Career Definition for a Crime Scene Investigator
Crime scene investigators are an integral part of the law enforcement process; they are responsible for identifying, gathering and analyzing evidence from crime scenes. More specifically, crime scene investigators are responsible for processing crime scenes for evidence, photographing crime scenes, packaging, labeling and transporting evidence, documenting autopsies, briefing investigators, writing reports and testifying in court. Crime scene investigators often work unusual hours and are responsible for answering calls for service during their assigned off-duty hours.
|Education||High school diploma; bachelor's degree may be required|
|Job Skills||Detail oriented, interpersonal skills, organization, problem solving|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$56,320 (all forensic science technicians)|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||27% (all forensic science technicians)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
While some states or localities may hire individuals who only have a high school diploma and provide them with extensive on-the-job training, a relevant 4-year degree will increase your competitiveness for this position. Degree programs in science or criminal justice, especially programs with hands-on lab work, such as chemistry, forensic science and biology, will help prepare you for a career in crime scene investigation.
Because crime scene investigators are part of the law enforcement process, an understanding of legal procedures is helpful in this career. Also, because they're charged with processing evidence that police will use in an investigation and will potentially be used in a criminal trial, an attention to detail and an ability to work well in teams is also important for crime scene investigators.
Economic and Career Outlook
The median annual wage for crime scene investigators (referred to as forensic science technicians) as of May 2015 was $56,320, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). According to BLS data, employment among forensic science technicians is expected to grow about 27% from 2014-2024. Growth in employment is expected to increase because of the increasing reliance on forensic analysis to solve and prosecute crimes.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Corrections Admin
- Corrections, Probation, and Parole
- Criminal Justice and Safety Studies
- Criminal Science
- Forensic Science
- Juvenile Corrections
- Law Enforcement Administration
- Police Science and Law Enforcement
- Securities Services Mgmt
- Security and Theft Prevention Services
Alternate Career Options
Those seeking to become forensic science technicians may consider occupations related to criminal justice and forensic science, including chemist and police officer.
A chemist researches the physical properties of a substance, both for pure research purposes and to develop or improve existing products, materials or processes. Chemists design and implement experiments, write up their research findings, and share them with employers, fellow chemists, and other interested parties. Some chemists specialize, such as in organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and medicinal chemistry.
Employers typically require at least a bachelor's degree in chemistry for entry-level work, although the requirements of a doctoral degree and experience are also common for some jobs. According to the BLS, the number of chemist jobs are expected to increase 3% from 2014-2024. The BLS also reports that the median salary of chemists was $71,260 in 2015.
Police officers perform duties similar to crime scene investigators; they ask questions and observe situations with the goal of protecting people in their community, as well as private and public property. Police officers respond to emergencies, write tickets when laws are broken, make arrests as needed, write reports on events, and testify in court when required.
In many cases, aspiring police officers must be at least 21 years old, be a licensed driver, and have a high school diploma, although some police training academies require some college, up to a bachelor's degree. Police officers must also pass physical and written tests. The BLS reports that the number of jobs for police officers is expected to grow 5% from 2014-2024. The agency also reports that all police and sheriff's patrol officers earned median pay of $58,320 in 2015.