Crime Scene Investigator

So is being a crime scene investigator (CSI) as exciting and intriguing as television makes it out to be? Well that depends. There are a number of different categories and types of crime scene investigators and each plays a different investigative role. Traditionally, CSIs were law enforcement officers, but modern CSIs typically are not law enforcement officials. Crime scene investigators (CSIs) include criminalistics officers, forensic investigators, crime scene analysts, and crime and evidence technicians.

The following are a few of the job responsibilities of modern day CSIs:

  • Secure and tape off crime scenes
  • College and examine physical evidence
  • Produce drawings and diagrams of crime scenes
  • Photograph crime scenes
  • Document physical evidence found at a crime scene
  • Label and store evidence being sent to crime laboratories
  • Take picture of corpses during autopsies
  • Prepare reports about evidence and investigations
  • Testify as expert witness in courtroom proceedings

At crime scenes, CSIs collect hair, trace materials, blood and other body fluids and fingerprints. Once it's collected, evidence is transported following strict rules to laboratories. After arriving at the laboratory, forensic scientists review evidence. CSIs usually do not process collected evidence if they're not trained to analyze it. After scientists finalize their reports, CSIs are responsible for preparing reports reviewed by law enforcement officials and presented in court trials.

Work Environment

CSIs often encounter grisly and disturbing images. They also work odd hours, in various climates, and under stressful conditions. They should be prepared for:

  • Long hours, including night, weekend, and holiday hours
  • Unsanitary and smelly environments
  • Being required to follow strict procedures
  • Lifting heavy equipment
  • Every sort of climate
  • Witnessing gruesome images
  • Working in conditions that require strict attention to detail
  • Communicating with various professionals, including lawyers, laboratory scientists, and police officers

This can be a stressful and emotionally draining career. CSIs often have large caseloads and are required to conduct precise work during small timeframes. CSIs assigned to remain on call are often required to leave family activities.

Career Training and Education

Training requirements for CSIs vary by organization. Some organizations fill entry-level positions with applicants holding associate's degrees, while others only hire CSIs with bachelor's or graduate degrees and applicable work experience.

Education requirements also vary in each city, county, and state. If this career interests you, contact the sheriff's department in the county, or the police department in the city, you intend to work in. Some counties and cities assign experienced sheriffs or police officers to conduct crime scene investigations.

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Additionally, refrain from any type of criminal behavior. Potential CSIs are required to undergo thorough background investigations before being hired. It's not essential to have a perfect record, but background investigation agencies will inquire about any legal violations, including traffic tickets.

During college, you should major in forensic science, molecular biology, physics, biology, chemistry, or a related major. If you select forensic science, choose a program requiring 24 credit hours in biology or chemistry at a minimum. Regardless of your major, enroll in criminal justice, criminology, and law enforcement classes. Holding a master's degree will greatly enhance your career opportunities.

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