Crime Scene Technician Certificate
Crime scenes are critical environments for investigators trying to find and build cases against suspects; even the smallest trace evidence could provide a lead and must be handled with care. In recent years, there has been a growing need for crime scene investigators, crime scene technicians, or crime analysts who have education and experience analyzing crimes and crime trends to help law enforcement gather evidence that can be used to solve and prosecute cases. One way to get into the field is with a crime scene technician certificate or crime scene investigation degree, or a research-based degree in crime analysis. These programs are offered at many levels; some require only a high school diploma, while others require undergraduate study. The job outlook is good as crime scene technicians earn a median salary of $56,320 and positions are projected to grow 27% through 2024.1
Crime Scene Investigator Training and Courses
Crime scene investigation certificate programs are targeted education options that focus on the skills needed to get an entry-level job with a local, county, or state law enforcement program. University programs, offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels, teach students more advanced techniques and prepare students for senior positions. Undergraduate programs in crime scene technology typically require prospective students to have an associate’s degree or transfer credit, while graduate certificate programs require a bachelor’s degree. Unlike four-year programs that also include theory courses, all the courses in a certificate curriculum tend to focus on teaching specific skills. Both programs will include coursework on how to properly process a crime scene, including establishing chains of custody for evidence, identifying potential materials for analysis, and taking crime scene photos. Crime scene investigators must have a keen eye for detail and patience as the job has a high degree of unpredictability.
Rather than focusing on a single criminal investigation or a single crime, students studying crime analysis are taught the theories and principles of intelligence-led policing, including how to analyze trends in data using computer applications and using pattern identification to see the bigger picture in statistics. Students on track to receive a crime analysis degree are focused on using statistics from various sources to compile accurate information and patterns to support law enforcement decisions.
Common courses in a Crime Investigation or Analysis program include:
- Crime Scene Safety
- Identifying Evidence
- Crime Scene Photography
- Tread and Foot Impressions
- Criminological Theory
- Weapon and Tool Marks
- Behavioral Analysis
- Advanced Casting Techniques
- Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysis
- DNA Evidence
- Courtroom Testimony
Traditional Crime Scene Investigator Degree Programs
St. Petersburg College offers several levels of training for aspiring crime scene technicians. The Crime Scene Technology Certificate is a 28-credit program teaching the foundations of crime scene analysis, including preservation of biological evidence and fingerprints. After completing this program, students can look for work as an entry-level technician or apply these credits towards an Associate of Science degree in Crime Scene Technology. In the associate’s program, students spend time analyzing mock crime scenes and preparing for moot trials. The curriculum includes 60-63 credits of study and enables students to focus on particular types of crime scene investigation. Students can also complete an optional internship with a local law enforcement agency. Additionally, the college offers a bachelor’s degree in Public Safety Administration fully online to teach students how to apply their learning to leadership roles.
The Crime Scene Investigation certificate program at the University of Baltimore is open to students who have at least 60 transfer credits of previous study. This coursework must include an upper-level course in criminal justice, though this can be waived if the student has law enforcement experience. The program curriculum includes 12 credits of targeted study in Crime Scene Investigation, Advanced Crime Scene Investigation, Forensic Photography, and Moot Court and Trial Advocacy for Forensics to help students prepare for a career in this area or change career paths. The program takes approximately one year to complete and students benefit from hands-on learning at the university’s Jami R. Grant Forensic Laboratories, which operate in partnership with the Baltimore Police Department. The laboratory introduces students to a variety of crime scenes and investigation techniques.
West Virginia University offers a Master of Science degree in Forensic and Investigative Science for individuals who already have an undergraduate degree in a related area of study with prerequisites in chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physics, and calculus. The graduate degree curriculum is comprised of 40 credit hours, which includes a significant research component. Each student must complete a six-credit thesis or research project involving advanced chemistry or biology research on a topic related to forensic analysis. Students also have access to 18,000 square feet of forensic laboratories to practice all areas of crime scene investigation, including fingerprints, tool marks, and trace evidence. West Virginia University’s Department of Forensic and Investigative Science is accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, which awards programs for rigorous scientific standards.
Online Crime Scene Investigator Degree Programs
The University of South Florida offers a graduate diploma in Crime Scene Investigations for Violent Crimes for students who already have an undergraduate degree in any subject. Students are typically law enforcement, legal, administrative, or criminal justice professionals with a specific interest in violent crime analysis. The program is offered fully online and can be completed in as little as one year, although students have up to five years to complete the degree requirements. Students complete 18 credits during four eight-week blocks throughout the year, including courses in Crime Scene Reconstruction, Homicide Investigations, and Evidence in Court & Expert Testimony. Upon completion, students will be prepared to reconstruct and provide expert testimony for various types of violent crimes. Certificate courses can be transferred towards the completion of graduate degree with approval from the department.
