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Crime Scene Investigator Education Requirements and Career Info

Crime scene investigator education prepares students for working with evidence in real crime scenes and helping police solve the crime. CSI education generally requires a 4-year degree, training, and optional credentialing. View article »

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What Does it Take to Become a Crime Scene Investigator?

Those interested in becoming a crime scene investigator should be detail-oriented and have critical-thinking skills. They also need to be able to communicate well and problem solve. Forensic investigation often requires strong math and science skills. Other crime scene investigator requirements include forensic investigator schooling and training.

Crime Scene Investigator Education

There are a variety of forensic science certificate programs and forensic science associate's degree programs available, but CSI education generally consists of at least a bachelor's degree. Although most schools do not offer a crime scene investigator major, students may be able to major in forensic science. Other major options include biology, chemistry, or another science-related field.

Bachelor's degree programs in forensic science are typically available as Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees. Some of these programs are available in online formats and these programs typically include traditional courses combined with laboratory work for hands-on experience in areas like chemistry and biology. Other course topics may include:

  • Biochemistry
  • Physics
  • Crime scene processing
  • Instrumental analysis
  • Criminal law
  • Research methods

Experience

During their undergraduate studies, students may be encouraged to gain hands-on experience through various forensic internship opportunities. These internships could be conducted with organizations such as law enforcement training centers, forensic science centers, public safety training organizations, and more. Internships may also provide unique networking opportunities to prepare for a future career.

Once investigators secure a position, they need to undergo on-the-job training before they can work a case alone. During this time they are supervised by investigators who have experience in the field as they learn how to work a crime scene. This training may take up to a year to complete.

Professional Credentials

Although they are not usually required, some investigators may choose to pursue professional credentials, such as licenses or certifications offered through organizations like the American Board of Criminalistics (ABC). ABC offers a comprehensive certificate in criminalistics or other certificates in specialties like trace evidence, drug chemistry, molecular biology, or fire debris analysis.

Departments may also offer opportunities for continued education or professional development in the field. These opportunities allow investigators to stay on top of changing technologies and new science in forensics.

Crime Scene Investigator Career Info

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Science, forensic science
Other Requirements Training
Annual Mean Salary (2018)* $62,490 (for forensic science technicians)
Estimated Job Growth (2016-2026)* 17% (for forensic science technicians)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Crime scene investigators, often referred to as forensic science technicians, are responsible for collecting and analyzing evidence from various crime scenes. This may require them to draw or photograph crime scenes, collect fingerprints and weapons, reconstruct crime scenes, conduct laboratory tests on evidence, and work closely with law enforcement.

Crime scene investigators may work various day, evening, and night shifts and may need to be on-call to work a crime scene at any given time. They must also be prepared to work in various types of weather conditions for crime scenes, as well as prepared to work in offices and/or laboratories. This position may require some travel, depending on how large the jurisdiction is.

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