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Crime Scene Investigation Career

Career Description

A Crime Scene Investigator investigates crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence.

Common Work Tasks

  • Specialize in areas such as DNA analysis or firearm examination, performing tests on weapons or on substances such as fiber, glass, hair, tissue, and body fluids to determine their significance to the investigation
  • Create collection and storage methods to protect evidence
  • Prepare reports to document their findings and the laboratory techniques used, and they may provide information and expert opinions to investigators
  • Give testimony as expert witnesses on laboratory findings by identifying and classifying substances, materials, and other evidence collected at the scene of a crime
  • Search for and collect evidence, such as fingerprints, using investigative equipment
  • Work closely with other experts or technicians
  • Compare crime scene fingerprints with those from suspects or fingerprint files to identify perpetrators, using computers
  • Consult either a medical expert about the exact time and cause of a death or another technician who specializes in DNA typing in hopes of matching a DNA type to a suspect

Other Job Titles

Crime Scene Investigators are also known by other titles,  including:

  • Police Officers
  • Forensic Scientists
  • U.S. Marshals
  • FBI Agents

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Crime scene investigators usually need a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, chemistry,  or biology. Whatever their degree, crime scene investigators usually need hands-on training either in school or on the job. Most can get good career preparation through 2-year formal training programs that combine the teaching of scientific principles and theory with practical hands-on application in a laboratory setting with up-to-date equipment. Graduates of bachelor’s degree programs in science who have considerable experience in laboratory-based courses, have completed internships, or have held summer jobs in laboratories also are well qualified for forensic science positions and are preferred by some employers.

Experience
      Communication skills are important because crime scene investigators are often required to report their findings both orally and in writing. In addition, they should be able to work well with others. Because computers often are used in research and development laboratories, crime scene investigators should also have strong computer skills, especially in computer modeling. Organizational ability, an eye for detail, and skill in interpreting scientific results are important as well, as are a high mechanical aptitude, attention to detail, and analytical thinking.

Salary

The median annual salary for a Crime Scene Investigator is $48,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $76,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $29,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of crime scene investigator are:

  • Local Government- $51,160
  • State Government  - $49,730
  • Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals -  $43,920
  • Investigation and Security Services  - $41,370
  • Federal Executive Branch  - $83,970

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  31%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 4,000
  • Employment 2006 : 13,000
  • Employment 2016:  17,000
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