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Crime Scene Investigator Career Guide

The primary responsibility of crime scene investigators is to investigate crimes by carefully collecting and analyzing physical evidence. They may collect hair, tissue, and body fluids from a crime victim, or perform tests on items found at a crime scene. In short, they analyze all of the evidence in the interest of providing accurate information that may help to acquit or to convict a person of a crime.

A crime scene investigator career requires CSIs to be meticulous about details; they must properly collect and store the evidence they collect. They must be able to prepare forms, reports, and other written documentation about their findings. CSIs are often asked to testify at criminal trials, giving testimony about the physical evidence collected and offering their general expertise about forensic evidence.

Crime Scene Investigator Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

Crime scene investigators work at crime scenes, collecting and processing evidence then analyzing it and sharing the results in a written report. CSIs complete a variety of tasks, including deciding what evidence should be collected, gathering physical evidence, and securing the evidence for the crime laboratory. In addition, a CSI may photograph evidence, create a drawing of the crime scene, and write down detailed information about the crime scene itself.

How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator: Requirements and Qualifications

Candidates interested in becoming a CSI must typically possess a bachelor’s degree in an area of science, such as biology or chemistry. Those seeking crime scene investigation jobs should be aware that they will be responsible for overseeing disturbing crime scenes, including homicides and sexual assaults. They should have the professional disposition required to adequately deal with such scenes. CSIs must be in good health and physically fit, as they often must kneel, reach, climb, stretch, and carry heavy objects to process a crime scene. Occasionally, they carry a firearm.

Crime Scene Investigator Job Training

CSIs generally go through on the job training once they have been hired. A rookie CSI will typically work with an experienced CSI. As an assistant, the newly hired CSI will learn how to properly process a crime scene. Training may include photography, death scene processing, fingerprint processing, and blood spatter analysis. Because of the constant evolution in forensic science, CSIs should be prepared to engage in continuing education to remain apprised of the latest news and techniques in the industry.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Crime scene investigators generally first work for law enforcement then, after gaining experience as a police officer, apply for a position as a CSI. CSIs must have strong computer skills and communication skills, and they must work well with others.

Examples of Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • Crime Scene Analyst (CSA)
  • Crime Scene Technician (CST)
  • Evidence Technician (ET)
  • Forensic Investigator (FI)
  • Scenes of Crime Officer (SOCO)

Career Opportunities and Employers

The many real life crime and fictionalized crime shows on television have led to an increased interest in forensic science, which will lead to a more competitive job market for crime scene investigators. A range of organizations typically hire crime scene investigators, including coroner’s offices, crime laboratories, police departments, and morgues.

Crime Scene Investigator Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that detectives and criminal investigators earn a average annual salary of $79,030.1 Salary can vary depending on factors such as education, experience, and geographic location.

Employment for crime scene investigators is expected to grow 6% during the decade from 2012-2022.2 The Bureau of Labor Statistics cautions that the slower than average growth combined with an increased interest in forensic science will result in greater competition for open positions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of hours do CSIs typically work?

CSIs, who work in the field, generally work longer than a 40 hour work week and should be prepared to work whenever necessary, including nights and weekends. CSIs, who are assigned to a specific jurisdiction, should be prepared to travel to crime scenes when called.

What are the most important qualities of a CSI?

CSIs have the crucial task of collecting evidence at a crime scene and will often be called to testify in court on their findings. As a result, a successful CSI will have strong communication skills, will be detailed oriented, and will possess the ability to work with others. A CSI must be able to remain professional, despite the gruesome scenes they may see.

With whom do CSIs work?

CSIs work with a range of people, including attorneys and law enforcement. CSIs should be team players as most work is done within groups.

Additional Resources

Featured Schools with Crime Scene Investigation and Criminal Justice Programs

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1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333021.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm