The human fingerprint, characterized by utter uniqueness in each individual, provides certain professionals, such as those in law enforcement, with an important tool to use in deciding relatively weighty matters in the pursuit of justice. Those trained, skilled and certified in fingerprint analysis are frequently called upon to assist the law in establishing guilt or innocence.
History of Fingerprinting
The first known use of fingerprinting in the United States occurred in 1882. Gilbert Thompson of the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico used his own fingerprints on a document to prevent forgery. In 1892 Sir Francis Galton, a British Anthropologist and cousin of Charles Darwin, published his Book "Fingerprints," establishing the uniqueness and permanence of fingerprints.
Sir Galton identified the characteristics by which fingerprints can be identified. These characteristics, called "minutia," are still in use today and are often referred to as Galton's Details.
Training Requirements for Fingerprint Specialist
The requirements for fingerprint specialist training vary by state. Generally, an associate's degree is required for an entry-level position. For an understanding of law enforcement procedures, courses in criminal justice, police science, criminology or other legal areas are recommended. This prepares candidates to provide expert testimony in court about their findings and techniques.
To become a forensic science technician specializing in fingerprints requires a bachelor's degree. Federal agencies often require entry-level applicants to have a bachelor's degree.
How to Get Fingerprint Specialist Training
Having a degree to qualify for an entry-level position qualifies an inexperienced fingerprint specialist to work under the close supervision of an experienced fingerprint specialist. Inexperienced fingerprint specialists are required to demonstrate mastery of the most basic tasks before advancing.
Certification administered by the Latent Print Certification Board of the International Association for Identification (IAI) is often required by law enforcement agencies prior to becoming a fingerprint specialist.
Where to Get Fingerprint Specialist Training
Those desiring to pursue training for fingerprint specialist online can find information through the Academy of Investigational Services and Training (see Resources), which provides training that can be designed around their own personal schedule.
Individuals who prefer lecture-type study programs with live in-person instructors can find information about training providers local to them by inputting specific information at Campus Corner (see Resources).
Why Get Fingerprint Specialist Training
Increasing demand for supportive evidence in prosecutions will drive the need for experienced and educated forensic scientists, including fingerprint specialists. The average annual salary for a fingerprint specialist varies with factors such as level of experience, location, agency and educational background.
The average annual salary for fingerprint specialists is $54,000, and those employed by federal agencies can potentially earn more, ranging from $34,808 to $143,211.
Having a degree--whether associate, bachelor or graduate--makes one more competitive for the best opportunities.