When you are considering a career in law enforcement, you may consider working in crime scene investigations. A CSI degree allows you to work within law enforcement gathering, documenting, and evaluating physical evidence left behind at a crime scene. When you are looking into CSI as a career, you will want to understand the proper measures required to ensure that you preserve evidence and are able to evaluate the information.
A career in CSI allows you to work with state or federal law enforcement. In some cases, a career as a CSI will require a strong background in science or related fields to evaluate information and clarify the details of certain evidence. Careers in CSI allow you to follow different paths or gain a specialized skill based on the type of crimes that you help solve.
What is CSI?
CSI careers are a type of law enforcement role that does not require you to work as a police officer. When you want to consider a career as a crime scene investigator, you have multiple options to start your career. A crime scene investigator career may start with more traditional law enforcement roles and then move into more advanced roles as you gain an education. You may also consider a CSI career path that starts with an education in criminal justice, crime scene investigation, or a field of science.
A few of the jobs in crime scene investigation include:
- crime scene technician
- crime scene analyst
- evidence technician
- crime scene photography
- computer forensics
Some of the skills you’ll learn to become a CSI include:
- crime scene technology
- blood spatter and bloodstain analysis
- collect evidence
Working in crime scene investigation requires strong critical thinking and communication skills. In forensic investigation, you’ll work with law enforcement officers, agencies like the FBI, and many others in the criminal justice system.
Is crime scene investigation a good career for your goals? It depends on your plans for your future and your career. Careers in crime scene investigation may offer interesting or unexpected moments throughout your career; however, you should be aware that the role does require patience, attention to detail, and focus to ensure that you properly document, preserve, and record evidence from a crime scene. If you are looking for a career that requires attention to detail, then it may be a good choice for your interests and your goals.
Accreditation for Schools with Crime Scene Investigation Programs
When you are looking into schools for CSI programs, you may have concerns about the potential for the school to have accreditation. Before you look at any college for CSI education, you want to make sure that you understand the types of accreditation that may apply to the program or the school.
Generally, you do not want to attend any college or university that does not have accreditation. Many employers will not hire professionals who attend a school that is not regionally or nationally accredited by an appropriate third party.
Crime scene investigator schools are not an exception when it comes to accreditation. You want to look for schools that offer CSI college majors with accreditation. You may consider colleges or universities that are regionally accredited by a third party, such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges or the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. As the name implies, regional accreditation is specific to a region of the United States.
You may also consider a crime scene investigation college that is accredited on the national level. National accreditation applies to the entire country and is often specific to a type of degree program. Colleges with crime scene investigation programs or criminal justice degree programs may be accredited by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. The accreditation shows that the school meets or exceeds the standards set by the third-party organization in relation to student education and gives employers confidence that students have the competence to manage the details of their work.
Types of CSI Degrees
Finding the right crime scene investigations degree program to fit your career goals can seem daunting. Degrees in crime scene investigation may fall into a variety of categories and areas of specialization. You may also consider crime scene investigation degrees that do not specify forensic science or crime scene investigation as the primary focus on the degree program.
When you decide to look at a degree for crime scene investigator careers, you can choose from three primary formats: traditional, hybrid, and online degrees. A traditional CSI degree allows you to work on your classes in a traditional classroom environment. You attend classes based on the availability on campus and you take face-to-face classes with a teacher.
A CSI online degree allows you to take your classes and course material online when it fits your schedule. It is more flexible when compared to a traditional degree; however, it also requires extra care when evaluating the program. CSI online degrees that are not accredited may not allow you to work in your chosen field, so you want to check into the accreditation of the school and the program before you decide to pursue the degree.
In many cases, CSI degrees online allow you to work or address concerns with personal obligations due to the flexibility of the program. You should be aware that the degree in CSI from an online school may encourage students to consider an internship or similar experience to gain hands-on skills in the field.
A CSI degree may also offer a hybrid format for students. Degrees for CSI programs that use a hybrid format will have some courses online and some classroom courses. In some cases, it is designed around adults who are working in law enforcement or other fields, so it may offer night or weekend classes rather than traditional classes. The hybrid classes may vary based on the program and the school, so you will want to evaluate the details of the program before you finalize your decision in relation to the format of the courses.
The second consideration after you evaluate the format of a CSI degree or school is the degree you need to start your career. What degree do you need for CSI work? It depends on your specific goals and plans. What degree do you need to be a CSI who works in chemistry and science? In many cases, you will want an undergraduate degree in forensic chemistry or a science degree. What degree is needed to be a crime scene investigator who works in the field? That depends on your role on a crime scene investigation team.
