Career Growth Opportunities for Crime Scene Investigators
Crime scene investigators examine evidence at the scene of a crime. They must be skilled in finding fingerprints, observing evidence, and examining documents. After working as a crime scene investigator, some individuals may wish to advance in their career. They may wish to further delve into evidence as a forensic scientist or forensic computer analyst, investigate issues for private parties as a private investigator, or undertake training to become a federal special agent. Details about these careers are presented here.
|Job Title||Median Salary||Job Growth (2016-2026)**||Education or Experience|
|Forensic Scientist||$52,782 (2018)*||17% (forensic science technicians)||Bachelor's degree|
|Forensic Computer Analyst||$69,396 (2018)*||28% (information security analysts)||Bachelor's degree|
|Private Investigator||$50,700 (2017; private detectives and investigators)**||11% (private detectives and investigators)||High school diploma and training|
|Federal Special Agent||$81,434 (2018)*||7% (police and detectives)||Bachelor's degree and three years of professional experience|
Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
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Crime scene investigators collect evidence at crime scenes. After the evidence is collected, it is analyzed by forensic scientists. Crime scene investigators who wish to take part in this next step of analysis may wish to move into this role. Forensic scientists integrate use of a variety of scientific disciplines, including biology, chemistry, and microscopic examination. Some forensic scientists may specialize in certain types of evidence, such as DNA analysis or polygraph tests. After interpreting the evidence, forensic scientists must write detailed reports for the investigators and potentially for attorneys who would use it as evidence in court. Forensic scientists must have a bachelor's degree in a scientific discipline, and may have specific specialty or on the job training. A master's degree in forensic science is very useful in seeking a position in the field.
Forensic Computer Analyst
Crime scene investigators have likely had the experience of seizing a computer as evidence in a case. Those who are comfortable in the digital environment might consider a career specializing as a forensic computer analyst. Forensic computer analysts typically analyze data found on computer hard drives or other data storage devices, which may have been destroyed, to identify evidence of a crime. Forensic computer analysts must ensure that they are following correct evidentiary procedures, as what they uncover could be used in a criminal prosecution. These professionals typically have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in forensic computing or a related discipline.
Some crime scene analysts may enjoy collecting and interpreting evidence. These individuals may wish to consider a role as a private investigator. Private investigators interview witnesses, provide surveillance services, and otherwise collect evidence for private parties or for attorneys who are handling cases. Some private investigators specialize in locating persons who have unpaid debts or who did not appear for a bail hearing. Private investigators must have a high school diploma, and many employers prefer a bachelor's degree. Prior experience in similar roles is very useful in finding a position. State licensure may be required.
Federal Special Agent
One possible option for advancement for crime scene investigators would be to take a special agent position with the federal government. Also known as FBI agents, these professionals investigate and enforce potential violations of federal law. Some specific areas FBI agents pursue are organized crime, terrorism, and violations of civil rights. Special agents must engage in questioning of witnesses and suspects, and they perform detailed investigative work. Educationally, a bachelor's degree is necessary to become a special agent. Potential FBI agents must be US Citizens, aged 23-37 with three years of work experience and the ability to qualify for secret clearances. In addition, it is necessary that the candidate not be disqualified due to felony convictions or failure of a drug test.