While crime scene investigation isn't as glamorous as television shows make it out to be, it is interesting and important work.
Every crime scene holds the clues to solving the mystery of what happened before, during, and after the crime.
It is the job of the crime scene investigator, or CSI, to collect, preserve, transport, and document the physical evidence left at the scene. A CSI may also analyze evidence, such as bullets, fingerprints, or hair, although this requires specialized training in the laboratory techniques of forensic science.
A CSI must also take an organized, step-by-step approach to crime scene forensics. Nothing can be overlooked during the detailed, meticulous investigation. A crime scene investigator must have the technical skills to recognize and collect evidence, and must also be able to sample and photograph pertinent evidence.
Employers prefer (and many require) a college degree to work as a professional crime scene investigator. A crime scene investigation degree may be in a subject such as investigative forensics, criminal justice/crime scene investigation, or crime scene technology. To work in a crime lab, an entry level CSI needs to have a bachelor's degree in chemistry or biology. A well-rounded curriculum of biology, chemistry, law enforcement, and forensic science is a good starting point for a career in crime scene investigation.
A certificate in crime scene investigation can help a working CSI further develop the professional skills needed for career advancement. A typical crime scene investigation certificate includes courses such as fingerprint techniques, bloodstain pattern analysis, forensic digital imaging, handwriting examination, and crime scene photography.
Career colleges and universities offer crime scene investigation education programs both on-campus and online. Online programs provide the flexibility that working students need in order to balance their jobs, schooling, and personal lives.
The job titles of crime scene investigators are many, including criminalist, identification technician, forensic science specialist or technician, fingerprint examiner, and crime scene specialist, just to name a few.
Salaries vary by location, experience, and education. A degree in crime scene investigation gives the graduate a competitive advantage when seeking employment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the mean annual salary for a forensic science technician was $50,310 in 2007.
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