The education for a crime scene investigator can vary significantly between police departments and federal law enforcement departments. The degree needed for CSI work depends on the role you play in the department. If you gather and preserve evidence, then you may need a degree in forensic science or crime scene investigation. If you work on evaluating physical evidence using chemistry or other sciences, then you may benefit from a degree in chemistry, biochemistry, or physics.
Crime scene investigation education requirements vary, so you may be able to start your career using different paths. In most cases, the education for crime scene investigators starts with a bachelor’s degree. You may be able to work as an assistant to a crime scene investigator with a certification in forensic science or a related field; however, the education required for a crime scene investigator is usually a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, crime scene investigations, a related science, or a technology field.
In some cases, you can also consider specialized education within crime scene investigations. The crime scene investigator required education when you work in fraud and financial crimes may differ from the education required when you work in a lab to evaluate the physical evidence. The crime scene investigator education and training may also require time at a police academy in some states or local areas.
The decision to become a crime scene investigator allows you to work in a variety of positions and fields. You may work in technology, chemistry, or directly in the field with police officers. By ensuring that you have the right education and training to develop a strong foundation in CSI, you are able to start working with an appropriate law enforcement agency.
While you can get a job in forensics with a high school diploma or GED and on-the-job training, studying criminalistics and criminology in an associates degree or bachelor of science program will get you farther. With a master’s degree (like a master of science) you can go even farther. Higher education can get you into a higher-level CSI position from the start.
Licensing and Certifications for Crime Scene Investigations
After you complete your degree in crime scene investigation, you may consider pursuing CSI certification instead of a CSI degree. When it comes to CSI certification programs, you will want to evaluate the details of the certification carefully to ensure it fits your goals. CSI certifications may focus on specialized areas of investigations or general crime scene investigations.
You have a variety of options for a CSI certificate. You can consider crime scene investigator certification online or pursue certification through a college or university. If you are considering a crime scene investigation certificate online, you want to make sure it is a legitimate program and is accredited or acknowledged by an appropriate organization.
CSI certificate programs allow you to gain specialized skills in specific areas of crime scene investigation. For example, you can specialize in trace evidence or fire debris analysis by obtaining an appropriate certificate. You may also consider a generalized certification in forensic science or crime scene investigations if your bachelor’s degree focused on science, technology, or criminal justice.
A crime scene investigation certificate is not required by many police departments or law enforcement agencies. It may assist with your goals to ensure that you have specialized training or skills; however, most states and local areas do not require a license or certification to work in crime scene investigation. It is an optional addition to your degree that may offer a competitive advantage when seeking a career.
Career Opportunities With a CSI Degree
How do I become a crime scene investigator is a common question that may arise when you are looking into options for your career. Finding a crime scene investigator job does not always seem easy when you compare it to other industries. The primary reason you may have questions or concerns about how to get a job in crime scene investigation is the type of roles available through different police departments or law enforcement agencies. You may not be qualified for more advanced roles or jobs within the department, so you want to focus on entry-level CSI jobs.
Jobs in CSI may start with a career in law enforcement. When you work in law enforcement, you often work with crime scene investigators and you may find out about job opportunities available in your police department. The decision to look into how to start a career in crime scene investigation often begins with working in a police department or working with police.
CSI jobs may also be posted through traditional job boards and related services. When you are looking for CSI employment, you may be able to find opportunities through traditional methods. It is not always necessary to work with connections in the police department or federal law enforcement department to find out about entry-level opportunities.
The qualifications for crime scene investigator positions may also vary based on the types of CSI jobs you are considering in your career. The basic requirements to be a CSI focus on your education and training. You can start your career with a bachelor’s degree and gain specialized skills through certification or specific degree programs. In some cases, the requirements for CSI jobs will focus on experience as well as training and education. If CSI requirements for an advanced role require a specific number of years working as an investigator or in a related field, you may need to wait before applying to a similar position.
What does it take to be a crime scene investigator? Ultimately, that depends on the position you seek in your career. If you want to work in criminal investigations, then you may need to consider specific skills and training based on police work and the application of your skills to criminal work. On the other hand, if you plan to work in financial crimes or economic crimes, then you may need more training in computers and technology, as well as accounting, finance, and fraud investigation.
