Latent Print Examiner Career – Latent Fingerprint Examiner Salary and Training Info

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.

Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.

Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

20 comments… add one
  • Juanita Carrizosa

    Hello, I’ve done so much research on Fingerprint Examination, & Forensics Tech entry-level positons. Those are the only fields I’m interested in. I don’t want to spend $1,000′s of dollars on online courses, if I can take specialized courses in these fields, at seminars or community colleges for a fraction of the cost. My goal is to get in the door, entry-level position, get hands-on-training, and be a student in specialized courses at the same time. Is it possible to do this without Criminal Justice courses, since those seem to focus on other areas in law enforcement type careers ?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Yes it’s possible to do this without Criminal Justice courses. Recently a large number of schools started offering Forensic Science programs — only some are online. There’s a possibility you might have to take a few/several criminal justice related courses due to the professional proximity to law enforcement.

      • Cari Kestrel

        I am currently enrolled in college to obtain my bachelor’s degree in economic crime investigation, however, am not at all interested in the math portion, which is a large part of the curriculum. I may switch my major to criminal justice. What else would I need to pursue the latent fingerprint examiner path? Or, if I follow through with the criminal justice and add forensic science, together with internship, would this be enough? I’d really appreciate your input.
        Thank you.

        • Radek M. Gadek

          It varies by region, really. Some places want a college grad, while others will settle on an industry specific certificate. If I were you, I would find out by inquiring with the state labs, private labs, and the police department.

  • Juanita Carrizosa

    Hello, I had concerns about online Criminal Justice Schools. They seem to average a cost of $24,000-$95,000, depending on if you’re looking into a AS, or BS degree. That’s for an average of 2-4 yrs. of courses. I’m looking into community colleges, because they’re less costly. Should I just search for crime labs, specializing in Fingerprint Examination who will train me without having a degree in the first place? Is it absurd for me to even look into organizations who will possibly train me without having a degree first ? I fully intend on taking CJ courses, with a minor in Forensics, if it’s a must.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I know the Internet has literally millions of pages on online degree programs and most that you’re seeing are for colleges that are expensive. Try your local community college or your state university to find out if they offer online courses. Depending on the state you live in, it can be many schools or only a few. Make sure that the school is regionally accredited (search for “accreditation” on this site to find out more).

      As for the crime labs question, I’m not too sure.

  • Orlando

    I find this type of work to be more suitable to me but i have a few questions. Right now im majoring in criminal justice and currently have no minor. My school doesn’t have any forensic science courses but it has chemistry courses. In the description above i noticed it said that latent print examiners can have degrees in criminal justices with minors in forensic science or chemistry. If i do take the chemistry courses as my minor, will i have the same oppurtunities to find a job as a person who would have minored in Forensic science? Or would i have to go to a specific school which offers forensic science to even be able to apply for this job?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Latent print examination is not very hard, but it is a science. There are no guarantees that one major will work over the other one as many states require separate mandated courses in proper latent print lifting and examination techniques. Chemistry with a Forensic Science aspect is best, because you will be learning the techniques which are most applicable to the criminal justice field. A simple chemistry minor might not be enough. Also, I would inquire with your local, county, or state agencies regarding about potential internships that you can participate in. Also, if you don’t want to do as much, at least see what the requirements are in your state.

  • Ilona Baghdasarian

    Hi, I have a question about the carrier as Latent Print Examiner, I love forensic science so Im thinking is it necessary to major in Criminal Justice or I could major in Forensic science just as well and how big of a role would courses in chemistry play in my job??? and will it make a big difference in paycheck if i get masters degree rather than bachelors in the beginning of my career?? im asking this because if it doesn’t i wont waste another 2 years in college. Tank youuu

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I’m no expert on forensic science, but I think chemistry is a very helpful subject, especially as a major or minor in college. There are Forensic Science degree programs out there that teach you different disciplines related to the field; including delving in courses based on chemistry, physics, and other sciences. If I were you, I would get in touch with a lab, or a police dept with a forensics lab, and ask for some guidance. Also, I’m sure there’s some helpful info out on the Web.

      As for education, some disciplines require little higher education, while others, may require an advanced college degree. Ask for guidance before you embark on a Master’s. By then, I’m sure you’ll be able to inquire with professors in college about what to expect in this field.

  • Hagar

    I have a bachelors degree in criminal justice already and looking into becoming a latent print examiner would you recommend me adding a minor in chemistry or doing a masters in forensic science ?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Both are acceptable options, but you may not need either. Education levels may depend on whether you live in a rural or urban area, plus there are more factors to consider. The best advice I can give you is to get in touch with a crime scene investigation unit in your area and have your question prepared. I’m sure you can find someone to help you get your answers.

  • Kristina

    Can one with a Bachelors of Science in Clinical Laboratory Sciences (Medical Technologist) work as a Forensic Lab Technician in a Forensic Lab? If yes, how and what is needed? If no, what else is required to qualify?

  • bhagya

    I have a question, i was told in order to be a latent examiner, you’d have to start off as a police officer, is that true?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      It’s not always the case, but in many jurisdictions crime scene technicians are also sworn-in law enforcement officers.

      What people say isn’t always 100% accurate, so I wouldn’t want you to get disheartened OR get your hopes too high up. Thus, inquire with the SPECIFIC agency for more information.

  • ashley

    So in order for me to become an Latent Print Examiner what type of schooling is needed!? Should I major in criminal justice and minor in chemistry and go to grad school for forensics or should I major in chemistry minor in criminal justice and do grad school for forensics … or do forensic science with a concentration in chemistry and a minor in criminal justice ?? I really need your help….

  • Ferdy

    Stated above;
    “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.”

    For IAI certification, post degree, 1 year experience will not reach the minimum required to apply for the certification exam.

    “1.A Bachelor’s Degree plus two (2) years full-time experience as prescribed by the LPCB.

    or a.An Associate Degree (or documentation of 60 semester hours or 90 quarter hours of college credits) plus 3 years full-time experience as a latent print examiner equals the Bachelor’s Degree requirement.

    or b.Four (4) years full-time experience as a latent print examiner required by Section C, 1 equals the Bachelor’s Degree requirement.

  • erick

    if i was to to attend a community college and earn a certificate in criminal justice (only) will i be able to get a job as a latent print examiner or any other fields? or will it be a waste of time?

  • Sarah

    Hi, I have a BS and MS in Criminal Justice and was inquiring on how to become a Latent Print Examiner. I’m not sure if I should focus on obtaining a certificate in Fingerprinting or earning an Associates in Forensics/Crime Scene. Any suggestions, I would
    appreciate it.

  • Mark

    I’m competing against 39 other applicants for 1 LPCS forensic scientist or 2 open lab tech positions. Although I’ll be grateful for any of the positions I want to put my best foot forward for the forensics position. What advice can you please give to prepare for the interview, such as interview questions to focus on or online exam help? It’s panel interview followed by a written exam. Any advice you have to improve skills and make that one spot is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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