Becoming a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) is a very rewarding career choice. You get to help solve crimes and catch the bad guys, which can make the world a safer place. But what does it take to become a CSI? What kind of education and experience do you need? And what kind of work will you be doing on the job?
In this article, we’ll discuss the CSI career path, what it takes to become a Crime Scene Investigator, the typical education needed for this profession, salary information, and more.
1. What Is a CSI?
A Crime Scene Investigator or CSI is a person that performs work typically assigned to police. The CSI serves warrants, collects evidence, maps out crime scenes, and creates reports. CSIs are typically assigned to police departments in smaller cities where they investigate the scene of any reported crimes.
CSI has an incredibly unique job as they investigate crime scenes, gather evidence, and give testimony in court. Often times CSIs work closely with the police and detectives to find evidence that links a suspect to a crime scene.
When a CSI is called out to a crime scene, they typically have no idea what they are going to find – which can be quite dangerous indeed. The CSI must always be on their toes as there’s never any telling how the scene may have been altered.
A CSI can work any type of case, from simple theft to the more complicated homicide case. While each crime scene is different, every crime scene has its own set of rules and procedures which need to be followed in order to gather evidence successfully.
For example, there are certain steps that must be taken when investigating a homicide. CSIS must immediately establish a perimeter around the scene to prevent any outside contamination.
CSI that are assigned to investigate homicides is called Crime Scene Reconstructionists, which are oftentimes tasked with finding evidence linking the suspect(s) to the scene of a crime.
2. What Are the Responsibilities of a CSI?
CSIs are responsible for investigating crime scenes, gathering evidence, and helping the police solve crimes. They may be called out to any reported type of crime, including (but not limited to) homicides, assaults, burglaries, and sexual abuse cases.
A CSI must follow strict rules when investigating a crime scene as they can influence the outcome of their investigation. For example, when investigating a homicide, the CSIs must establish a perimeter around the scene so that it is clear of any bystanders or civilians. The CSI may also interview witnesses and suspects to find out information about the scene prior to their arrival.
The responsibilities of CSIs can be dangerous at times as they are often just feet away from the suspect. They are also required to give testimony in court concerning their findings, which can be an intimidating experience for many CSIs.
3. What Education Is Required to Become a CSI?
While it’s possible for some people to break into this profession with just an ordinary high school diploma, it is recommended that you have at least an Associate degree or a postsecondary certificate before attempting to land a job as a CSI.
Although CSI typically has no formal education requirements, most employers will require you to have at least an Associate degree in Criminal Justice, Criminology, or a related field.
CSIs that are assigned to homicide cases usually have a Bachelor of Science degree in Forensic Sciences. These types of degrees are typically offered only at the graduate level; therefore, it is possible for people with just an undergraduate degree to land a job as a CSI.
4. What Type of Salary Can I Expect?
As with any profession, salaries vary greatly based on the geographical location of the city. According to Indeed.com, the average annual income for CSIs was $51,000, which is certainly lower than many other professions in larger cities.
According to a survey conducted in 2012 by the National Forensic Science Technology Center, salaries for CSIs ranged from a low of $14,000 per year to a high of $80,000 per year.
5. What Are Some Potential Dangers Involved with Being a CSI?
Every crime scene that is investigated by CSIS has the potential to be dangerous. CSIS never know when they are entering a scene if the suspect is still lingering around and may want to dispose of any evidence against them.
CSI works closely with law enforcement agencies, and therefore their cases sometimes go to trial, which can be extremely intimidating for many people.
6. Do I Need Prior Experience in Order to Become a CSI?
No prior experience is required in order to become a CSI; however, it is recommended. It can give job seekers an advantage over other candidates who don’t have any prior knowledge or experiences that relate to the position.
While it’s possible for some people to get hired by having no prior experience, most CSIs begin their careers working as police officers or investigators. In this way, they can acquire invaluable knowledge that can later be applied to their careers as CSI.
7. What Other Skills or Traits Are Recommended for a Person Interested in Becoming a CSI?
The traits that are most beneficial for a person who wishes to become a CSI include:
- Attention to detail – CSIs must notice even the smallest details at a crime scene, which takes patience and keen observation.
- Problem-solving – CSIs must be able to solve problems quickly and efficiently in order to avoid delaying an investigation.
- Interpersonal skills – Since the job of a CSI is often to communicate with law enforcement officials, CSIs must be able to handle stressful and tense situations without resorting to aggression.
