How Do You Become a Crime Scene Investigator?

Thanks to the popularity of some films and television shows, the interest in crime scene investigation is higher than ever, and many high school and college students want to know what it takes to become a crime scene investigator. They imagine working with the local police department, examining evidence and testifying in court to put bad guys behind bars. The job actually involves a high level of independent research and other skills. You can develop those skills when you follow some specific steps.

Get the Right Education

The bare minimum level of education that you need to work as a CSI tech is a bachelor’s degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends that students look at colleges with programs accredited by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Programs accredited by the AAFS teach students how to examine and collect evidence and run tests on the evidence. Many positions also require that forensic technicians have a master’s degree as well. Some police departments hire those with a bachelor’s degree with the agreement that those workers will earn their advanced degrees within several years of accepting those positions.

Develop the Necessary Tech Skills

To become a crime scene investigator, you need to have some specific tech skills and other skills. CSI technicians run tests on blood and other fluids, but they also examine bullet fragments, trace elements and other types of evidence. You need to have a strong understanding of those tests and how those tests work. You’ll also want to know more about the different databases that techs run the results through to find proof of other crimes or the criminal who committed those crimes. Other skills needed for the job may include strong decision making, communications, problem solving and reasoning skills.

Train on the Job

On the job training is an important step associated with investigation teams. Even if you have a master’s degree and several internships under your belt, the agency will still want to know that you can handle the tasks and duties of your job. Most techs spend six to 12 months working in the laboratory and running tests before they can gain any field experience. You may need to work under a supervisor for several additional months in the field before working on your own.

Other Steps You May Need to Take

Many police departments require that those interested in how to become a crime scene investigator go through the police academy. This varies from city to city, but many cities now require that CSI techs be police officers as well. This gives you the legal right to carry a gun with you to the scene and arrest criminals relating to the case. Most police academies ask that recruits live on-site for several months as they complete their training. Depending on the department, you might find that getting certified leads to further job opportunities. The AAFS offers some certification programs that you can complete on nights or weekends.

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Crime scene investigators, sometimes called forensic technicians, work both in the laboratory and in the field. They gather evidence that police use to arrest criminals, and the courts can use that evidence to convict criminals. Going to college, going through the police academy, possessing the right skills and getting certified can help you become a crime scene investigator.