If you think you already know how to become a crime scene investigator (CSI), think again! There is still much more to be learned aside from what we see on television. What often appears glamorous and effortless on screen can actually mean tons of hard work for a true-to-life crime scene investigator.
What is a Crime Scene Investigator?
A crime scene investigator (CSI) collects physical evidence from the crime scene for the purpose of determining the facts of the criminal case including the identity of the victim, when and how the crime took place, and the identity of the person or persons responsible for the crime. A CSI works closely with forensic technicians who have the job of analyzing and examining the pieces of evidence brought in to the laboratory by the CSI. The CSI also coordinates his work with persons of authority such as the police, military, and medical personnel.
There are two types of evidence used in resolving cases – the testimonial evidence and the physical evidence. Crime scene investigators are mainly concerned with the physical evidence. This would include all and any material items found on the crime scene. Putting such items through laboratory testing can either prove or disprove the facts as known. Sometimes, a crime cannot be explained by pure logic unless material evidence is presented to support one theory or the other.
Physical evidence can come in many forms including impressions such as fingerprints, tire tracks, and footwear; biological substances such as blood, semen, hair, and nail scrapping; trace evidence such as gun shot residues and fibers; and weapons such as cartridges and projectiles. It is the job of the CSI to process the crime scene and perform an organized approach in conducting the investigation. Improper handling of evidence usually leads to unresolved crimes.
Education and Training
Although there are law enforcement agencies that do not require a CSI to possess a degree, there is preference for those who do possess a bachelor’s degree due to the highly scientific nature of a CSI’s job. There are many possible courses of study to consider such as criminal investigations, criminal justice, crime scene forensics or forensic science, law enforcement, forensic psychology, and sociology. A degree in criminal investigations can provide general knowledge or at least three critical areas of study including forensic science, law enforcement, and technological advancements.
Criminal justice is a very popular degree program in the US because of the foundational knowledge it provides for different areas of law and criminal justice, and online criminal justice schools offer comparable education to traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Crime scene forensics provides learning in forensic science as utilized in law enforcement. All the rest provides their unique connection to the CSI job.
Becoming a CSI
Not everyone will find the job of a CSI to their liking. This job requires practitioners to have a methodical approach, patience, attention to detail, logical and deductive reasoning, good communication skills, team attitude, and a strong stomach for collecting physical evidence from cadavers. A person who believes that he has these traits should complete the required education and apply in the preferred agency. It is necessary to learn the job and prepare for it since different agencies may have different ways of doing things. Applicants must be ready to pass a written test and complete an interview. How to become a crime scene investigator is actually not very difficult to understand but may be very challenging to do.