How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator in the USA

One of the many occupational titles used to identify people who find, record, and preserve every piece of evidence at a crime scene is “Crime Scene Investigator.” This page will provide information on how to become a crime scene investigator (CSI) as well as a general overview of the field. Everything about how to become a criminal investigator will be covered, from educational prerequisites and career routes in CSI to job responsibilities and income data for CSIs.

What is a Crime Scene Investigator?

The job of a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) is to gather every piece of evidence from a specific crime scene. Most frequently, they work for local, state, or federal law enforcement, however, science-trained individuals may also be competent. Because of the value of these observational specialists’ expert testimony in the courtroom, they are also essential during trials.

What Does a Crime Scene Investigator Do?

CSIs are basically highly trained forensic scientists on call. Most CSIs work a standard forty-hour work week with standard hours, with only some variation due to specific cases. They do not do their data collection in a laboratory; it is done primarily out in the field. Crime scene investigators must take extraordinary care in all facets of the job. Extremely careful collection of evidence with completely sterile equipment is imperative.

Every CSI must be able to testify in court about the evidence collected at a crime scene. While on the stand, they must ensure that the evidence was collected and documented correctly.

Crime Scene Investigator Job Duties

What is a CSI’s role? To aid in identifying and preserving evidence from crime scenes, law enforcement agencies and coroner’s offices frequently use them. They make notes at the crime scene that they can later utilize, along with pictures and other information, to write a report about what they saw. It is their responsibility to examine the scene for any potential evidence, such as furniture, clothing, hair, or other bodily fluids. Additionally, they take precautions by donning gloves, shoe covers, and occasionally even masks or hazmat suits. This is to protect the scene from contamination in any way.:

  • Work in tandem with state and federal law enforcement.
  • Secure crime scenes to prevent evidence from being damaged or tampered with
  • Take exact measurements of every location they encounter.
  • All physical evidence should be photographed, with a scale to determine the exact size of the object being captured.
  • Record and safeguard all physical evidence.
  • Attend autopsies and take photos there.
  • Upkeep of laboratory and outdoor equipment.
  • Testify in court about the evidence they gathered at the crime scene.

How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)?

Becoming a CSI takes a step-by-step process. The job can be rewarding as well as very technical because it deals a lot with unraveling crimes and what led to them.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in a Related Field

It’s critical to have a prior understanding of the fundamental duties of a crime scene investigator. You can equip yourself with the knowledge you need to be successful as a crime scene investigator by earning a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, or a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Any of these bachelor of science degrees will allow you to pursue further education in the field or find employment after graduation.

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Crime Scene Investigator Job Training

Typically, forensic science technicians and crime scene investigators are trained on the job. Before taking on cases independently, many law enforcement organizations require new CSIs to successfully complete intensive training programs. For up to a year, newly hired crime scene investigators may assist more seasoned detectives. The right methods for gathering and recording evidence, photography, fingerprint analysis, processing death scenes, and blood spatter analysis are frequently covered in training.

Additionally, during their careers, investigators and technicians must continue their education in order to stay abreast of the latest developments in science and technology. CSIs may need to pass recurring proficiency exams to prove that they are knowledgeable about the most recent tools and procedures because scientists are constantly developing new tactics and tools for gathering evidence.

There are no universal licensing criteria to become a CSI because standards and certifications for investigators vary greatly from country to jurisdiction. To help CSIs progress in their careers, professional associations like the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the International Association for Identification provide a range of training programs and certifications. These classes might cover material like latent fingerprinting, firearm identification, and analysis of bloodstain patterns.

Earn CSI certifications and State licensure

The criteria for obtaining a state license as a crime scene investigator vary by state. Depending on the crime scene investigator specialty you want to master, you can acquire a variety of certifications through the International Association for Identification (IAI) to advance your career. Bloodstain pattern analysis, forensic art, latent print, and forensic photography are some of the credentials available.

Crime Scene Investigator Salary

Careers in criminal justice can pay well, if not higher. The BLS reports that the median annual compensation for CSI and forensic science technicians is $60,590, with the top 10% of earners getting more than $100,910. According to the BLS, there will be a 14% increase in demand for forensic science technicians between 2019 and 2029, adding around 2,400 alternative employment during that time.

Many alternative options exist for jobs in criminal justice. While individuals who work for the federal executive arm of government make an average yearly salary of $111,880, detectives and criminal investigators employed by local governments make an average annual salary of $77,120.

Training, work experience, education level, and region all affect a Crime scene investigator’s salary. The professional’s agency has a significant impact on salary. For instance, CSIs employed by state and municipal governments often make more money than technicians employed by testing labs, medical labs, and diagnostic centers.

