The glamorous and exciting world of the CSI television shows has brought the role of crime scene investigator to millions of people. While there is some truth to the fictional portrayal of a CSI, there is a lot more to the reality of the actual career.
Crime Scene Investigation
The goal of a Crime Scene Investigation Unit within a local police force or federal agency is to support law enforcement in the areas of crime scene processing, fingerprint identification, and other forensic studies. The work involves the collection, preservation, packaging, transportation, and documentation of crime scene evidence that can include bodily fluids, hair, fabric, paint samples, and entire objects, such as windows, doors, and even automobiles.
Most individuals working in this sort of police unit go by the title of crime scene investigator. However, there are several alternate names for the same occupation. Titles include evidence technician, crime scene technician, forensic investigator and crime scene analyst, among others.
Becoming a Crime Scene Investigator
The requirements to become a crime scene investigator vary among different law enforcement agencies. A CSI can be a police officer or a civilian, but both require a formal education in criminal justice to fully understand the intricacies necessary to succeed along this career path.
Individuals with a criminal justice degree will be in an especially advantageous position to move forward with their goals to become a crime scene investigator. There is a great demand for established professionals to enter – and advance – within the ranks of law enforcement. Earning your master of criminal justice can help prepare you for a successful career by broadening your understanding of essential topics. You’ll gain knowledge of how crimes are investigated, the precautions that must be taken, and the ethical considerations that come into play during the collection and analysis of evidentiary data.
A strong criminal justice program can teach you the important elements of crime scene research, both in the field and in the lab. You’ll learn how to conduct research on your own, as well as how to analyze data that comes from other sources. A good crime scene investigator will also be comfortable with taking photographs, an extremely useful skill when documenting evidence throughout an investigation.
There are many opportunities to secure your master of criminal justice degree from an accredited university, either on campus or online. Many of the best criminal justice programs available today don’t require any campus visits, which is especially helpful for working professionals who need to juggle competing priorities and obligations.
Career Outlook for Crime Scene Investigators
The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the job of crime scene investigator under a forensic science category that includes individuals who work in the field as well as in crime laboratories. Nonetheless, projections estimate 20 percent job growth, which is much higher than the average for most careers. Some of this growth is due to an aging workforce whose retirement will open up job vacancies. An increase in the availability and application of investigative tools to help examine, solve, and prevent crimes is also spurring opportunity for crime scene investigators.
Annual wages reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for forensic science technicians range from a low of $32,200 to a high of $85,210, indicating a median salary of $55,730. Actual job postings found online at crime-scene-investigator.net listed the following pay scales for a number of directly related positions:
Crime Scene Investigator: $46,164 to $56,523 Police Identification Specialist: $35,619 to $56,991 Forensic Identification Specialist II: $67,060 to $83,311 Latent Print Technician: $64,813 to $75,504 Forensic Scientist Trainee: $46,815 to $78,319 Forensic Science Section Supervisor: $69,950 to $104,416 Criminalist: $64,937 to $110,873
Choosing a career as a crime scene investigator requires both passion for the profession and the ambition to advance your criminal justice education. You’ll also need a deeply analytical mind, the ability to see what isn’t readily apparent, and the desire to serve the public in a critically important way.
Laura Mingo writes in the field of higher education. This article aims to offer career advice for university students in relation to criminal justice and promotes the benefits of advanced study regarding a criminal justice degree online.