What Does a Forensic DNA Analyst Do
A forensic DNA analyst is someone who works to examine DNA samples in crime labs to help link potential subjects to crime scenes. They need a host of scientific and technical knowledge to perform their duties, and they must also understand how to handle crime scene evidence without contaminating it.
In a nutshell, a forensic DNA analyst takes samples that are collected by crime scene investigators and analyzes them in a laboratory. The goal is to compare the DNA found at crime scenes (or on a suspect in some way, such as in his or her car or home) and compare it to the DNA of the suspect and/or the victims in order to find a link. The forensic DNA analyst spends time creating reports, as well. In some cases, they are asked to testify on the stand in court to report their findings to a judge and/or jury. They are also called upon to perform routine quality control checks and to conduct peer reviews to rule out errors in testing.
Whether or not a forensic DNA analyst is required to visit a crime scene often depends on the size of the city or county in which he or she works. In larger areas, these individuals rarely work outside of the laboratory with the exception of attending court proceedings from time to time. However, in small cities and counties where budgets are limited, the forensic DNA analyst may be required to travel to the crime scene to collect DNA evidence before returning to the laboratory to analyze it. Though the job is typically nine-to-five in nature, some work long hours and even on weekends to process evidence quickly.
In order to work in an FBI-approved crime lab, individuals must possess a bachelor’s degree in a field that is related to forensic science, genetics, or molecular biology. They must also possess clinical training inside of a laboratory where they have demonstrated competency in handling and testing DNA samples. Because the software and equipment that is used can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, forensic DNA analysts can also expect to receive at least some on-the-job training.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, this career pays an average annual salary of $57,530 with those who have the most experience and who work in large metropolitan areas earning upwards of $70,000 per year. The majority of available positions are with local government entities at the city and county level, with the next highest employment group coming in at the state level. It is expected that employment in this filed will rise about 6% between 2012 and 2022 due to increases in population and therefore crime.
Although a forensic DNA analyst spends a lot of time in a laboratory, it can still be an exciting and fascinating job opportunity. These individuals work directly with law enforcement officials and others to help ensure that justice prevails – and to ensure that innocent people are not prosecuted for crimes that they did not commit.