How to Become a Forensic Assistant
Forensic Assistant Careers & Degrees

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A Forensic Assistant’s main duty is to provide support and assistance to leading professionals such as medical examiners, forensic doctors and pathologists.

Their role is vital in determining the cause of death for individuals who died unexpectedly or in an unknown or suspicious manner.

This profession can also be specialized and individuals can work in areas such as laboratory analysis or crime scene investigation.

Depending on the specialty or whether it is a generalized position, Forensic Assistants may work at crime scenes gathering evidence.

They can also work out of a laboratory performing analysis of any evidence that has been gathered.

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Education Requirements to Become a Forensic Assistant

Individuals who want to become a Forensic Assistant have a few options to pursue a position in this field.

Some employers may seek candidates with an Associate’s degree for an entry level position.

Individuals who want better opportunities should complete 4 years of college to attain a Bachelor’s degree.

Both routes will require a certification to apply for jobs in this field.

While pursuing an undergraduate degree, students who want to become a Forensic Assistant should plan to take a variety of classes related to the sciences.

Areas of focus or majors one can complete are: Chemistry, Biology, Forensic Science, mortuary science, laboratory science, biochemistry or crime scene investigation.

In addition, candidates may also take classes that will help them prepare to become a Forensic Assistant such as genetics, toxicology and controlled substances.

The final step an individual can take after acquiring a degree is attaining certification.

Certification can be sought at the college where the courses and major were completed, or a separate entity offering the exam.

Forensic Assistant Job Description

A Forensic Assistant is responsible for helping Medical Examiners, Forensic Doctors or Pathologists determine an individual’s cause of death.

Depending on whether an individual is specialized or holds a generalized position, a Forensic Assistant’s work includes gathering physical evidence related to an individual’s death or processing the results in a laboratory.

For individuals working out in the field, the responsibilities may include the following:

  • Arrive at the crime scene and figure out the steps to collect any related evidence
  • Photograph any evidence or the crime scene as a whole
  • Document any observations and location of the evidence at the scene
  • Collect any physical evidence that will help determine the cause of death
  • Collect evidence in a manner that will prevent its contamination
  • Document evidence in an orderly manner and prepare it for transfer to a laboratory

For individuals who work out of a laboratory, tasks will vary but will be focused on processing any information gathered from the scene.

The following duties will be handled by this type of Forensic Assistant: Analyze any evidence gathered from the crime scene by performing physical, biological or chemical tests.

Recreate possible crimes using the evidence gathered at the scene.
Forensic Assistants working inside a lab will also discuss any results or send evidence to other laboratories for further testing.

For example, a death suspected of being caused by drunk driving will require a toxicology report from evidence gathered from either the deceased or the suspected culprit.

One differing aspect in the day in the life of a Forensic Assistant includes the hours one must work in order to complete their job.

Forensic Assistant working in the field at crime scenes, also known as Crime investigators may work at odd times of the day because of the unpredictability of when crimes occur.

For Forensic Assistants working in a lab, their hours are reflective of a normal 40 hour work week.

Forensic Assistant Salary and Career Path

The 2012 Median annual income for Forensic Assistants is approximately $52,840, or $25.41 per hour.

Job prospects for Forensic Assistants will also grow 6 percent through the year 2022.

This growth is considered a slower rate when compared to other occupations.

Individuals who have a passion solving mysterious deaths would be a perfect fit as a Forensic Assistant.

This career also offers the opportunity to work in a fast paced setting collecting evidence on the field or working in a lab processing results.

Whichever the environment an individual chooses, they can rest assured that their expertise will be invaluable to other professions solving mysterious deaths.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$63,170
$35K
$45K
$63K
$77K
$97K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$48,630
Alaska$72,380
Arizona$61,820
Arkansas$43,470
California$87,200
Colorado$66,560
Connecticut$68,960
Florida$54,490
Georgia$49,990
Hawaii$56,500
Illinois$82,130
Indiana$61,210
Kansas$50,460
Kentucky$49,040
Louisiana$48,950
Maine$57,830
Maryland$68,880
Massachusetts$76,950
Michigan$65,170
Minnesota$62,760
Mississippi$50,180
Missouri$52,190
Montana$64,580
Nebraska$53,960
Nevada$64,070
New Hampshire$68,530
New Jersey$61,640
New Mexico$43,370
New York$68,000
North Carolina$48,150
Ohio$68,910
Oklahoma$55,880
Oregon$67,360
Pennsylvania$51,660
South Carolina$43,530
South Dakota$39,070
Tennessee$52,270
Texas$60,040
Virginia$69,260
Washington$64,690
West Virginia$46,860
Wisconsin$55,120
Wyoming$55,300

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $87,200.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $87,200
Illinois - $82,130
Massachusetts - $76,950
Alaska - $72,380
Virginia - $69,260
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Forensic Science Technicians, OCC Code 19-4092, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a forensic assistant?

Forensic assistants work under the supervision of medical examiners, coroners or forensic pathologists and have a variety of responsibilities in and outside the lab.

The tasks a forensic assistant has to perform include collecting evidence for testing and releasing the body after the autopsy is completed.

Forensic assistants may also have additional administrative responsibilities, such as keeping files, issuing death certificates, ordering equipment and supplies, or training new assistants.

They may also be called at the scene of a crime to photograph the scene and assist with collecting and transporting the evidence.

Forensic assistants must ensure that evidence protocols are followed when the samples are handled and stored inside the morgue.

In order to be able to perform the variety of duties mentioned above, forensic assistants need a lot of skills, including dexterity, attention to detail, communication skills and critical thinking abilities.

Forensic assistants usually work standard hours but they may be on-call outside of normal business hours to work on cases.

QuestionHow much does a forensic assistant make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for forensic science technicians, in general, was $58,230 per year as of May 2018.

Salaries for forensic assistants vary depending on the region, the employer and the assistant’s level of experience.

Some earn less than $35,000 a year while others make more than $95,000 a year.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a forensic assistant?

Educational requirements in this field vary, but most forensic assistants hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in forensic science or a related field.

Four-year bachelor’s degree programs in forensic science cost, on average, around $30,000 a year but tuition costs vary widely depending on the school you choose and the program itself.

QuestionWhat is the demand for forensic assistants?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for forensic science technicians, in general, is expected to grow 14 percent by 2028.

Competition is expected to be strong, and a degree from a reputable school and a few years of experience in the field may give you an advantage over the other competitors on the job market.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a forensic assistant?

Forensic assistants typically need a bachelor’s degree in science or a related field; the degree can be obtained after four years of post-secondary education.

Some schools also offer programs for forensic pathology assistants; these programs usually can be completed in around 2 years.

Forensic assistants must also be licensed as Clinical Laboratory Assistants.

After being hired you may also receive on-the-job training or work under the supervision of an experienced forensic assistant who will help you learn the ins and outs of this profession.

In order to be able to keep up with the latest scientific advances, forensic assistants must participate in continuing education classes throughout their careers.

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