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2018 Crime Scene Investigator Jobs

Crime Scene Investigator Collecting Evidence

Thanks to big shows like NCIS, Criminal Minds or CSI, many people are interested in finding lucrative crime scene investigator jobs. These shows make the job look exciting and keep you on the edge of your seat while you watch, but the daily duties of crime scene investigators are really as gratifying as they appear. Learn what it's like to earn your degree to work in forensic science and crack down on criminals.

What is a Crime Scene Investigator?

A crime scene investigator (CSI) is both a forensic technician and law enforcement official who collects and analyzes evidence at the scene of a crime. These investigative specialists may work in a team to study the evidence and find the perpetrator, later allowing the evidence to help a jury prosecute the offenders in a court of law.

Crime scene investigators use a variety of tools and techniques to allow them to collect, process and transport physical evidence in a secure and safe manner. Beyond the crime scene, they often spend time working in a lab setting as well, and write detailed reports on their findings to aid the investigation, using evidence to connect the pieces of a crime.

Crime Scene Investigator Job Requirements

The job requirements for CSIs depend on the type of agency you want to work in, from small sheriff's offices to big city police departments or federal-level cases with the CSI, for example. The responsibilities of the job also vary by state.

Some CSIs find work as a police detective, for example, and perform duties that would fall under both detective and crime scene investigator roles, since a detective job involves mainly securing and processing crime scenes. Crime scene investigator technicians, on the other hand, only handle the lab work. Professionals in the field often have experience working as a police detective for this reason, and often earn a forensic science degree to expand their career.

If you want a more detailed list of requirements, contact the agencies you're interested in to find out what their CSIs must do.

How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator

Candidates who chose to work in criminal justice and forensic science never stop growing and learning, even after earning a college degree and working in the field. To become a crime scene investigator, follow the steps below:

  • Earn your bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a field of science, such as biology, forensic science or chemistry.
  • Gain experience in the field through internships, or see if your state will allow you to work as a CSI, forensic technician or in law enforcement while completing your education.
  • Apply for CSI jobs in a state of your choice. Consider which states may pay you the most or find a state where you’d like to start a career.
  • Begin the interview process, where you should expect to pass a background test and be fingerprinted.
  • Once you begin your career, you will continue to receive on-the-job training and probably won’t work crime scenes alone for many years, if at all. You may also need to stay up to date on current advances in forensic science and the technological tools used in the industry.

Crime Scene Investigator Education

Most CSI education requirements are based on the type of work setting you wish to work in, and often require at least a two-year degree. However, 4-year bachelor's degrees are becoming the norm of the profession. Ask your local CSIs how they got started, as some began working as police officers and moved into forensic science.

To begin a career as a crime scene investigator, you may choose to earn your bachelor's degree in criminal justice. While criminal justice is the most common degree held by CSIs in the field, you may also find a job with a degree in a basic science, such as biology or chemistry. Some schools also have forensic science degrees, but they can be harder to find.

Because CSIs are similar to police officers, it also wouldn't hurt if you took some electives in law enforcement or crime scene processing. Your coursework will provide you with the experience you need to find work.

Crime Scene Investigator Salary

Crime scene investigators may often start out in entry-level positions as forensic science technicians. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual salary for forensic science technicians was $57,850, which is expected to grow quickly over the next 10 years and offer around 2,600 new jobs.

However, if you find work at the federal or state level, you may find a CSI job under the title of detective and criminal investigators According to the BLS, investigators make $83,320 annually.

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