CSIs with police academy training frequently make more money each year than those without prior law enforcement experience. Those with advanced degrees and certificates frequently enjoyed higher salaries than those of people with fewer credentials. Professionals who work in metropolitan regions typically earn more money than those who work in rural areas due to cost of living adjustments.

Crime Scene Investigator Requirements

Different training is needed for each crime scene specialist. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in crime scene investigation is the most typical educational background for general CSIs. They could also offer crime scene investigation degree programs, depending on the school. Depending on what your college provides, you can also begin with an associate degree and subsequently pursue a bachelor’s degree, or you can consider double majoring with a bachelor’s degree in two topics, such as forensic science and criminal justice.

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They cover many of the same topics in the programs above. You’ll most likely need to complete a few standard courses at your college in order to declare your desired major:

Introduction to the Criminal Justice System

Understanding the policing, legal system, and corrections, which include parole and probation, will be made easier with the aid of the introduction to the criminal justice system.


Math is a crucial component of many forensic investigations.

English composition

All CSIs are required to produce clear, succinct reports.

Physical and Biological Science

The scientific underpinnings of forensic experts’ investigation of the evidence are in the fields of physical and biological science.

After that, you will go further into your subject and learn more about assembling evidence and other aspects of criminal justice. You’ll need to finish courses like these along the way:

Crime Scene Investigation

Crime scene investigation teaches you how to examine crime scenes, gather evidence, and document what you discover.

Forensic Fingerprint Analysis

Preparing forensic fingerprint analysis is the process of “reading” fingerprints and comparing them to those in the FBI fingerprint identification system, the world’s biggest collection of criminal fingerprints.

Forensic Chemistry and Trace Evidence Analysis

Depending on your area of expertise, you might examine fibers, hair, soil, wood, gunshot residue, pollen, and more with forensic chemistry and trace evidence analysis.

Supervisory Techniques in Criminal Justice

Some people want to work for law enforcement as managers. It will cover the methods for supervising other criminal justice professionals in this course.

Crime Scene Investigator skills

An ideal applicant for the position of Crime Scene Investigator possesses the following required knowledge and abilities:

Legal knowledge: Crime scene investigators frequently collaborate with law enforcement authorities and use their legal expertise to adhere to tight protocols.

Problem-solving: Crime scene investigators use their knowledge in locating evidence to assist law enforcement in figuring out what took place at the crime site.

Photography: Crime scene investigators use photography to record tangible evidence while they are working at the crime scene. They snapshots from various perspectives while appropriately lighting the subjects they are photographing.

Detail-oriented: Crime scene investigators search for physical evidence, including DNA, chemical evidence, and impressions that may be barely perceptible or that may require a chemical test to become evident.


Evidence technicians, crime scene technicians, forensic investigators, crime scene analysts, criminalistics officers, and other terms are all used to refer to crime scene investigators (CSIs).

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Most C.S.I-crime scene investigations in the past had police training. In actuality, the majority still operate from police stations today. However, individuals with scientific skills are increasingly being granted the position rather than law enforcement professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between a Crime Scene Investigator and a Detective?

Detectives play a more senior position in the investigative process, which is how they differ from crime scene investigators. Only crime scene investigators are to gather information from the crime site. Detectives may be on the site of the crime, but they don’t take part in those tasks. They might instead examine the scene and speak with witnesses. Later, Detectives compile a list of suspects for the crime using the data acquired by Crime Scene Investigators and examined by Forensic Scientists.

What are the daily duties of a Crime Scene Investigator?

A typical day for a crime scene investigator would begin with a review of the notes and images from the previous crime scene. They may start or continue writing a crime scene report from this point. As they wait to hear back about the evidence in the lab, they might speak with detectives and other law enforcement officers throughout the day regarding the status of their report.

During working hours, they can be required to visit a crime scene to gather evidence and undertake routine analysis. They might give testimony in court one day as an expert witness regarding a crime scene they have previously worked on.

What makes a good Crime Scene Investigator?

A skilled crime scene investigator is someone who is detail-oriented, which enables them to notice minute things that others might overlook. A good crime scene investigator should be able to manage potentially unpleasant crime scenes due to crime scenes. Additionally, they ought to find a method to use their zeal for justice to carry out their obligations when under pressure.

Besides speaking and writing clearly, crime scene investigators should be able to describe what they witnessed at different phases of an investigation and offer written documentation regarding a crime scene.

Who do Crime Scene Investigators report to?

Crime scene supervisors, who are in control of the technicians and other staff at the scene, are the people who crime scene investigators normally report to. A Coroner or Detective may give direction and oversight to a Crime Scene Investigator in place of a supervisor.

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