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Forensic analyst salary & career outlook

forensic analyst

Forensic analysts, also called forensic science technicians, work at the intersection of science and law enforcement, using laboratory investigation to analyze criminal evidence. Forensic analysts may specialize in fields, such as crime scene investigation, cyber forensics or financial analysis. As forensic science techniques advance, educated forensic analysts can expect strong demand for their expertise.

A look at forensic analyst careers

Forensic analysts support law enforcement and legal prosecution efforts by analyzing different types of criminal evidence. Forensic analysts typically focus on a particular type of evidence--biological, ballistic, physical, computer or financial data. Examples of forensic analysis specialties include DNA analysis, fiber analysis, handwriting, fire investigation and mobile device forensics.

The job description of a forensic analyst varies based on the specialty, but in general, analysts collect and store evidence, analyze specimens in a laboratory setting, document their findings and serve as expert witnesses in court. Forensic analysts must be detail-oriented and organized.

Education requirements for a forensics analyst career

Forensic analysts learn the techniques of their trade through specialized degree programs. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, most forensic science technicians have a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a natural science discipline. Other education options include the two-year associate degree in forensic science or a bachelor's degree in criminal justice with a forensics emphasis. Aspiring analysts who already have a college degree can build vocational skills by completing a professional certificate in a forensic science or a specialty, such as forensic accounting.

An education in forensics is available at forensic analyst schools, technical and vocational institutes, community colleges and four-year universities. For working professionals and others juggling multiple commitments, there are forensic analyst education programs online. Forensic science programs offer a basic foundation in math and science, laboratory skills and specialized instruction in a specific area of forensic investigation.

Forensic analyst salary

Forensic analysts earn widely varied salaries depending on their specialty and level of expertise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 2015 median salary of $56,320. The management, scientific, and technical consulting field is the top-paying industry of forensic analysts, offering an annual mean wage of $69,840 in 2015.

Location can also influence salary expectations for forensic analysts. The top-paying metropolitan areas are:

  • Springfield, IL: $92,290
  • Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Ventura, CA: $90,160
  • Los Angeles, Long Beach, Glendale, CA: $89,570

Career outlook for forensic analysts

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a favorable employment outlook for forensic science technician careers, who can look forward to estimated growth of 26.6 percent in the 2014-2024 period, according to Projections Central. State and local government, major employers of forensic analysts, will continue to drive opportunities in the sector, along with private medical and diagnostic laboratories.

Sources:

  1. Forensic Science Technicians, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015, Occupational Employment Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes194092.htm
  2. Forensic Science Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm#tab-6
  3. Long-Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm