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Key Infor­ma­tion:

  • A CSI degree opens up var­i­ous roles in law enforce­ment and foren­sic sci­ence, such as crime scene tech­ni­cian, ana­lyst, and evi­dence tech­ni­cian. These roles involve gath­er­ing, doc­u­ment­ing, and eval­u­at­ing phys­i­cal evi­dence at crime scenes.
  • The pro­gram teach­es crit­i­cal skills like crime scene tech­nol­o­gy, bal­lis­tics, and blood­stain analy­sis, prepar­ing grad­u­ates for detailed foren­sic work.
  • Most posi­tions in CSI require at least a bachelor’s degree in crim­i­nal jus­tice, foren­sic sci­ence, or a relat­ed field. High­er edu­ca­tion, like a master’s degree, can lead to more advanced posi­tions in the field.

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
  • bal­lis­tics
  • blood spat­ter and blood­stain analysis
  • autop­sies
  • 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.

Relat­ed Rankings:

25 Best Bach­e­lor’s in Crime Scene Investigation

15 Best Online Bach­e­lor’s in Crime Scene Investigation

10 Fastest Online Bach­e­lor’s in Crime Scene Investigation

10 Most Afford­able Bach­e­lor’s in Crime Scene Investigation