How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator?

Crime Scene Investigators are a group of professionals who are instrumental in solving crimes. Their primary responsibility is to aid law enforcement by collecting, analyzing, and documenting all physical evidence that can be gathered from a crime scene.

In order to become a crime scene investigator, you need to study forensic science, as crime scene investigators are a type of forensic science technician. The minimum educational requirement you must meet is holding a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences or forensic science. However, the higher your degree qualifications, the better your job prospects will be.

If you are interested in learning more about a career in crime scene investigations and what requirements you need to satisfy to pursue this career, read on.

What is a crime scene investigator?

A crime scene investigator (CSI) is a type of forensic science technician. These are professionals who are instrumental in helping out during criminal investigations because they collect and analyze a host of evidence from crime scenes.

CSIs are integral to the law enforcement process. Their primary responsibility is to help investigate crimes by collecting and analyzing all physical evidence which may help convict a suspect. Evidence that CSIs are concerned with collecting includes body fluids, hair, skin, tissue, etc. Once they gather all of the evidence they can find they will take it to a laboratory for further examination. Collecting this evidence is essential in order to solve crimes and acquit or convict persons of interest.

Job Duties of a Crime Scene Investigator

CSIs have a wide range of job duties that they must carry out. These include:

  • Properly collecting evidence from a crime scene
  • Storing evidence in the appropriate manner
  • Prepare reports on their findings
  • Testify during criminal trials
  • Provide expertise on forensic evidence
  • Catalog and preserve evidence in laboratory settings
  • Perform thorough analysis of evidence collected
  • Reconstruct crime scenes
  • Work with other professionals to help solve crimes
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How to become Crime Scene Investigator

How do you become a crime scene investigator?

In order to become a crime scene investigator, you will need to meet certain educational requirements. Typically, individuals who pursue a career in this field have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences such as chemistry or biology. Due to the competitive nature of the job, it is recommended that you have further educational qualifications such as a graduate degree in the field. This will help you stand out from a pool of applicants.

The path to becoming a crime scene investigator can look something like this:

Steps to becoming a crime scene investigator:

  • Get an undergraduate degree in natural sciences such as biology or chemistry
  • Get a master’s degree in forensic science
  • Get a Ph.D. in forensic science
  • Get relevant training and experience on the job

Bachelor’s degree in Natural Sciences

To start out in this career, you need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences. This could include chemistry, biology, or forensic science, if your university offers that option as a major.

Degree Duration Some of the courses offered
Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Sciences OR Forensic Science 4 years
  • Essential Practices of Forensic Science
  • Introduction to Crime Scene Investigations
  • Criminology
  • Criminal Justice

Master´s degree in Forensic Science

The master’s program in forensic science is designed to give students advanced knowledge and a wealth of hands on training in crime scene investigation. Students will learn a plethora of skills and techniques which will be invaluable on the job. They will also learn about investigation techniques, how to properly report your findings, and crime laboratory methodologies.

Degree Duration Some of the courses offered
Master’s in Forensic Science 2 years
  • Courtroom Proceedings and Testimony
  • Scientific Approach to CSI
  • Courtroom Proceedings and Testimony
  • Laboratory in Crime Scene Investigation
  • Forensic Molecular Biology
  • Drug Chemistry and Toxicology
  • Ethics in Forensic Science

Ph.D. in Forensic Science

Ph.D. programs in forensic science are intended to equip individuals with specialized knowledge in the field. These programs are interdisciplinary and will encourage critical thinking in order to solve the complex problems that CSIs face. A dissertation is an essential component of this program.

Degree Duration Some of the courses offered
Ph.D. in Forensic Science 2-4 years
  • Forensic Biology
  • Forensic Laboratory Management
  • Forensic Toxicology
  • Pattern and Physical Evidence Concepts
  • Controlled Substance Analysis

On-the-job training

In addition to making sure you meet all of the various educational requirements for becoming a CSI, you will also need to undergo training once you start your job.

Forensic science technicians must all go through a period of supervised on the job training before they can take on cases independently. This includes helping experienced investigators carry out their duties and observing how certain things are done. This is an excellent way for new CSIs to learn the proper methods, techniques, and procedures which are involved in the collection and documentation of evidence.

Due to technological advancements, training is typically an on-going process. Therefore, most CSIs will undergo on-the-job training very often over the course of their career.

Career prospects and Salary

A crime scene investigator is a professional who is a forensic science technician. A forensic science technician is someone who aids in criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence from crime scenes. They can either devote their time to crime scene investigations or laboratory analysis.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is what a career as a forensic science technician can look like:

Job title Annual Median Salary (May 2015) Job Growth (2014-2024) Is the on-the-job training required?
Crime scene investigator $56,320 27% – Much higher than the average rate of growth (11%). A moderate amount