|Program Levels||Certificates, associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees|
|Admission Requirements||High school diploma or equivalent; 21 years of age or older; pass background check and physical exam; U.S. citizen; some programs may also require enrollment in a law enforcement program|
|Program Length||Less than one year to four years|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)*||27% growth|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$56,320 (for forensic science technicians)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Crime scene investigation training programs at the certificate and associate's degree levels are offered through community colleges and normally take about a year for a certificate and two years for an associate's degree. At the four-year bachelor's degree level, crime scene investigation is normally a specialization within a major such as criminal or forensic science.
These programs generally require a high school diploma, may require background checks and enrollment in a law enforcement program, and have minimum age requirements for admission. Some programs are also offered partially online. In addition, graduates who wish to work in law enforcement may have to meet requirements set by the agency they wish to work for. These requirements may include:
- Being at least 21 years old
- Being a U.S. citizen
- Passing a physical exam
- Meeting character/psychological standards
Crime Scene Investigation Certificate
A certificate program in crime scene investigation prepares students to collect and preserve evidence, work as part of an investigation team and carry out other duties involved in handling a crime scene. Students are trained in proper evidence collection techniques, sampling techniques, photography and crime scene communication. Programs generally take less than a year to complete. Admission into a program usually only requires a high school diploma or its equivalent.
The curriculum of a certificate program focuses on teaching students the practical skills they will need to work as an investigator. Students may take lab courses that allow them to gain hands-on experience with evidence collection and preservation. Some topics covered in a program may include:
- Criminal law procedures
- Crime scene photography
- Management of a crime scene
- Evidence rules and analysis
- Blood stain patterns
- Biological evidence and fingerprint collection
Associate of Applied Science in CSI
An associate's degree in crime scene investigation is often offered through a school's criminal justice department. These programs are designed to give students a background in law enforcement and crime scene management. The focus is often placed on the use of technology during crime scene investigation. Students may also learn how to properly assess and handle a crime scene to collect evidence that can be used in court.
Admissions requirements for an associate's program usually include a high school diploma or its equivalent. Some schools may require students to be enrolled in a law enforcement program before entering a crime scene investigation program.
The core courses in these programs focus on law, investigation and evidence. Students may also participate in hands-on exercises that allow them to perfect their evidence collection and identification techniques, as well as provide them with insight into what the job of a crime scene investigator is actually like. Courses in a program may include:
- Evidence management
- Evidence recovery techniques
- Evidence documentation
- Crime scene technology and reconstruction
- Criminal law
- Presenting crime scene evidence
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Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
A bachelor's degree program in criminal justice with a concentration in crime scene investigation is designed to give students an education in criminal justice or law enforcement along with teaching them skills used in crime scene investigation. Upon completion of a program, students may have an understanding of how to collect, analyze and store evidence within legal boundaries. A bachelor's program generally takes four years to complete, and most schools require students to have a high school diploma or its equivalent for entry into a program.
A bachelor's program includes core, technical courses that relate to criminal justice and crime scene investigation. Students study introductory topics in forensic science, criminal justice and crime. Advanced course topics may include:
- Computers and crime investigation
- Fingerprint and trace evidence
- Crime scene blood patterns
- Crime scene photography and report writing
Popular Career Options
With a certificate in crime scene investigation, graduates are prepared for entry-level positions in the field. Individuals may qualify for positions serving as an assistant to the head crime scene investigator. Possible job titles include:
- Crime scene photographer
- Crime scene investigative assistant
- Latent print developer
Associate's degree programs are often designed to prepare students to work as part of a law enforcement team. Students may train to work as part of a local law enforcement agency or work for government agencies. Possible job titles include:
- Police officer
- Evidence technician
- Crime scene investigator
A bachelor's degree can prepare students to work in many different positions within a crime investigation team. Some possible jobs include crime scene specialist, evidence examiner, firearms technician and autopsy technician, which are all part of being a forensic science technician.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic science technicians held about 14,400 jobs in 2014 (www.bls.gov). The organization projects that jobs in this career will increase by 27% from 2014-2024, which is a lot faster than the average rate. As of June 2015, the median annual salary for forensic science technicians was $56,320.
Crime scene investigation training programs are offered at the certificate, associate's, and bachelor's degree levels; generally require a high school diploma, background checks, and may even require enrollment in a law enforcement program to gain admissions; and include a large variety of criminal justice-based courses in topics ranging from crime scene photography and blood stain patterns to evidence recovery techniques and criminal law to criminalistics and ballistics.