How To Become a Crime Scene Investigator

The International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA) provides a CSI certification to professionals with at least two years of experience and 50 hours of crime scene processing coursework. Candidates must pass a 100-question exam and submit examples of crime scene photography as proof of experience.

Recent high school graduates are becoming increasingly interested in careers as crime scene investigators as a result of the hugely popular “CSI” TV series. Even though the job is less glamorous and dramatic in real life than it is on television, it is an essential component of the justice system that is becoming more and more valuable as a result of the rapid advancement of science and technology.

CSIs can be either law enforcement officers or civilians. They work for organizations such as the FBI, the Attorney General’s Office, insurance companies, law firms, county sheriff’s departments, and others. Over 12,500 CSIs were employed in the United States as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). S. with an anticipated 19 percent growth, or 2,400 additional CSI jobs, by 2020 1,730 of these CSIs were employed in California in 2011, with 520 CSIs working in Los Angeles, 260 in San Francisco, 100 in Sacramento, and 70 in San Diego.

How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator

Why are crime scene investigators important?

Crime scene investigators have a crucial role to play because the results of their work directly affect the criminal and legal processes that follow a crime. It has the potential to stop further crimes from happening or bring the victim and their family justice if their analysis is conclusive enough to identify a potential suspect and that identification results in a conviction. Inconclusive results prevent law enforcement from cracking the case and bringing those involved to justice.

What does a crime scene investigator do?

A crime scene investigator is a member of the forensic science community who locates, gathers, examines, and records the evidence discovered at a crime scene. This can involve activities like documenting the crime scene with photographs, labeling and transporting evidence to a lab, writing reports, conversing with law enforcement officials, and giving testimony in court.

Crime scene investigators examine any physical evidence at a crime scene, including hair samples, tire marks, footprints, bodily fluids, fingerprints, and more, in cooperation with evidence technicians, forensic investigators, or crime scene analysts.

Average salary

The most typical steps to becoming a crime scene investigator are as follows:

1. Learn about the profession

Crime scene investigation is a unique career that calls for both precise technical and people skills. A person must also feel at ease in challenging, frequently graphic situations while investigating a crime scene. You should research the field, learn about the educational requirements, anticipated job duties, and necessary skills before entering it to make sure you are well-prepared.

Before enrolling in a degree program, you can learn more about the field by conducting online research, reading job descriptions for crime scene investigators, talking to professionals in the field, or attending an undergraduate forensics course. Many people also learn about the profession by reading. A variety of recently published books on the forensic sector and the particular duties of a crime scene investigator could aid in your preparation.

2. Obtain necessary education and certifications

The formal education requirements to become a crime scene investigator vary slightly depending on the state you intend to work in. An Associate or Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice, Forensic Science, or a related field is typically preferred by employers. You can major in criminal justice with a concentration in forensic science or crime scene investigation if a forensic science major is not offered. Biology, chemistry, math, psychology, gathering evidence, and oral advocacy are among the subjects covered in the typical coursework.

Many states demand that crime scene investigators obtain licensing and/or certification within 18 months of beginning their employment in addition to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. While a few states specify their own certification standards, the majority of states rely on the International Association for Identification (IAI) and International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ISCIA) for certification requirements.

IAI certification programs call for between 48 and 144 hours of classroom instruction alongside a full-time job in the field, as well as passing an exam and paying applicable fees. Similar requirements include a predetermined number of hours and passing an exam for ISCIA.

3. Create a strong resume

Entry-level candidates can add depth and personalization to their resumes by listing their knowledge of additional languages, memberships in professional organizations, or extracurricular interests.

4. Complete background check and fingerprinting requirements

Given the specialized nature of the position, hiring a crime scene investigator almost always entails submitting to a background check and fingerprinting. While minor incidents like traffic tickets or other infractions may be acceptable, maintaining a spotless record is crucial. If you are worried that a previous incident might make it more difficult for you to get hired, think about contacting your neighborhood law enforcement or private organizations.

Under the direct supervision of a more seasoned investigator, you will probably be exposed to a variety of situations and tasks during on-the-job training. Additionally, there are some tasks where you can observe an investigator in action and then ask follow-up questions if necessary.

It’s also advised to maintain your knowledge with ongoing training and additional certification. This will enable you to keep abreast of new methods for analysis and documentation, as well as laws and regulations. Additionally, it offers a chance to enhance or grow current skill sets. Online continuing education programs are widely accessible, making them a practical choice for working professionals.

Frequently asked questions

Following are responses to some frequently asked questions about crime scene investigation:

Is a bachelors degree required to be a crime scene investigator?

Most states do not mandate a bachelor’s degree for crime scene investigators, though it is frequently preferred. Interested candidates may want to think about enrolling in an online certificate program in a pertinent field or getting an associate’s degree from a community college or technical institute.

What are the typical working conditions for a crime scene investigator?

Due to the unpredictable nature of criminal activity, crime scene investigators frequently put in long, irregular shifts with little advance warning. Additionally, they may encounter difficult physical conditions and frequently need to wear protective clothing, gloves, or safety equipment to protect themselves from unsafe or unsanitary crime scenes.

Do crime scene investigators have to work for a law enforcement agency?

Even though the majority of crime scene investigators work for law enforcement organizations, it is not necessary. A non-government laboratory or a private investigation company may hire people.

Can you earn a crime scene investigator certification while in college?

Only those who are already employed in the field are eligible for the certifications granted by the ISCIA and IAI.

How long is a crime scene investigator certification good for?

The validity of a crime scene investigator certification is five years, after which you must renew it.


How hard is it to get a job as a crime scene investigator?

But it can be challenging to even land an entry-level CSI position. The competition for the 14,000+ jobs in the United States is one of the biggest obstacles. Over 100 applicants are not uncommon for a CSI entry-level job opening.

Is Crime Scene Investigation a good career?

A skilled and effective CSI may be able to earn a six-figure salary in a large city with a high crime rate. Crime scene investigator is a very interesting profession in terms of career growth.

Can you be a CSI for the FBI?

CSIs can be either law enforcement officers or civilians. They work for organizations such as the FBI, the Attorney General’s Office, insurance companies, law firms, county sheriff’s departments, and others.

How do you start a crime scene investigation career?

In general, you need at least a four-year degree in science (such as biology, chemistry, or forensic science) if you want to work as a criminalist in a crime lab. A crime scene technician typically requires less formal education.

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