Examining bloody crime scenes, testing human tissues and analyzing criminal behavior are difficult job responsibilities. But the thrill of discovery and knowing you're doing your part to help the criminal justice system prevail can make criminal investigation a rewarding adventure. A crime scene investigator works with police officers, detectives and members of the judicial system to make sure criminal offenders don't get off without paying for their crimes. Some of an investigator's work is done at the crime scene, but most of her time is spent conducting laboratory tests and analyzing data collected at the scene.
Analyze a Crime Scene
A crime scene investigator examines and analyzes the crime scene. Once a crime scene has been secured for inspection and all potential contaminants have been concealed, a crime scene investigator performs a walk-through. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an investigator identifies valuable and fragile evidence and chooses the best methods for systematically examining and documenting the evidence. Keen senses must be on high alert so an investigator can recognize odors, sounds and visible evidence that could be used to solve the crime. A criminal investigator creates a consistent pathway throughout the scene, so footprints and other evidence aren't compromised. Since the job requires obtaining credible information, a crime scene investigator wears protective gloves and uses a protective mask to preserve the integrity of the scene.
An investigator gathers, stores and transfers evidence. She must pay close attention to details, even those that aren't visible to the naked eye. A crime scene investigator takes photographs, draws maps of the scene, sketches the position of bodies or weapons, examines bullet holes and blood spatters, collects fingerprints, examines footprints, gathers weapons and collects bodily fluids. Evidence is stored, preserved and cataloged in air-tight containers, so contaminants don't compromise the data. Some crime scene findings prove a suspect is innocent, so an investigator shouldn't pass judgment or make hasty assumptions. Waiting until all of the data has been gathered and analyzed is the professional way to handle the job.
Perform Scientific Analysis
Crime scene investigators perform scientific analyses of data they collect. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says crime scene investigators explore links between suspects and criminal activity using chemical and physical analyses to mentally and physically reconstruct crime scenes. Scientific evaluations often require microscopic examinations, DNA tests, toxicology reports and ballistic tests. If that's not enough research, crime scene investigators also use law enforcement databases to compare their findings with criminal evidence already on file. TV crime drama actresses wear fashionable or funky attire, but in real life, a white lab coat or casual office clothes are suitable for the scientific work environment.
Investigators report their findings to law enforcement officials, lawyers, judges and detectives. Reports include walk-through findings, discovery methods, scientific procedures, lab and test results and professional evaluations. Sometimes a crime scene investigator testifies in court to explain her discoveries and present data that helps prove a suspect's guilt or innocence. Even though her job is highly technical, she also deals with humanity and the hardships caused by criminal behavior.
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.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.