Criminalist Job Description, Skills, and Salary
Get to know about the duties, responsibilities, qualifications, and skills requirements of a criminalist. Feel free to use our criminalist job description template to produce your own. We also provide you with information about the salary you can earn as a criminalist.
Who is a Criminalist?
Criminalistics is forensic science that deals with the interpretation and analysis of evidence via the use of superior knowledge of natural sciences and scientific methodologies. Forensic science, in particular, encompasses all disciplines that are used for the resolution of legal problems and concerns. Criminalists, as the name implies, employ the science of criminalistics to solve crimes. They collect and analyze evidence to comprehend and then rebuild a crime scene. An item of clothing, a weapon, narcotics, a bloodstain, or even a residual mist in the air can serve as physical evidence. Criminal investigators use this physical evidence to establish a connection between a victim and the alleged crime’s perpetrator. A link between a victim and a suspect can be established through the transfer of fibers from clothing or strands of hair. Criminalists also examine for bullet fragments, fingerprints, and shoe prints while reconstructing a crime scene.
The evidence gathered at a crime scene may include the victim’s body or any other things connected with the crime. While criminals frequently gather physical evidence at crime scenes, they also receive and analyze evidence provided by crime scene investigators. It is critical to use the proper process for collecting evidence to avoid contamination, degradation, or destruction of the physical evidence. After evidence is gathered, it is transported to the crime lab. Criminalists conduct a range of tests in the crime lab, depending on the sort of evidence present. Criminalists are regularly called to testify in court as experts explaining the results and the methodology of the study.
A criminalist deals with physical evidence gathered from crime scenes in a crime laboratory. He or she assesses and analyzes evidence to determine which pieces are pertinent to the case and then writes up the findings in written reports. Criminalists may also be summoned to testify as expert witnesses in court.
A criminalist’s professional duties include analyzing deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), controlled substances, guns, and chemical compounds. A criminalist will analyze minute amounts of evidence, such as soil, fibers, hair, and bits of glass. Additionally, he or she checks and analyzes blood, as well as other bodily fluids and products. Certain jobs require extra skills, such as forensic photography, computer analysis, anthropology, and even toxicology or voice analysis. A criminalist must be exceedingly precise in their job and adhere to extremely stringent rules, such as maintaining the chain of custody for evidence.
For many people, being a criminal is an enthralling career. The work examines evidence recovered from crime scenes using a variety of devices, including microscopes, cameras, and spectroscopes. Criminalists evaluate and report on a variety of different sorts of physical evidence, utilizing new technologies to ascertain their relevance to the crime scene. Individuals that are meticulous and committed may be an ideal fit for this professional path.
Within this line of work, career progression is extremely attainable. Those who gain knowledge and experience will be able to take on more challenging cases and achieve increased authority. There is fierce competition for criminalist jobs, but opportunities in this profession are likely to grow.
There is no single college degree available for criminalists. A bachelor’s degree in one of the sciences, often forensic, biological, or physical science, is required to enter the sector. Additionally, applicants should have completed at least 24 semester hours of mathematics and either chemistry or biology. Some applicants for these positions pursue master’s degrees in forensic science to increase their chances of employment.
Individuals who work in these positions must possess superior organizational, interpersonal, communication, and problem-solving abilities. A significant portion of the job involves examining physical evidence and conducting rigorous testing to determine its relevance to a crime scene. Criminalists must be meticulous and diligent, as the work entails conducting difficult laboratory analyses on numerous pieces of evidence. Because the majority of criminalists work in teams, excellent interpersonal and communication skills are required.
“Criminalist” is a broad term that encompasses a variety of vocations within the field of forensic science. Criminalists investigate physical evidence to establish connections between crime sites, victims, and perpetrators. Criminalists are often known as laboratory technicians or crime scene investigators (CSI). Criminalists work in laboratories around the United States for local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities. In remote places, law enforcement agencies with limited forensic capabilities may submit evidence for assessment to a state crime lab. Experienced forensic technologists may be promoted to managerial positions. Criminalists with experience and/or a master’s degree may rise to positions of administration.
Criminalists evaluate and analyze every piece of evidence recovered from a crime scene using their understanding of physical and natural science. They document their findings in written reports and may be required to present their findings in court. A criminalist is not engaged in determining an accused person’s guilt or innocence. Rather than that, it is their responsibility to give an objective examination of the evidence.
Criminalists require several important talents to be effective in their work. To begin, they must be meticulous and possess superior written and vocal communication abilities. Second, they should possess superior critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, as well as a strong foundation in science, statistics, physics, mathematics, and ethics. Finally, criminalists should feel at ease giving testimony in court.
Unless a criminalist specializes in crime scene investigation, the majority of a criminalist’s work is accomplished in a laboratory. Their job often includes determining what information is critical, gathering and analyzing evidence without polluting it, and logically organizing all information and evidence.
The primary responsibility of a criminalist is to use their abilities and knowledge to conduct an objective examination of physical evidence. They sort through the evidence to determine what is significant and what is not. They base their assessments on scientific principles and then discover, sort, and match similar bits of evidence that could be utilized in a study. Making interpretations from the evidence and conducting tests on it is one of the most critical jobs of a criminalist since it enables the identification of events that occurred at a crime scene and the validation of witness testimony. Additionally, criminalists write reports and provide expert testimony.
Criminalist Job Description
Below are the criminalist job description examples you can use to develop your resume or write a criminalist job description for your employee. Employers can also use it to sieve out job seekers when choosing candidates for interviews.
