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Forensic science involves using principles of biology, chemistry and physics to analyze evidence in criminal and other types of investigations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the demand for forensic scientists or forensic science technicians will increase 20 percent from 2008 through 2018. A minimum of an associate's degree is necessary to work in the field, though some employers require a bachelor's degree. As of May 2009, forensic scientists earned an average of $55,070 per year, according to BLS.
A forensic scientist's work experience affected her average annual salary, according to PayScale. During their first year of employment, entry-level professionals made an average of $35,531 to $48,559 per year as of November 2010. With one to four years' experience, scientists earned an average of $37,899 to $54,701 per year, while those with five to nine years' experience averaged $41,587 to $68,438. After 20 years' experience or more, forensic scientists received average annual salaries of $76,806 to $111,364.
Pay rates for forensic scientists differed among various employer types, according to BLS. The largest employers of forensic scientists, local and state government agencies, paid an average of $54,880 and $53,070 per year, respectively, as of May 2009. With average annual salaries of $92,100, the federal government served as the highest-paying employer of forensic scientists. Medical and diagnostic laboratories paid scientists an annual average of $57,060. Forensic science technicians employed by insurance carriers earned an average of $58,000 per year.
Salaries for forensic science technicians varied by geographic location, according to BLS. The District of Columbia had the highest concentration of technicians among all states and territories; professionals employed in the area earned an average of $69,870 per year as of May 2009. Forensic scientists working in Massachusetts earned the highest average annual salaries at $81,950. Kansas and Wisconsin also served as high-paying states for forensic science technicians with average annual salaries of $73,430 and $79,080, respectively.
Forensic science technicians typically receive benefits that increase their overall compensation, according to PayScale. Scientists receive an average of two to 3.4 weeks of paid vacation each year as of November 2010, as well as paid sick leave and holidays. They also report earning annual bonuses that average in size from $1,026 to $9,826. Other benefits commonly enjoyed by forensic scientists include 401k retirement and company pension plans, life and disability insurance and flex-time or flexible scheduling.