The position of a crime scene investigator (CSI), or a forensic examiner, is one of the best known careers in forensics. Responsible for evaluating the evidence at the scene of a crime, the CSI secures, packages, and labels physical evidence for evaluation and analysis.
The CSI is also responsible for preparing detailed reports on observations at the scene and activities conducted at the scene for the investigating law enforcement agency involved. He or she later testifies in court about the evidence found and the processing techniques used at the scene.
Typical cases of a crime scene investigator may include homicides, sexual assaults, home invasions, armed robbery, and crimes against property such as burglaries. The majority of work time is spent processing crime scenes, transporting evidence, attending autopsies and briefings, as well as meeting with law enforcement agencies needing assistance.
Other duties are testifying in court, maintaining equipment and supplies, and participating in continuing education.
Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Requirements
Not all agencies require a four year degree to become a crime scene investigator. Some states provide specific educational requirements that focus entirely on the forensic tasks of the job while others mention knowledge of chemistry, anatomy and criminal law that would require an undergraduate education or a significant amount of experience in a related field.
The educational requirements for a CSI are tightly focused on the duties associated with the position. One state that does not specifically require a completed degree program does set a minimum 720 hours of training in crime scene processing includes 80 hours of latent fingerprint processing training and 40 hours each in the areas of photography, death investigations, and interpretation of blood spatter with other courses in forensic pathology and arson investigation.
In addition, a Crime Scene Investigator may be required to demonstrate knowledge of law enforcement investigative methods and criminal prosecution as well as a thorough understanding of the pertinent case law and criminal law of the state as it applies to his or her profession. Skills needed for evidence processing must also include skills in the fields of chemistry, anatomy, and forensics. In many states, the CSI has the power of arrest and permission to carry a weapon as a sworn-in law enforcement officer (LEO).
Forensic Examiner Education and Training
Certification by the International Association for Identification (IAI) and Crime Scene Certification Board is required within 18 months as a forensic examiner. The applicant who has prepared by learning as much as possible about the duties of the job as it relates to the agency he or she hopes to work for will stand out in the interview. Initially, you may be hired as a crime scene technician and progress to the level of crime scene investigator after successfully completing a period of on the job training.
Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Salary
An entry level CSI will earn an average salary of $51,000 to $63,000. Salaries offered will be influenced by law enforcement experience, education and related experience.
Crime Scene Investigator Career Opportunities
As a professional forensic examiner you will have regular work hours but will also have weekends and nights when you are the CSI “on call” and may also be called if processing multiple scenes requires additional help.
Being available when needed and willing to respond quickly when called is a basic requirement for this career position.
Unlike forensic specialties that focus only on latent print analysis or photography, the CSI has some training and experience in all procedures utilized in processing a crime scene.
Upward mobility in your career can be achieved by moving to a crime scene investigator position with a larger law enforcement agency or an agency of the federal government or by qualifying for a supervisory position.
Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.