The duties and responsibilities of a criminalist include the following:
- Consulting with authorities (DNA or medical experts, for example)
- Examining and analyzing evidence recovered from crime scenes, including fingerprints, hair, fibers, skin, blood, soil, wasted ammunition casings, bullets, and insects.
- Using physical evidence to ascertain the “who, what, where, when, and how” of certain crimes.
- Analyzing, comparing, and testing physical evidence using scientific and chemical techniques.
- Ascertaining that laboratory equipment and instruments are handled and maintained properly.
- Producing in-depth reports on test results.
- Informing criminal investigators of the findings.
- Conferring with and working alongside laboratory personnel.
Criminalists are not typically required to be licensed or certified to practice their profession. However, an individual may receive a variety of licenses and certifications. The more certifications a criminalist possesses, the more employment prospects are available to him or her. Individuals can receive certifications from the American Board of Criminalistics and the Accreditation Board for Forensic Specialties.
Additionally, they can acquire additional information on certification through the International Crime Scene Investigators Association. Certifications are awarded upon successful completion of a training program and assessment. Along with the certification exam and training program criteria, the candidate must meet other specialized requirements. For example, they may be needed to present photographs of a nocturnal crime scene, actual crime scene cases on which the employee worked, or proof of a certain number of years of experience, among other requirements.
To maintain certification, continuing education is essential. Due to the critical role criminalists play in resolving crimes, they must stay current on any new and innovative techniques and practices in the area. This is a constantly changing subject that demands criminalists to be knowledgeable about all facets of their work. The methods for collecting and analyzing evidence appear to be evolving at a breakneck pace, and the criminalist must stay abreast of these changes.
- Communication Skills
Written communication is critical in criminal justice careers because what you write may become legal papers. This is especially true for law clerks, law enforcement personnel, counselors, and probation officers—all of whom may be required to maintain thorough legally admissible records. Effective written communication entails more than avoiding grammatical and spelling problems. Along with meticulous attention to detail and an organized writing style, it’s critical to understand how to tailor your writing to specific situations. Especially when your assessment of certain facts is considered as part of a legal judgment or decision, clarity and persuasiveness are critical characteristics.
- Oral Presentations
Since many careers in criminal justice require daily contact with the public, how you talk is critical. Do you address everyone as if they were close friends, or do you tailor your tone and word choices to the audience? Are you aware of how to adapt your oral communication abilities to specific contexts and objectives? Not only can how you speak affect how others perceive you, but also how well they comprehend and trust the facts and ideas you convey.
If you are terrified of public speaking or prefer to communicate informally practice. When you are finished writing a paper, read it aloud as if you were delivering a speech to an audience. Make a point of practicing in front of friends and family. Additionally, you might check to see if your degree program provides speech classes or extracurricular groups devoted to public speaking.
- Analytical Skills
This requires the capacity to consider multiple perspectives on a subject. You cannot simply accept the first response you encounter. You must inquire as to whether there are alternative explanations and then remove the less probable ones while retaining the more promising ones for further research.
This will include a significant amount of information or data collection. You must be aware of the location of this information or data. Then, once you’ve obtained this information or data, you should identify and retain those that are critical to your case.
The criminalist may be summoned to testify in court regarding his or her findings. This conclusion must be adequately documented to withstand legal examination. Otherwise, the finding will be vacated.
How to Become a Criminalist
If you have an interest in crime and science, are meticulous in your attention to detail, and have the self-control to remain calm in a potentially horrific crime scene atmosphere, you may be wondering how to become a criminalist. Criminalists, often known as forensic scientists or forensic science technicians, collect and test evidence from crime scenes and investigative laboratories using scientific procedures and techniques. Regardless of the situation in which a criminalist works, they all have the same objective: to ascertain the events that transpired at the crime scene and to be able to support their tale with trustworthy evidence.
Certain criminalists devote the majority of their time to collecting evidence at crime sites. Criminals collect visual depictions of the situation, such as photographs, sketches, and drawings. They document the evidence they discover for them and law enforcement to refer to it later in the investigation if required. Criminals amass evidence cautiously, including fingerprints, DNA traces discovered in blood and other bodily fluids, and firearms or other weapons.
Criminalists may also operate mostly in laboratories, where they review obtained evidence. They employ scientific methods, such as physical and chemical testing, to ascertain as much information as possible about how the crime occurred and which suspects can be connected to the crime scene by physical evidence. Along with fingerprint and DNA evidence, criminalists can examine suspects’ handwriting and the mechanics of bullets being discharged.
To become a criminalist, candidates typically need a four-year bachelor’s degree from an approved institution, while some organizations require graduate degrees and others accept associate’s degrees. Typically, students major in forensic science, criminal justice, or a science discipline such as chemistry or biology. Because criminalists must be able to detect even small abnormalities on a crime scene or in a piece of evidence, those with an eye for detail will have a strong chance of success in this area. Aspiring criminalists must also be adept at assessing data and resolving problems, occasionally thinking imaginatively to determine how a crime unfolded. If the criminal is also a police officer, he or she must adhere to all law enforcement agency standards, including firearms training and physical fitness requirements.
Where to Work as a Criminalist
Most criminalists work for state and municipal administrations. This comprises law enforcement agencies, crime laboratories, morgues, and coroner’s offices. State and municipal governments may lack the finances to employ multiple criminalists, forcing criminalists to cover a vast territory. This may entail traveling across a broad area, which may include multiple cities, counties, or even states. Criminals should be prepared to go to several crime scenes. Homicide, suicide, rape, and a variety of other crimes may be committed. A criminalist must be comfortable with being exposed to violent events frequently. Indoor or outdoor crime scenes are possible.
Criminalist Salary Scale
In the United States, the average annual salary for a criminalist is $104,259 per year.