How To Become The Best Crime Scene Investigator: 6 Easy Steps

Evidence technicians, crime scene technicians, forensic investigators, crime scene analysts, and criminalistics investigators are all terms used to describe a crime scene investigator CSI.

Crime scene investigators make observations of the crime site. They take photos and measurements of the scene, identify and gather forensic evidence, and make sure the evidence is stored in the proper chain of custody.

To ensure that no one tampers with evidence, CSIs must always follow a “chain of custody.” Evidence will be thrown out by a judge if there are any signs of tampering, and prosecutors may have a difficult time achieving a conviction or perhaps have their case dismissed if there are any indicators of tampering.

Collecting evidence is a two-step process.

An initial walk-through provides an overview of the crime scene, detects dangers to the scene’s integrity, and assists the CSI in safeguarding any available evidence. Written and visual documentation serves as a lasting record of the crime scene’s initial condition.

The crime scene investigator will then prioritise evidence collection to avoid loss, destruction, or contamination. All team members must ensure that evidence is properly collected, preserved, packaged, and transported.

As you might anticipate, the job demands meticulous attention to detail, strong scientific and analytical abilities, and an inquisitive mind. And, if crime scene investigators are serious about bringing offenders to justice, they must be methodical and ethical, because any errors could jeopardise potentially crucial evidence.

Although there are numerous paths to becoming a crime scene investigator, the majority of them require a combination of rigorous coursework and on-the-job training, which can be obtained through law enforcement agencies or various internships at businesses, laboratories, and other forensic facilities.

Steps to Becoming a Crime Scene Investigator

Crime Scene Investigator
Photo by Campbell Jensen on Unsplash

Here’s one way to get started in this exciting new career:

Step 1: Learn About the Profession

One of the best things you can do is contact agencies in the region where you want to work and ask what their crime scene investigators accomplish on the job, what their minimum application criteria are, and how often they have employment opportunities.

Are there any openings for Crime Scene Technicians?

Forensic science technicians according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States Department of Labor, are someone who works to collect evidence, identify, classify, and analyze physical evidence pertaining to crime scene investigations.

The rising use of forensic science methods, such as DNA evidence and analysis, to study, solve, and prevent crime, should fuel employment development in state and municipal government.

Forensic science technicians earned a mean hourly income of $31.20 and a mean annual wage of $64,890 in May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 2: Obtain a Highschool Degree

Complete high school diploma. CSI candidates, both police-trained and civilian, normally have high school graduation. At this level, aspiring crime scene investigators could find it beneficial to look into various volunteer programs in criminal investigations across the country.

For example, secondary school students can participate in a CSI summer camp at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, which includes valuable laboratory and criminal justice training.

For interested high school and middle school kids, CSI Arizona sponsors a forensic science competition, as well as CSI training in crime scene investigation, obtaining evidence, and presenting conclusions. Young adults who are interested can contact their local police department.

Step 3: Enroll In a Police Academy or Pursue a Criminal Justice Degree

There are two common pathways for prospective CSIs at this stage. They have the option of enrolling in a law enforcement academy and receiving specialized crime scene investigator on-the-job training.

Most agencies require being at least 18 years old, having a driver’s license, and having no felony convictions on one’s record are all common requirements for entering police departments.

Aspiring crime scene investigators can also participate in a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, forensic sciences, biology, chemistry, natural sciences, or another relevant discipline.

Some students also seek internships to polish their crime scene investigator abilities at this point.

Crime scene investigators may need one or more years of experience in a relevant field, such as law enforcement or fingerprinting, depending on the position.

Step 4: Obtain Professional Certification

Fingerprint comparison
Photo by mohamed_hassan on Pixabay

After receiving some formal academic and on-the-job training, an aspiring crime scene investigator may wish to pursue a professional certification that may improve his or her work prospects.

Please keep in mind that the requirements for becoming a crime scene investigator differ by state and local government and law enforcement agencies too.

In general, there are no legal requirements for working as a crime scene investigator in the majority of states.

The state of Indiana is the only major exception to this rule. The Indiana Law Enforcement Agency (ILEA) has certified its CSIs, which necessitates a minimum level of training and experience, as well as passing an exam.

Many CSIs prefer to pursue certifications through various bodies for professional progress even in states where it is not necessary.

Crime scene investigators, crime scene analysts, and crime scene reconstructionists, for example, are the four main qualifications offered by the International Association for Identification.

A crime investigator can develop his/her career by taking courses and earning certifications from professional organizations like the International Association for Identification and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Blood spatter analysis or bloodstain pattern analysis, firearm identification, and latent fingerprinting are some of the topics covered in these classes.

Step 5: Apply For the Job

Have a well-written resume. Even if the agency doesn’t ask for one, including one with your application. It could mean the difference between landing an interview and landing a job.

Step 6: Tests and Interviews

Before your interview, make sure you have completed your homework. Find out more about the organization and the community it serves.

