Crime Scene

Televisions shows like CSI and Bones have garnered a lot of attention for crime scene investigation. While the fictional investigators featured on these shows make the job appear glamorous by always cracking the case using high-tech equipment and fancy investigative techniques, the same is not true for real-life crime scene investigators.

There is little doubt that crime scene investigation is an interesting job. Investigators who respond to the scene of a crime are responsible for collecting the physical evidence that later can be used to prosecute the perpetrator. They collect data that includes fingerprints and footprints, hair and fibers, trace materials and biological evidence such as bodily fluids. It can be greatly rewarding to help collect the evidence that later will convict a perpetrator.

However, unlike their counterparts on TV dramas, real-life crime scene investigators do not process their own evidence and they do not always have access to amazing, high-tech machines that spit out results almost instantaneously. That work is carried out by forensic scientists, and generally they do not have the kind of new-age equipment depicted on TV shows. The main job of an investigator is to assess the scene and gather important physical evidence.

Required Skills and Education

There are many skills required for working in the field of crime scene investigation. The ability to communicate is a top skill, as crime scene investigators often are called to testify at trials. Advanced math and science knowledge also is required, as well as the ability to be logical and analytical while examining a crime scene.

A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in crime scene investigation is required to work in the field. This degree takes four years to complete and will include coursework in the following areas: history of the criminal justice system; research techniques, crime scene photography and sketching; latent prints/fingerprint identification; blood patters and crime scenes; ballistics and firearm identification; courtroom testimony; report writing; and public speaking/communications.

Some crime scene investigators are sworn police officers who have completed their training through the police academy in lieu of earning a formal education from a college or university.

Graduate-level programs also are available in crime scene investigation. Also known as a master’s degree, these programs are intended to further sharpen investigative skills and techniques. While they are available, they are not required in order to work in the majority of jobs within the industry.

Future Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, crime scene evidence collection is an important component in the successful prosecution of criminals. Demand for qualified crime scene investigators is expected to increase by 19 percent over the next decade, which is above the average growth rate for other business and industry during the same time period.

Crime scene investigators can expect to earn an average annual salary of $55,660. Those who work as federal crime scene investigators – who require more advanced degrees and training – can expect to earn roughly $96,000 per year.

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