Become a Police Artist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

In this video, you'll learn about the steps to becoming a police sketch artist, including the education, training, and certification requirements needed to work in the field of forensic artistry.

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Should I Become a Police Artist?

No formal degree programs exist in forensic art, but a curriculum of art, science, and psychology will aid in facial reconstruction, age progression, and witness perspective. Training courses, such as those at the International Association for Identification, will help individuals build a portfolio to bring to law enforcement interviews.

Career Requirements

Degree Field No specific degree required, Bachelor's of Art or Science typically obtained
Certification Optional certification available after 120 hours of courses, workshops, and lectures and a minimum 2 years of experience
Training International Association for Identification offers training courses and certification
Key Skills Artistry, detail-oriented, creativity
Salary $43,890 (Median salary for all fine artists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Obtain an Education in Art and Science

A fine arts degree program can provide courses in sketching and sculpting, which instruct the student in the techniques used in facial reconstruction, composite sketches and age progressions. Science courses such as anatomy and forensic science give the student a background in human bone structure and tissue, which provides the information to create an accurate sketch or rendering. Students may also complete courses in physiology to understand the changes that occur in a body after death. Psychology courses can help police artists working with victims of crime or when working with eyewitnesses.

Step 2: Complete Training Courses in Forensic Art

The International Association for Identification (www.theiai.org) offers training courses, workshops and seminars in forensic art for aspiring police artists. Practicing forensic artists also offer workshops and training courses for students interested in a career in the field. Students prepare a portfolio of their work that includes composites, age progressions and facial reconstructions while training in forensic art. A portfolio of work can help a student find employment with a law enforcement agency.

Step 3: Apply to Law Enforcement Agencies

To gain experience as a police artist, an individual must apply to law enforcement agencies. Forensic artists may work in federal or local law enforcement agencies creating facial reconstructions, composite sketches or age progressions.

Step 4: Obtain Certification in Forensic Art

The International Association for Identification offers certification for forensic artists. Individuals must complete a minimum of 80 hours of forensic art training in approved courses or workshops and a minimum of 40 hours training in workshops or lectures. In addition, the individual must have at least two years of experience in the field and a portfolio of work that includes composites, age progressions or facial reconstructions. Candidates for certification may specialize in a particular area of forensic art, such as age progression, reconstruction or imaging.

Step 5: Seek Employment

Trained artists may have a background as illustrators or sculptors, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and full time employment opportunities with various law enforcement agencies exist for police artists. In 2012, the BLS reported that fine artists in general, including illustrators and sculptors, could expect 4% employment growth from 2012-2022. Fine artists earned an annual median salary of $43,890 in 2014, according to the BLS.

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