A career in either crime scene investigation or crime detection is actually one of the greatest careers you would have. You would ask me, how? Now, this is it…
Taking a crime scene investigator education program allows you to develop skills that enable you to provide answers to mysterious deaths and disappearance.
Including solving violent crimes, tracking, catching, and prosecuting the bad guys is part of what you will do as a crime scene investigator.
In this article, we will explain all you need to know about taking up a crime scene investigator’s career and the requirement to study the course.
I’m so sure you already know what feeling that comes with helping people find justice. It usually comes with a lot of relief and deep personal satisfaction.
The crime scene investigator’s work is as real as what you see in the movies. Yeah.
So in this article, I will show you how to acquire your crime scene investigator education degree and further show you steps and requirements on how you can become a successful crime scene investigator.
You can also learn more about how you can become a successful detective. Carefully read through to the end for all of what this article has to offer.
Who is A Crime Scene Investigator?
A crime scene investigator is a sworn law enforcement agent who has the job of collecting, gathering, preserving, and packaging facts and other physical evidence at the scene of a crime.
Crime scene investigators or Criminal investigators often conduct investigations around the site of crime and are also believed to be experts in performing on-site tests on the physical perimeter of the crime.
But be it as it may, those jobs, in fact, are reserved for forensic scientists and other forensic professionals who may be part of the criminal investigation team.
So the major workspace of a CSI is the immediate crime scene where they collect physical evidence of a crime. This physical evidence could be everything from firearms and fingerprints to DNA samples and photographic evidence that can be used to track the perpetrators of a crime.
Usually, the term ‘crime scene investigator’ is not just a profession in itself but a broad title that encompasses some other professions like:
- Forensic scientist
- Fingerprint expert
- DNA expert
- Forensic photographer
- Forensic sketch artist
- Ballistics expert
All these are some of the crew members making up a crime investigation team.
What do Crime Scene Investigators do?
The job of a Crime scene investigator is usually very demanding as they are required to pay rapt attention to every piece of detail.
Usually, the findings of a CSI will always direct and point law enforcement agents in the right direction when trying to find the perpetrators of a crime.
The Crime Investigator’s work is usually not done in a laboratory but rather it is done primarily out in the field, there at the crime scene.
In a formal work order, when a crime scene investigator is called to the site of a crime, the very first thing they do is to barricade the arena sealing it off to make sure it is not contaminated or tampered with.
Because once a crime scene is contaminated, the evidence collected from the scene could be considered null and void by a judge during the trial.
The picture above describes how a team of crime scene investigators barricades a typical crime scene to keep it from being contaminated.
After sealing off the crime scene, the investigator takes accurate and precise measurements of the crime perimeter and then takes exhaustive photographs of any possible piece of evidence found at the scene.
It is usually very important that scales are always included in the photographs so that the exact size of every piece of evidence is known. Furthermore, tags are attached to the photographs for easy identification of each piece of evidence.
After a CSI has thoroughly documented his findings, he ensures the findings are thoroughly packaged and preserved from intrusion.
Due to how porous their job may be, Investigators are required to be extremely careful. This is usually one of the personal skills that qualify one for a swell time practicing as a Crime scene investigator.
Every CSI must be able to testify in court about the evidence he collected at the crime scene. It is also important for a CSI to be able to convey complicated findings clearly in the courtroom such that all participants can understand the meaning of each piece of evidence else the pieces of evidence may be misunderstood by the judge.
Now see this; Crime Scene Investigator Job Description
This is why it is important for you to be careful in your practice as a CSI: If a judge finds out that the pieces of physical evidence which you provided are not properly packaged and documented, he could remove them from consideration during the trial.
If the pieces of evidence themselves are removed from consideration, the forensic analysis of them may be removed, as well, making the claims null and void. You may lose the case and your credibility will become questionable.
In clear summary, listed below are some of what Criminal scene Investigators do;
- Cooperate and collaborate with federal and state law enforcement
- Secure crime scenes to ensure that the evidence is not tampered with or contaminated
- Take careful measurements of each scene they come across
- Photograph all pieces of physical evidence, including a scale to know the exact size of the object being photographed
- Document and preserve all pieces of physical evidence
- Attend and photograph autopsies
- Maintain lab equipment and field equipment
- Testify in court in regard to the evidence they collected at the crime scene
Is Crime Scene Investigation a good career?
I won’t just go straight up to tell you whether or not it is a good career but I will show you many pros and cons that may be attached to pursuing a career in crime scene investigation.
Just like every other profession, pursuing a career in crime scene investigation has its own challenges as well. I will share with you all of what you may encounter in discharging your duties as a criminal investigator and I will also show you some invaluable benefits and you may then make your choices.
First of all, you have to understand that your work as a criminal investigator will require you to visit odd and horrible places; crime scenes where people have died and have probably stayed for days or maybe weeks.
Honestly, I have to tell you this: The work you are going to meet out there in the fields is not at all close to what you see on the TV screens. Trust me, it’s not. One aspect of the job that doesn’t come through the TV is the odor- the odor of a decomposing body.
There is something weird and recurrent about the odor of a decomposing body. Even if you have never smelled it before, you will immediately know what it is, and it will cause you to want to run out of the room.