Saint Joseph’s University offers an online master’s degree in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Intelligence and Crime Analysis. The degree trains students to understand and interpret research, identify crime trends, and plan strategically within law enforcement operations. Key skills learned in the program include writing, conducting and critically examining research, and statistical analysis. This program helps students prepare for careers in many levels of government. The curriculum includes 30 credits, including the four required criminal justice core courses, two required crime analysis courses, and four elective courses. Applicants are admitted from a variety of different educational backgrounds, including law enforcement, criminal justice, history, political science, policy, and psychology. Students can try the university’s online learning environment before registering in the course through the university’s Test Flight online learning platform.
A graduate-level study option is the Master’s in Forensic Studies with a concentration in Investigations offered by Stevenson University. Students must have a bachelor’s degree in any subject to apply. The curriculum includes 36 credit hours of study and focuses on gathering and analyzing testimony and providing expert testimony in criminal proceedings. Courses include Forensic Information Technology, Investigative Techniques/Physical Evidence, and White Collar Crime. The majority of coursework can be completed online with the exception of the Mock Trial Capstone, which requires a one-week, on-campus residency. Students can also choose to complete the Mock Trial Capstone on campus during a 16-week placement. Stevenson University students benefit from the university’s Center for Forensic Excellence, which brings together scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students to discuss the latest forensic issues.
Crime Scene Technician Job Description
Obtaining your crime scene technician or investigation certificate can lead to a variety of positions within the investigative community, such as with police departments, various levels of government, or in the criminal justice system. Typically, crime scene investigators gather evidence to help develop and support criminal cases and part of the job description can include testifying in court about the scientific analysis performed and how it relates to a case. In that respect, certificate holders will learn how to accurately and clearly describe their techniques for lay audiences, as well as how to explain specific results. Certificates that combine crime scene investigation with forensics can also lead to lab work analyzing blood or other fluid samples for DNA matches, doing chromatographic analyses to find out where certain items originated, or other duties.
Crime analysts are usually hired by larger police departments, particularly those at the state and federal levels, and these jobs commonly require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level employment. Crime analysis degree graduates are likely to move up within the ranks because of their advanced training, although they must still follow the patterns of advancement, including exams for rank. With education and experience, crime analysis degree holders may have wider latitude to move between departments, as well as into other agencies within the criminal justice field.
Examples of careers that can be pursued by Crime Scene Investigation graduates include:
- Blood Spatter Analyst
- Criminal Investigator
- Corrections Officer
- Crime Lab Analyst
- Crime Scene Investigator
- Criminal Investigator
- Fire Investigator
- Forensic Science Technician
- Private Investigator
- State Trooper
For more career opportunities for Crime Scene Investigation graduates, visit our criminal justice jobs board.
Crime Scene Technician Professional Certification
There is no mandatory national professional certification for crime scene investigators and crime analysts, although some professional organizations, such as the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute, do offer voluntary certification programs. Check job descriptions for any necessary requirements.
Crime Scene Investigator Salary and Career Outlook
The job growth outlook is favorable for forensic science careers, as the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 27% growth through 2024 and a median salary of $56,320 for forensic science technicians.1 According to O*Net OnLine, police identification and records officers – another term for entry-level crime scene technicians – and criminal investigators earned a median annual salary of $77,210 as of 2015.2,3 Crime analysts may have a comparable median salary to intelligence analysts ($77,210).4
- American College of Forensic Examiners Institute: A national organization offering certication and professional development for forensics professionals.
- International Association for Identification: An international forensic science association connecting professionals from all areas of specialization, including crime scene investigation.
- International Association of Crime Analysts: An international association offering voluntary certification and networking opportunities.
- International Crime Scene Investigators Association: A professional association for law enforcement officers working in the area of crime scene investigation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is the difference between a crime scene technician certificate and a forensic technician certificate?
Answer: While both certificates lead to a career in crime scene analysis, these certificates focus on different areas. Crime scene technicians learn how to observe, preserve, and transport evidence for analysis in a laboratory, while forensic technicians analyze evidence in laboratory settings after collection. Many programs includes courses on both subjects.
Question: Do I need an undergraduate degree to become a Crime Analysis?
Answer: An undergraduate degree is usually required to begin a career in crime analysis. In order to progress in the field, a graduate degree may be advantageous or even required.
Question: Can I earn a Crime Scene Technician certificate online?
Answer: Yes, some online programs are offered; however, traditional, on-campus programs offer students opportunities to experience mock crime scenes and evidence gathering in-person.
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Forensic Science Technicians: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm
2. O*Net OnLine, Police Identification and Records Officers: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-3021.02
3. O*Net OnLine, Criminal Investigators and Special Agents: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-3021.03
4. O*Net OnLine, Intelligence Analysts: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-3021.06