How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator
Crime scene investigators are forensic technicians and forensic scientists who collect data and evidence from scenes where a crime has taken place. They look for fingerprints and DNA samples and also take photographs of the crime scene. As part of their responsibilities, criminal investigators must write reports and record observations. Sometimes they may be required to draw or recreate scenes as well. Once they have gathered all the information that they need, crime scene investigators usually go on to work in a laboratory, where they analyze evidence and use results from their analyses to help narrow down suspects and criminal methods.
Crime scene investigators should be emotionally strong and prepared to gather evidence from a variety of criminal scenes, including areas where violent crimes have taken place. They should be highly organized with strong communication and writing skills. In addition, they should be comfortable working in laboratories with computers and different types of technology. The most qualified crime scene investigators will have excellent problem-solving skills as well.
Education & Training
Before candidates can qualify for crime scene investigation positions, they should consider earning a degree. The best degrees for crime scene investigation are bachelor’s degrees in forensic sciences or natural sciences. Class work should include mathematics, biology, and classes to develop critical thinking as well as laboratory skills. Students should learn how to write reports and record observations as well. Due to the fact that crime scene investigators work in teams, classes should also include group work and encourage the development of good communication skills. The best crime scene investigation programs will also provide classes in psychology.
However, earning a degree is not enough to qualify a crime scene investigator for independent responsibilities. All potential crime scene investigators need to be trained. Therefore, many law enforcement agencies have crime scene investigators start their careers as assistants to experienced investigators. While under such an apprenticeship, trainees will learn how to use laboratory equipment and analyze different aspects of a crime scene. In most cases, crime scene investigators will be given an exam before they can qualify for independent work.
As part of the hiring process, crime scene investigators will undergo interviews and background checks. Their skills with laboratory equipment may be assessed as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), crime scene investigators – also known as forensic science technicians – earn around $51,570 annually. The top 10% earns approximately $82,990 yearly, while the bottom 10% earns around $32,900 yearly. Exact salary figures will vary based on experience, education, location, and the employer. The BLS also reports that the field is projected to grow by 19% by 2020.