How do I Become a Crime Scene Investigator?

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  • Written By: Margo Upson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 17 June 2017
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Crime scene investigators gather evidence at crime scenes. It is a very demanding job. A crime scene investigator could be called upon at any time of the day or night to attend to a crime scene. It is a job that requires a lot of dedication, hard work, and training. The path to become a crime scene investigator takes years of hard work, but it can be an interesting career for the right person.

The best time to get started in a career in crime scene investigation is in high school. Interested students should take extra courses in natural sciences, such as biology and chemistry. Physics is also a helpful course to take. Students should try to do well in mathematics, communication, and writing courses as well. To become a crime scene investigator, students need to know a lot of science and math, but being able to communicate those ideas is equally important.

Finding a college that has a forensic science and criminal investigation program is an essential step for those who want to become a crime scene investigator. A good program will have not only informative courses and a lot of hands-on opportunities in science labs, but also an internship program to give students a chance to get experience in the field before graduation. A strong internship program can make it much easier for a student to get a position as a crime scene investigator shortly after graduation.

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There are many courses that a college student who wants to become a crime scene investigator will have to take. Natural sciences are still important, but students will also get a chance to take courses in criminal investigation, criminal justice, and specialized courses in forensic science. Students will learn not only how to gather and process evidence, but also how to interpret reports from crime labs.

After graduation, the student's next step is to get a position in a similar career field. Most departments won't hire a crime scene investigator right out of college. Most students will be able to find work in a police department as an officer, and then work their way into a position with a crime scene investigation team. Alternatively, a student could work for a crime scene lab, building up experience before applying for an investigator position. Jobs can be found through online job boards, in trade publications, or by simply sending a resume and letter of interest to larger area police departments.

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Discuss this Article

ceilingcat
Post 6

I had no idea you had to work as a police officer before working as a crime scene investigator. For some reason I always thought these were two very different career paths!

That being said, I understand why someone couldn't just start working as a crime scene investigator right after they get done school. I guess I thought there was some kind of assistant position you could take and then move up from there.

KaBoom
Post 5

@JaneAir - I do have a few friends that knew what they wanted to "be when they grew up" since high school, but not many. I guess that's why they have that college prep track at most schools.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that anyone who is planning on becoming a crime scene investigator should definitely do an internship if your school offers one. Internships can help you make useful contacts in your industry and might even guarantee you a job after you graduate!

JaneAir
Post 4

It's interesting that the best time to start working towards becoming a crime scent investigator is in high school. I don't know very many people who knew what they wanted to do for a career in high school, or even during the first few years of college. A lot of people choose later, or end up doing something totally different than what they studied.

But luckily for people who want to know how to become a crime scene investigator, the classes they should take in high school are the regular college prep classes. I know when I was in high school, if you were on the "college prep track" you had to take biology, chemistry and physics.

So it seems like a lot of high school students are prepared to study to become a crime scene investigator even if it's not what they originally planned.

discographer
Post 3

@burcinc-- I'm in my first year in college and I'm studying criminology and forensic technology. It's different than criminal science or criminal justice. It's more directly related to crime scene investigation and so far, I like it a lot.

One thing I learned here from my instructors that I wasn't aware of before however is the background checks that take place before you are hired in this field. Apparently, there are a lot of restrictions as to who can be hired as crime scene investigators by law enforcement agencies. If someone has a criminal offense in their past, they might not be hired.

So that's definitely something else to consider before you apply for a program. You wouldn't want to get a degree in something that you're not eligible to work in.

fify
Post 2

@burcinc-- The TV show CSI had a huge impact in terms of increasing people's career interest in the field of criminal investigation. But the real job is not the same as it is portrayed on TV. I think some things are shown accurately, such as a crime scene investigator having to be available at any time of day to investigate crime.

But it's even more demanding than many people realize. My husband is a crime scene investigator and there have been times where he spent days at a crime scene trying to find evidence. Crime scene investigators don't only work in homes and streets, sometimes they have to look through trash and sometimes dirt.

I think it's a

good idea for people who are interested in this field to try and get acquainted with it as much as possible before actually being trained for it. Interviewing a crime scene investigator or spending a day with them would be very helpful and would give you a realistic opinion of the job.
burcinc
Post 1
I'm a senior in high school and ever since I've started watching programs about criminal investigation on TV, I've been thinking about becoming a crime scene investigator. I think it's very exciting and it requires a lot of attention to detail which I'm good at. I've also always done well in science classes so I think I would be good at forensic science.

Is anyone in college planning to be a crime scene investigator? Are you studying criminal justice? How do you like it?

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