“What do you know about our department and what do you know about our community?” is a popular interview question. Be ready to respond to the standard inquiries.

Interviewing Tips, by Thomas W. Adair is an article you must read to get some interview preparation tips and tricks.

Individuals having 48 to 144 hours of formal training in the field are eligible for this. Candidates must be engaged full-time in “crime scene related duties,” and the application and assessment process are both required.

Professionals with at least two years of experience and 50 hours of crime scene processing courses can get a CSI certification from the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA).

Candidates must pass a 100-question exam and show proof of experience by submitting examples of crime scenes and forensic photography.

Interview Preparation Resources

Photo by Loren Cutler on Unsplash

There are several things you can do to prepare for the crime scene investigator job and the interview, regardless of your education and experience requirements.

Reading the content on this page will provide you with some information. However, if you truly want to be prepared, you must go above and beyond.

Agencies are more likely to hire people who have a clear grasp of the position they are applying for and have taken steps to prepare for it.

Reading the correct books is one approach to obtain information and prove that you have prepared yourself. The top 3 books you could read include:

  • Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation, 8th Edition: it describes the science of crime scene investigation. It covers the principles, tried-and-true methodologies and procedures, and technical data related to crime scene investigation.
  • Introduction to Fingerprint Comparison: An excellent resource for learning the fundamentals of fingerprint comparison. The reader is given a firm foundation on which to strengthen comparison skills through examples and quizzes.
  • Crime Scene and Evidence Photography, 2nd Edition: Suited for individuals who are in charge of the crime scene and laboratory photographs. It can be used by law enforcement officials, detectives, crime scene professionals, and forensic scientists. It includes directions for photographing a wide range of crime scenes and evidence. When combined with training and experience, it is a great reference tool.

Frequently Asked Questions about Crime Scene Investigators

Below are some frequently asked questions about the job post crime scene investigator.

What are the most valuable characteristics of a crime scene investigator?

Crime Scene Investigators are vital in assisting police officers and detectives in solving crimes by determining what happened during a crime. You must be trustworthy and credible.

You’ll require a variety of soft skills, including attention to detail, which will aid you to search and trace evidence at different crime scenes. You’ll also require excellent judgment and critical thinking skills to understand which materials can help solve crimes.

For gathering evidence and sharing critical findings with others, you’ll also need good written and verbal communication abilities. Crime scene investigators must be able to construct findings and deliver views with a high level of professionalism because they will be testifying at trials.

Working as a crime scene investigator is a physically demanding job that also needs a high level of visual and muscular dexterity. Crime scene investigators must have the ability to move their hands and arms over their shoulders, bend, stoop, and pick up items, and recognize the entire color spectrum.

How much do crime scene investigators get paid?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, crime scene investigators make an average of $60,590 a year. Those in the top 10% of the distribution of income earn more than $100,910 each year.

Crime scene investigators with a police academy background typically earn more money per year than those who have never worked as a cop. Individuals with advanced degrees and certifications typically earn more money than individuals with fewer qualifications. Professionals who work in urban regions earn more money than those who work in rural areas due to cost of living adjustments.

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

Typically, crime scene investigators and forensic technicians work full-time 40-hour weeks with overtime. On weekdays and weekends, you can work a number of shifts, including daytime, evening, and night hours. On holidays and other occasions, CSIs may be needed to work. As a crime scene investigator, you are frequently required to be accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to crimes that occur outside of regular office hours.

What does a crime scene investigator typically work with?

At each level of a crime scene investigation, CSIs collaborate with a varied group of people. At active crime scenes, you’ll have to collaborate alongside police officers, prosecutors, and also law enforcement officers. At laboratories, you’ll collaborate with other investigators and evidence technicians or forensic science technicians. During criminal cases, you will also work cooperatively with lawyers and other specialists. During autopsies and postmortem exams, you’ll also have to work with medical professionals, pathologists, and coroners.

Do crime scene investigators carry guns?

Crime scene investigators are required to carry weaponry, which they may be prompted to use in an emergency.

Is it necessary to be a police officer to work as a crime scene investigator?

No, becoming a crime scene investigator does not require becoming a police officer. A large number of crime scene investigators come from a variety of backgrounds. A degree in a natural or forensic science subject, such as chemistry or biology, or a degree relevant to the study of crime, such as criminology or criminal justice, is usually required from a crime scene investigator.

What makes a detective different from a crime scene investigator?

To work as a detective, you must first work as a police officer. However, being a crime scene investigator does not require prior experience as a police officer. Detectives collect evidence from the crime scene. Crime scene investigators then analyze evidence in order to obtain a scientific conclusion about that piece of evidence.

What are some related careers to crime scene investigating?

  • Forensic Artist
  • Criminalist
  • Forensic Investigator
  • Forensic Scientist

A career in crime scene investigation is both exciting and rewarding. So, if you’re goal-oriented, ethical, and want to assist in the prosecution of criminals by gathering or analyzing evidence, consider becoming a crime scene investigator.

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