The specific training and skills you need depend on your role within the crime scene investigative team of a police department, state police, or federal law enforcement agency. You may work in a variety of different positions as a forensic scientist, crime scene investigator, or criminal justice professional. The standards for any position may vary based on the needs of the department, so you want to evaluate the details of a job description and the role before you apply for a position. Getting an entry-level position may only require general skills and knowledge; however, you may need more specific skills or training as you advance in your career.
Salary Potential for Crime Scene Investigation
Crime scene investigation salaries vary based on your role within a law enforcement department or agency. While specific crime scene investigator salaries may differ, you should be aware of the salary potential and the range of salaries that may apply to your education level and your experience.
How much does a crime scene examiner make each year? It ultimately depends on their level of experience, education level, and training. It also depends on their location and the work they perform for a law enforcement department or agency. When you are asking how much does a crime scene investigator make, you want to focus on the CSI salary range.
Average CSI salaries range from roughly $33,000 to roughly $79,000 per year. How much does a CSI make on average across the nation? Around $48,700 per year is the average salary of a CSI in most states and local areas. You should be aware that the average salary for CSI jobs may vary significantly based on your local area and the cost of living in your area.
Locations with a high cost of living, such as large urban areas, may have a higher average salary when compared to rural areas. You should also be aware that your role within a department may impact your salary. The starting salary for an entry-level position may be lower than the median or average salary for crime scene investigators. Furthermore, as you gain experience or advance in your education, you may qualify for a raise or a higher salary.
Generally, team leaders on a forensics or crime scene investigation team will make more when compared to the average. You may also earn more if you have specialized skills or training, such as working in forensic chemistry and evaluating evidence that requires the use of chemicals. For example, in crimes that may involve drugs or DNA, your specialized training in science and chemistry may result in a higher income. The exact income level you can expect when working in crime scene investigation varies widely, so you will want to evaluate your options based on the position, your training, your location, and your experience level.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that certain roles, such as a forensic science technician, may have a higher average salary when compared to a general crime scene investigator. You may earn an average of roughly $59,000 per year when you work in a lab or take on a technician role. Specialized skills and training impact your income potential. Positions within a police department that involve working in crime scene investigation and working as a detective or related position may also impact your salary potential. Evaluate the details of a position and your training to find the best CSI jobs to fit your long-term goals and career plans.
You should also keep in mind that you may earn more when working on the federal level when compared to a state or local level. Government positions or working in federal law enforcement may offer more opportunities for advancement, but it may also result in more complex cases or workloads. In some cases, you will need experience before you are able to obtain a position in federal law enforcement.
Professional Organizations Within Crime Scene Investigation
Professional organizations play a critical role in your long-term career opportunities and your plans for your jobs. The primary advantage of joining an organization for crime scene investigators is the opportunity to network with experienced professionals. The organization allows you to talk to other investigators, learn about their experiences, and network with individuals who may assist in your career goals. You may even find out about job opportunities through the organization in some situations.
The secondary benefit of a professional organization is the opportunity to meet continuing education standards for your career. Crime scene investigation is constantly changing as technology improves and new information becomes available. By ensuring that you keep up with the latest technology, tools, and information within the industry, you are able to keep up with your career goals.
You have a few organizations that may assist with your plans when you want to work in crime scene investigation. You can join the International Association for Identification, or IAI, to reach your career goals. The IAI is one of the most well-known organizations within crime scene investigations due to its long history. The organization was founded in 1915 and currently offers certifications, continued training, and useful resources to members of the organization.
Crime scene investigators may also join the American Academy of Forensic Science when they are looking into organizations for their career goals. The AAFS offers membership within different areas of forensic science and crime scene investigation, so you will want to ensure that you select the right type of membership based on your role, experience, and training. It does offer useful resources to help in your career and keeps you up-to-date through the journal of forensic sciences.
The International Crime Scene Investigators Association, or ICSIA, offers membership to crime scene investigators. It provides conferences where you are able to network and gain information about modern forensic science and tools used in crime scene investigation. It also provides information about job postings in different regions of the world, so you may have opportunities to work abroad in your field. As an international association, you are able to gain insights and perspectives from a wide array of sources, which may help when working on certain types of crime scenes that involve different cultural experiences or backgrounds.
Joining a professional organization or a few organizations may help with your career goals. It gives you the opportunity to learn about jobs, meet with others in your field, and continue your training to improve your skills. The key is focusing on the best options based on your goals for your career and your situation.