Many crimes would remained unsolved without crime scene investigators, as these professionals analyze crime scenes, question witnesses and take photos of bodies and other findings. These investigators, who are also known as forensic science technicians, also study crime scene samples, including hair, fingerprints and clothing fabric to solve crimes. If you're intuitive and curious by nature -- and don't get queasy when seeing blood and dead bodies -- a crime scene investigator job might be the perfect career.
Most crime scene investigators have bachelor's degrees in forensic or natural science, but some rural police agencies hire those with high school diplomas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. If you're hired by the local police department, you might have to attend the police academy. The San Diego Police Academy takes three to four months to complete. Many crime scene investigators have backgrounds in police work and enter this field for second careers.
Crime scene investigators get lab training while in college so they are knowledgeable about collecting and analyzing blood samples and DNA. Training continues on the job, as you work as an apprentice under one or more trained crime scene investigators. DNA analysis training programs usually take six to 12 months, according to the BLS. If you're required to carry a gun, firearms training can take up to three years. You must then pass an efficiency test to work on cases independently or to testify in court.
While apprenticeships and efficiency tests qualify candidates as crime scene investigators, some might obtain certification to enhance their marketability. Crime scene investigators can become certified through the International Association for Identification with one year of experience and 48 hours of course work. You can also advance in rank by becoming certified as a crime scene analyst, reconstructionist or senior crime scene analyst after attaining three to six years experience in your field.
Crime scene investigators need critical thinking skills to make judgments on physical evidence they find, such as carefully matching fingerprints and DNA to suspects. In this field, you must also be detailed oriented, prevent evidence from being contaminated by others at crime scenes and make accurate analyses. Problem-solving skills are necessary in using scientific tests to solve crimes. You also need good communications skills to discuss cases with the police and other law enforcement agencies.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Forensic Science Technician
- Criminal Justice School Guide: Crime Scene Investigator
- MyPlan.com: Criminal Investigators and Special Agents
- itsgov: Types of Crime Scene Investigator
- San Diego Police Department: Requirements, Application, Testing
- International Association for Identification: Requirements for IAI Crime Scene Certification
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images