DNA testing has revolutionized the field of forensics, providing law enforcement authorities a new tool in solving crimes, especially murder cases. In addition, advances in DNA technology have led to the exoneration of many wrongfully convicted defendants. In Texas alone, more than 30 defendants have been freed from prison after DNA analysis demonstrated they did not commit the crimes for which they were convicted, according to a 2009 report by The Justice Project. Forensic analysts who specialize in DNA can expect salaries similar to those for other forensic science specialists.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not treat DNA analyst as a separate occupation but includes it among the broader category of forensic science technician. These technicians assist in criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing physical evidence, including DNA. The bureau reported that many forensic science technicians specialize in working with DNA or other types of evidence. According to BLS data for 2009, forensic science technicians earned an average annual salary of $55,070.
In a 2009 article on forensics-related careers, the BLS reported that forensic biologists specialize in DNA testing and analysis. In that article, the bureau reported that salaries for forensic specialists are generally similar to those earned by professionals within the larger occupation. This means that the salary of a forensic biologist or a forensic scientist who specializes in DNA is similar to that of a regular biologist or forensic scientist.
The website InsidePrison.com reported average salaries for many classes of forensic specialists. The website indicated that a forensic biologist could earn between $46,000 and $64,000 a year, depending on education and experience. The website further reported that DNA technical team leaders earn salaries ranging from $62,000 to $75,000 a year. In addition, the website SimplyHired.com reported that salaries for forensic DNA analysts average about $63,000 a year.
Most forensic DNA analysts work in crime laboratories. A crime lab career requires at least a bachelor’s degree in a scientific field. To specialize in DNA testing, the website ForensicScience.net advises earning a degree in biology with a minor in genetics or biochemistry. In addition, forensic analysts need excellent communication skills that enable to present complex scientific evidence in a manner that a lay audience can understand.