A simple fingerprint is an integral piece of evidence at a crime scene.
If you're a problem solver with an interest in criminal justice, a fingerprint specialist career could be a great fit.
What Does a Fingerprint Specialist Do?
Fingerprint specialists use lab equipment and forensic science techniques to analyze fingerprints gathered from crime scenes. Not all fingerprint specialists work in a lab. Instead, some will go out in the field to collect prints from a crime scene or from a suspect. Other duties include:
- Comparing prints using previously recorded ink prints on paper or through an automated database
- Instructing or providing guidance and technical advice related to fingerprinting processes and findings
- Testifying in court as an expert witness about the collection, analysis and identification process
- Writing detailed reports and documenting the process, from collection to identification of a print
As the Fingerprint Specialist career has evolved, recognition of certain professional criteria has been developed. The Latent Print Certification Board of the International Association for Identification (IAI) has developed and administers a certification test for latent print examiners. It sets a standard of knowledge for the profession and is often required by law enforcement agencies prior to becoming a fingerprint specialist.
What Qualifications Do I Need?
Aspiring fingerprint specialists may come across different hiring requirements depending on the agency they want to work for. Here's a list of general qualifications:
- A bachelor's degree in criminal justice or forensic science
- Prior work experience in law enforcement and evidence collection
- Familiarity with crime lab equipment and scientific techniques to identify latent prints on various surfaces
- Knowledge of the Henry System of Fingerprint Identification
- Knowledge of Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS)
Fingerprint Specialist Job Outlook and Salaries
The increasing demand for corroborating evidence in prosecutions drives the need for professionals with experience and education in forensic science, including fingerprint specialists.
As far as salaries go, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for forensic science technicians is $52,840. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
Employment isn't expected to grow very much—6 percent—through 2022, but those with an associate's, bachelor's or graduate degree may be the most competitive for positions and find the best opportunities.