How to Get a Job in Crime Scene Investigation

Written by James Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

A crime scene investigator career is not for the faint of heart. Investigators are called to crime scenes such as homicides, sexual assault cases, burglary, armed robbery, and home invasions. Even in gruesome, violent crime scenes, investigators have to remain calm and professional.

Crime does not happen on an 8-5 Monday through Friday schedule. Crime scene investigators must be prepared to work any time of the day or night, often working more than 40 hours a week.

Once crime scene investigators reach a crime scene, one of their first responsibilities is to observe the crime scene to determine what evidence needs to be collected and preserved. Some investigators take their own photographs of the crime scene, victims, and potential evidence. Some investigators may work with a photographer who takes on the responsibility of visually documenting the crime scene. Crime scene investigators make drawings of the crime scene and make notes on what they see.

Perhaps the most important part of a crime scene investigator's responsibilities include collecting any evidence such as fibers, weapons, fingerprints, drugs, bodily fluids, or anything else that may help solve the case. Evidence must be properly collected, documented, transported to the crime lab, and studied at the lab.

Once the evidence has been studied, the investigator prepares a report of his or her findings to give to the detectives working the case. Occasionally an investigator will need to testify in court regarding the evidence at the crime scene.

Crime Scene Investigator Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for crime scene investigators was just over $50,000 in May of 2010. The lowest wages were in the $30,000 range while the highest wages were around $82,000. Salary will vary depending on education, experience, and the agency level where employed. For example, those working with the FBI may earn more than investigators at the local level.

Job Requirements for a Crime Scene Investigator

Crime Scene Investigators with a bachelor's degree will have more opportunities for their career than someone without a degree. Majors in criminal justice, forensics, biology, chemistry, or crime scene investigation are beneficial.

Investigators must pass a background check, polygraph exam, a physical, and a psychological evaluation as part of the hiring process. Once hired, new investigators work with experienced investigators until they are ready to work alone.

Schools For Crime Scene Investigation

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