Side-stepping blood stains while flashing a black light over tainted sheets, the forensic investigator discovers a key piece of evidence as the lighting focuses and the background music become foreboding. Real-life forensic investigators, also called crime scene investigators, do not have the benefit of dramatic effects and most are not drop-dead gorgeous women like portrayed on TV. However, a forensic investigator still performs an important function by determining the causes and perpetrators of crimes.
Pick Your Provider
Certifications for forensic investigators come from a number of different providers, including industry-specific organizations like the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute. International industry groups also provide certification for forensic investigators, including Forensic Science International, which offers 20 different forensic-related designations. Several specialty certifications also exist, like the Forensic Hypnosis Investigator certification program from the National Board of Professional and Ethical Standards and the Certified Medical Investigator designation from the ACFEI.
Rein in the Requirements
The certification process includes fulfilling a number of requirements, starting with having a background education in forensics. For example, the ACFEI requires a bachelor’s degree and at least two years of professional investigation experience. Some providers include a forensic education as part of the certification program. The NBPES program includes three courses, totaling 102 hours, candidates complete either online or in a classroom setting to earn the designation. Other requirements can include a clean criminal background, being at least 21 years old, undergoing an application process and paying application and exam fees. A number of providers also require candidates to become members of that organization in order to earn certification.
Take the Test
A main component of most certification programs, the exam tests candidates' know-how and helps weed out those applicants not qualified for certification. The exact topics covered by each exam differ, but include general topics such as history of forensics, collecting evidence, digital forensics, trials, homicide and pathological autopsy. Typically, providers utilize third-party test proctors to offer the multiple-choice question exams, or offer the exams online so candidates can take them from home. Candidates needing a little extra help hitting the books can take advantage of exam resources provided by some groups. Some certification providers offer study guides, practices quizzes and online prep courses.
Beyond the Certification
Simply earning certification is not enough; a forensic investigator must maintain her designation by renewing every few years, generally every one to three years. The ACFEI requires renewal every year and mandates that certification holders take at least 15 continuing education credits each year. CE credits come from traditional CE courses, as well as attending industry seminars, workshops and conferences; writing for related professional publications; and participating in professional organization activities.
Lindsey Thompson began her writing career in 2001. Her work has been published in the Cincinnati Art Museum's "Member Magazine" and "The Ohio Journalist." You'll also find her work on websites like Airbnb, Chron.com, and USAToday.com. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.