of federal crime agencies such as the FBI or for those who want to specialize or increase their dependability as expert witnesses.

The majority of crime lab analysts pursue a Bachelor’s degree in a crime-related field such as criminal justice, criminology, or forensic science.

For others, a science degree in biology, chemistry, or biochemistry is more appealing.

If you choose this path, it is important to include classes in anthropology, criminal justice, and law enforcement.

You will also want to take a class on evidence-gathering practices.

With either path, you will need to get lab hours in, and sometimes even get experience in an actual crime lab setting.

Most schools will not allow you to graduate without fulfilling these two requirements, so that won’t likely be an issue.

Licensing and Certification

Your degree is considered your license for being a crime lab analyst.

It is also not a requirement to be certified, although having a certification will greatly improve your chances of getting the much-coveted positions that pay higher.

There are a few ways to become certified, some requiring an actual written test and others based on education and experience.

Two of the most popular certifications are the Certified Law Enforcement Analyst (CLEA) and the Criminal Intelligence Certified Analyst (CICA).

The CLEA is offered by the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA).

Earning this certification will require you to pass a written exam with at least a 70 percent score.

This organization offers two different certifications.

In addition to the CLEA, they also offer Law Enforcement Analysis-Foundational (LEAF).

To get the CLEA, you will not only need to pass the exam but also must have at least three years of experience in a crime lab position.

They have a point system that requires you to obtain a minimum of 100 points in combined training and work experience.

CLEA certification must be renewed every five years.

CICA is offered through the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts (IALEIA).

This organization offers three levels of certification, with the CICA being the most popular.

There are strict requirements for this certification and it is intended for those individuals who have already demonstrated competence in the field.

To qualify to take the exam, you must be employed full-time in a crime lab position.

You must have earned a Bachelor’s degree and had three years of work experience or have an Associate’s degree and five years of work experience or have seven years of work experience.

In addition, you must take and pass a written exam.

You are allowed to take the test three times if needed.

Each time you take it, the cost is $100.

Job Outlook for Crime Lab Analysts

The field of crime lab analysis is a fast-growing one.

It is expected to produce an added 2600 positions a year over the next decade.

This is a growth rate of 13 percent, which is way above the average for all positions in the country.

The increase in positions is due to many factors.

As crime lab technology increases, more people are specializing, leaving open many positions and creating additional ones for those who do specialize.

It is also projected that many current holders of these positions will be reaching retirement age over the coming years.

Should You Become a Crime Lab Analyst?

The following factors should be considered when determining whether this is a career that fits you.

Overall Satisfaction

Current crime lab analysts rate their jobs as 3.4/5.

This is above the average for all occupations and puts the job satisfaction of crime bale analysts in the top 34 percentile overall.

This rating is based on the work environment, pay scale, the meaningfulness of the position, and the ability to utilize skills.

It also takes into account whether or not the worker’s personality fits with the position.

Average Salary

The average salary of a crime lab analyst is $63,740 a year, or $30.64 per hour.

This is a bit higher than many positions and makes this a job that can be considered able to make a decent living.

For those who work in higher-paying areas, those who specialize, and those working in government positions, the average salary is even greater.

Being sought after as an expert witness also adds to the pay.

Job Growth Outlook

The job growth outlook for crime lab analysts is way above the national average for job growth.

It is projected that over the coming decade, there will be a 13 percent increase in the number of available positions.

This translates into 2600 new positions being added each year.

Education Duration

To become a crime lab analyst, you can expect to spend at least four years in school after graduating from high school.

If you are seeking a higher position, you can plan on another two years minimum.

Some positions also require a special crime scene analysis course that lasts six months.

For those who want to specialize, the educational time will vary.

You will also need to take continuing education classes throughout your career.

Personal Skills Needed

Several personal traits will determine if this position suits you.

A crime lab analyst must:

  • Pay attention to detail
  • Be an analytical thinker
  • Have excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Be able to find patterns
  • Have excellent focus
  • Be able to work alone
  • Be able to work under pressure
  • Know the law
  • Be good at time management
  • Be organized
  • Have integrity
  • Be curious
  • Have empathy
  • Be patient

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you have to go to school to become a crime lab analyst?

To become a crime lab analyst, you are looking at a minimum of two years of post-secondary education.

For most positions, however, you will need at least four years and many specialists continue for another 2–3 years.

You will also need to attend yearly classes to keep abreast of new developments in the field.

How much money does a crime lab analyst make a year?

The national average salary for a crime lab analyst is $63,740 a year.

Nine states pay above this average, with Washington leading at $66,806 a year.

The lowest-paid positions are in Florida, coming in at $40,956 a year.

Government positions often pay higher.

Those who specialize often see greater compensation.

What skills do you need to have to be a crime lab analyst?

Some of the most important skills to have as a crime lab analyst are curiosity, the ability to see patterns, being organized and focused, and knowing the law.

You will also need to be patient and be able to work alone.

The ability to communicate well is also at the top of necessary skills.

Are crime lab analysts in high demand?

Crime lab analysts are very high in demand and the number of positions is expected to grow by 2600 new positions a year over the next decade.

This is a 13 percent increase, making the position at the top of growth potential.

This is an essential position for solving crimes and is not likely to disappear.

What kind of education do you need to become a crime lab analyst?

The preferred course of education is a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology, criminal justice, or forensic science.

However, a science degree in biology, chemistry, or biochemistry will also work if you supplement your education with classes in criminal justice or law enforcement.

For higher positions, a Master’s degree in medicine, genetics, or entomology can be useful.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

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