- Self-motivation – CSIs typically work long hours and rarely get breaks during an investigation; therefore, they must be driven and motivated in order to continue working throughout their shift.
- Organizational skills – CSIs must be able to keep track of all evidence at a crime scene; therefore, it’s beneficial for them to have good organizational skills.
- Computer literacy – Technology is constantly advancing in the field of forensic science, which means that CSIs are required to stay up-to-date with new technological advancements.
8. Can I Work in Another Field While Preparing to Become a CSI?
Yes, it is recommended for aspiring CSIs to gain some type of experience before beginning their career. This can be achieved by working in any number of fields that will provide you with the necessary knowledge.
One notable example is being an assistant at an autopsy, which gives you the opportunity to learn how to collect and preserve important evidence at a crime scene.
With the right training and experience, you can enter the field of forensics with a big advantage over other job seekers.
9. What Are Some Skills I Will Gain After Becoming a CSI?
While working as a CSI, your most important skill will be finding evidence at crime scenes; however, there are many additional life skills that you will gain by becoming a CSI. Some of these skills include:
Critical thinking – CSIs must be able to find and analyze evidence quickly and efficiently in order to reach the most accurate conclusions.
Working knowledge of law enforcement – The most important cases that are worked by CSIs will likely be given to them by law enforcement officials; therefore, they must have a working knowledge of how law enforcement conducts their investigations.
Leadership – CSIs will be expected to assume a leadership role when working on the scene, especially if there is no other person in charge present. Sometimes this means that they must take control of the event and make decisions for themselves.
An understanding of science – In order to work as a CSI, you must have a strong understanding of the scientific principles involved in their work as well as how these principles can be used to solve crimes.
This is because CSIs need to use science as a method for finding evidence at crime scenes and using this evidence to solve crimes.
10. What Is the Job Outlook for a CSI?
The job outlook for a CSI is positive, and it’s expected to grow in the coming years. There are several factors that contribute to this:
A continuing advancement in technology – As technology continues to develop, new technologies will be available, which can lead to improved efficiency and accuracy for CSIs.
An increase in criminal activities – The aging population (people over the age of 65) might decrease due to lower crime rates within this population; however, it’s expected that the number of crimes committed by young adults will increase in the coming years.
Higher demand for forensic services – As society continues to move forward, more and more attention is being paid to legal proceedings (including criminal proceedings), which could lead to an increase in forensic sciences, including crime scene investigation.
The number of law enforcement officials – The number of police officers has increased steadily over the past several years; however, it’s expected that this rate will slow down due to budget cuts within local governments.
11. What Does a Typical Day Look Like?
The average day for a CSI is varied and includes several different responsibilities. Some of these include:
Performing tests on evidence – CSIs will perform tests on the collected evidence to determine what it is, as well as whether or not it can be used to solve a crime.
Examining the scene – If the location where the crime occurred is still present (such as a house or building), then CSIs will examine it for evidence.
Working on cases – If the collected evidence was found to be of significance, then the CSI might work with law enforcement officials to investigate and solve crimes.
Writing reports – They may also be required to write up a report of their findings after the completion of a case.
12. Best Colleges to Study Crime Scene Investigation
The best college to study crime scene investigation is one that offers a solid education with hands-on experience. Additionally, some colleges are more competitive due to their smaller size or rigorous requirements for acceptance.
Two of the top schools are the University of Florida and Michigan State University. At these universities, students can pursue undergraduate degrees in either criminal justice or forensic science, which are accredited by the Forensic Career Association.
However, both of these schools are slightly more competitive than some other universities. At the University of Florida, for example, only freshman applicants who have completed specific high school courses are eligible to apply.
Other schools that can offer students a degree in crime scene investigation include:
Palm Beach Atlantic University (located in West Palm Beach, FL) offers an undergraduate degree in criminal justice.
The University of Central Florida (located in Orlando, FL) offers an undergraduate degree in criminal justice.
The University of Illinois at Chicago (located in Chicago, IL) offers undergraduate degrees in both criminology and sociology that can include areas of study such as crime scene investigation.
Trinity College (located in Hartford, CT) offers an undergraduate degree in forensics and a minor degree in criminalistics and criminology.
The CSI career path is a challenging and rewarding one. If you are interested in becoming a crime scene investigator, it is important to do your research and understand the requirements of the job. There are many different specialties within crime scene investigation, so make sure you find the right fit for you. With hard work and dedication, you can become a successful CSI and help solve crimes that would otherwise go unsolved. Good luck!!!