How Can I Become a Crime Scene Investigator?

CSI, the most watched TV show in the world, gives us a glimpse into how crime scene investigators seem to find invaluable forensic data that helps them solve the mystery of the crime and ultimately find the culprit, all well within the one hour time slot! While CSI does the job of glamming up the world of crime scene investigations beautifully, the reality is slightly different.

In reality there isn’t always forensic evidence to be found on the crime scene; secondly, the pace of the work can be slower than implied on TV shows, work hours can be long and erratic, and then there is the messy, unpleasant, and outright disturbing side of the work – autopsies, and having to deal with truly atrocious crimes. But despite all that, the truth is that crime scene investigation can be rewarding and satisfying work for the right kind of person.

Let’s look at what CSI work involves.

At any crime scene, there is usually a team of people that must initially arrive and help understand and document the situation. This includes the CSI, police detectives, a medical examiner, police officers to interview any witnesses, and relevant specialists who may needed to help analyze any specific evidence. The role of the crime scene investigator is to make sure the scene is secure, and to do an initial analysis of the situation and form potential theories. As such, the CSI must have the ability to analyze all the visual evidence available, and try to reconstruct how the crime could have possibly been carried out.

The crime scene investigator then collects and documents the evidence to be used for more detailed analysis and forensic investigation. This includes any fingerprints, DNA samples, blood samples, etc.

CSIs must therefore be trained in handling forensic data. Crime scene investigators are also responsible for storing and transporting evidence to the lab when necessary. CSIs may also assist pathologists and help in autopsies, and help in the forensic investigation side of the work depending on their expertise.

Next, let’s look at how one can go about becoming a crime scene investigator.

It is not uncommon for crime scene investigators to start somewhere else within law enforcement and then get transferred or promoted to CSI after serving somewhere else, providing they have gathered relevant experience and expertise from their previous work.

For instance, a police officer with a few years’ of experience in homicide may be promoted to a crime scene investigator after the proper training is given, if they have acquired enough relevant experience.

This is not to say that it is mandatory to be a police officer to be a CSI. There are civilian CSIs as well, and we’ll also look at how civilians can become CSIs.

Most departments require crime scene investigators to have a relevant two year associates degree or a four years bachelor’s degree. Relevant degrees include a major in forensic science, criminal justice, criminal psychology, criminology, crime scene investigation, pure sciences, etc.

CSI training is provided to investigators irrespective of whether they are civilians or police officers. Different departments may have different job profiles and qualification requirements. The best way to assess if you are qualified enough to apply is to contact the department.

A crime scene investigator must have the aptitude to understand the scene of the crime and think of possible theories of how it may have been perpetrated. CSIs must also be competent at collecting and handling evidence including blood, bodily fluids, DNA samples, etc. A crime scene investigator may have to work unsociable hours, handle emergencies, and be prepared to deal with gruesome and disturbing scenes.

About the author: Richard McMunn is the founder and director of the leading career website How2become.com. His aim is to help as many people as possible pass the recruitment process they are applying for to secure the job they really want. The website offers a wide range of books, dvds and courses for those who want to ensure they have every stage of the process covered. You can also connect with Richard and How2become on YouTube

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