There were only 12,560 crime scene investigators in the United States, according to May 2010 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means you would be selecting quite an exclusive career if you pursue this field, a group of workers who are also called forensic science technicians. Your primary duties would include searching crime scenes for DNA, fingerprints and other clues to solve crimes. You may also analyze specimens in labs or testify in court regarding your findings.
Average Salary & Benefits
Crime scene investigation is not the career for you if you are squeamish or sickened by murder scenes. However, if you can stomach the work, your average salary would be about $55,660 per year, according to the BLS. Your earnings could exceed $84,980 annually if you are among the top 10 percent in pay. You would make less than $32,760 if you fall in the lowest 10 percent. Either way, your benefits as a full time worker may include medical insurance, paid time off and a pension fund or retirement plan.
Salary by Industry
Expect your earnings as a crime scene investigator to vary by your type of employer. You would earn the highest annual salary working for the federal government, about $95,240, according to the BLS. If you work for a lab company or coroner's office, you'd earn about $57,190 per year. Employment with the local police or county would earn you $54,990 per year. And your annual salary with the state government would be $54,550.
Salary by State
Location also is a determing factor for your salary. You would earn the most in the District of Columbia and Illinois, according to the BLS -- $74,050 and $73,290 per year, respectively. Your income would also be relatively high in California at $68,880 annually. Expect a salary closer to the national average in Arizona at $55,110 per year. And, your earnings in Florida would be significantly lower $46,820 per year.
Education & Training
Your first step in becoming a crime scene investigator would be earning a bachelor's degree in forensic or natural science. You may only need a high school diploma, however, if you reside in a rural area. But, you'd need a bachelor's degree even in a rural area to do diagnostic work in a lab. After graduation, you would study DNA analysis as an apprentice for six to 12 months, according to the BLS. It would then take about three years to gain expertise in firearms analysis. Apprenticeship training is always done with someone experienced in crime scene investigation work. You would need to pass a proficiency exam after your training.
The BLS reports that job growth in crime scene investigation is expected to increase 19 percent between 2010 and 2020. This rate of growth compares to an average growth rate in all U.S. occupations of 14 percent. The demand for quicker crime scene analyses as well as technological advances in forensic science will spur this growth.
2016 Salary Information for Forensic Science Technicians
Forensic science technicians earned a median annual salary of $56,750 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, forensic science technicians earned a 25th percentile salary of $42,710, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $74,220, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 15,400 people were employed in the U.S. as forensic science technicians.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Forensic Science Technicians
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Forensic Science Technicians
- Education-Portal.com: Forensic Technician Job Description, Duties and Required Skills
- ExploreHealthCareers.com: Crime Scene Investigator
- CriminalJusticeProfiles.org: Crime Scene Investigator
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Forensic Science Technicians
- Career Trend: Forensic Science Technicians
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images