A body that has been decomposing for several days or more in warm unventilated conditions produces an odor that makes most people physically ill. The odor so gets into your clothing such that it continues to smell on you even after you have left the arena.
Can you imagine and maybe withstand the awful sight of a decomposing body covered in flies and maggots, can you stand seeing a body that had one or more body parts cut up, bullets throughout the body, can you imagine seeing a baby/children killed?
You have to be ready to get up close and personal with stuff like this if you must pursue this career.
I know right now you may really think, do I still want to pursue this career? Despite all these challenges that you may face, Crime Scene Investigation is a fascinating and rewarding job.
Being able to help victims and relatives of victimized persons get justice is what matters. The feeling that comes with it is all-encompassing. But the truth remains, it’s not everyone that can do it. It takes a special temperament to be happy in it.
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What Kind of Degree Do You Need to be a Crime Scene Investigator?
CSIs typically need a bachelor’s degree in either a natural or forensic science, such as chemistry or biology, or in a field such as criminal justice, crime scene technology, or criminology.
Some CSI positions do not require a baccalaureate degree, instead of requiring specific college courses.
The next page below describes the various educational requirements that you may need to meet to become a successful crime scene investigator.
What are the Education Requirements for a Crime Scene Investigator?
You can rarely find a job in crime investigation if you are just a high school graduate. While it may be possible to find a job with a two-year degree in forensics or a related course, it is not the best for you.
Currently, most crime scene investigators have a bachelor’s degree in forensics or a science degree with forensic coursework.
So you would need to complete your high school education. Enroll in a post-secondary program, preferably a bachelor’s degree in any course that leads to a career in crime scene investigation.
Many crime scene investigators have a master’s degree in forensics and other related courses. You would also need to continue to improve yourself through the education is required to stay current with emerging techniques and technologies in your chosen field.
So in a nutshell, what you find below is a table that describes the various educational requirements that you may need to meet to become a successful crime scene investigator.
|Education/Program||Bachelor’s Degree, Masters Degree, Doctoral Degree|
|Recommended Fields||Criminal Justice, Computer Science, Forensic Science, Biology, Forensic psychology, Justice administration, Criminology, Sociology|
|Duration of program||The duration of the program will depend largely on what kind of program it is. Bachelor’s degree programs last for only 4 years. A student pursuing a masters program may need to spend a year or two more.|
|Expected Skills||Attention to detail, Critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills, Ability to apply sound judgment and make effective decisions, Ability to act with integrity, Strong oral and communication skills, Ability to remain focused despite the environment.|
Schools for Crime Scene Investigator?
Looking to pursue a career in crime scene investigation, here are some schools that offer the courses you require to have a successful career.
News & World Reports as the best in the United States to offer crime scene investigation courses and degrees has ranked all the schools.
Follow the links to the official schools’ websites to learn more about their programs.
Where do Crime Scene Investigators Work?
There is no particular workspace designed for Crime scene investigators. The workspace usually varies for crime scene investigators.
Their work entails visiting horrible crime scenes in order to collect samples of evidence of a crime.
In a normal work order, crime scene investigators collaborate with police officers and detectives who assist with gathering the crime evidence.
Crime scene investigators may also need assistance from forensic science technicians to analyze the collected samples in the lab.
Crime scene investigators may find career opportunities with the FBI, CIA, Police Departments, SWAT teams.
CSI officers must understand that crimes happen at any time, so just like police officers, they should expect to work.
How Much Does a CSI agent Make?
According to the recent report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median salary of crime scene investigators is around $62,490 and it is expected that the job outlook for these professionals may increase by 17% by the year 2026.
|Annual Mean Salary||$62,490|
|Estimated Job Growth (2016-2026)*||17%|
How to Get a Job in Crime Scene Investigation: How to Become a CSI
If you are considering becoming a crime scene investigator, it may be a good idea to first research about it to know if it’s what really appeals to you.
Having a very good background knowledge the course will help you exactly what you are going into.
Below are some steps you must consider.
1. Earn an undergraduate degree in Crime scene investigation or a related program
The first requirement for becoming a professional CSI is to earn an undergraduate crime scene investigator degree. Although a high school diploma or General Education Development program is a minimum requirement for some positions.
Even so, many police departments and law enforcement agencies prefer a minimum of an associate’s (two-year) or a bachelor’s (four-year) degree in criminal justice or any other related program.
2. Get an On-The-Job-Training
After your crime scene investigator degree program, it is important that you get on on-the-job training to gain more experience. Real-life work experience will provide you with the intricate know-how employers are looking for when hiring for jobs.
Obtaining an internship or a job within the crime scene investigator field or similar will add to your educational background in this area and make you a more desirable candidate.
3. Get Certified
Getting a license for your practice as a crime scene investigator will add more credit to your job. There are so many professional bodies through which you can earn your certification.
The International Association for Identification (IAI) is one such professional body. You can earn certifications in bloodstain pattern analysis, forensic art, latent print, and forensic photography.
After this training, you may then consider taking a crime scene investigator’s master’s degree program.
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This article we believe must have answered most of the questions you may have on how you can gain a crime scene investigator degree. The steps given are trusted and proven. Our frequently asked question section answers further questions you may have. If you have any more questions, kindly use the comment section.
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