As a latent print examiner, you perform a variety of technical procedures to obtain fingerprints, palm prints, and foot prints from various surfaces and materials. Once a print is obtained you are responsible for classifying and identifying the fingerprint which often requires comparing the print with computerized identification systems or comparing it manually with other recovered prints.
Latent Print Examiner Requirements
A bachelor’s degree with a curriculum containing chemistry or a related field is required by most employers advertising. Latent print examiners, who are also career law enforcement officers, often have undergraduate degrees in criminal justice with a minor in chemistry or a forensic science degree.
Certification is obtained from the International Association for Identification (IAI) and is required for many positions in this industry. If you are newly graduated and beginning your career, you may find your employer will allow up to a year after starting your new position to obtain certification with the IAI. This is to provide on the job training and allow you some experience before applying for the certification.
There are some physical requirements as well for this position. You must be able to distinguish basic colors and shades of those colors – which may eliminate those with certain types of color blindness.
Latent Print Examiner Education and Training
You will learn techniques to recover, process, and examine latent fingerprints. This will include the use of chemicals, special light sources and light scan systems. You will also master legal protocol for preserving evidence and chain of custody for crime scene investigations.
As a new fingerprint examiner you will be placed as an intern (some employees refer to this as student level) while you master the facets of the work that can only be effectively mastered with practice. The intern period may be relatively short for some positions but more extensive if your career goal is working as a member of a criminal investigation team.
Latent Print Examiner Salary
Salaries for latent print examiners may range from $30,000 to $150,000 with large state and federal agencies paying the highest rates. Salary is often based on the cost of living in the area of employment and those beginning their career should expect offers on the low end of the spectrum.
Progressing to higher salary ranges is possible and should be expected as each unit has a variety of levels of experience and training from the lowest fingerprint technician to the director of the latent print team.
Latent Print and Finger Print Examiner Career Opportunities
The law enforcement agencies of states and some large cities have Latent Print Units staffed with fingerprinting experts. This is perhaps the most recognized area of forensic science and many of these units are composed of both law enforcement personnel and civilian latent print examiners.
The ability to match prints from a crime scene to prints uploaded to a computer database is a skill to be proud of. Whether you work as a specialist in a law enforcement career or as a civilian latent print examiner, there is a sense of pride that exists in the ability to locate and process valuable evidence at a crime scene investigation.
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