Crime Scene

Whether they are called evidence technicians, crime scene technicians, crime scene investigators, forensic scientists, crime scene analysts or crime scene investigators, their role in the criminal justice system is the same. Securing the crime scene, documenting through sketches,photographs and detailed measurements and collecting and packaging evidence from the scene are all part of the job.

Up until the latter part of the 19th century,police never used forensics to help solve crimes, often allowing criminals to slip through the cracks of the criminal justice system. With advances in technology, forensics has become a sophisticated business – one that is weighted heavily in the court system when judges and juries are tasked with determining a person’s guilt or innocence.

Physical evidence collected and used for prosecutorial purposes from the crime scene and from victims of crime can include fingerprints and footprints, trace materials, hair and fibers, and other biological evidence such as bodily fluids and skin.

Despite how the profession often is portrayed on television and the big screen, crime scene investigators generally do not process the evidence they have collected. That work is performed by forensic scientists in a laboratory setting.

Required Skills and Education

Because crime scene investigators often are called upon to testify during trials, the ability to communicate clearly and concisely is an important skill. Understanding and applying advanced math and science skills,as well as being analytical and logical, are important characteristics those who wish to work as crime scene investigators should possess.

In addition, they must attend an accredited traditional or online college or university to earn a minimum of a Bachelor of Science inForensics/Crime Scene Investigation. Some crime scene investigators are sworn police officers who have graduated from the police academy. Those who have successfully completed academy training are qualified to work at uniformed crime scenes and may not require further education in order to work in the field.

Those who enroll in an online or traditional bachelor degree program for crime scene investigation can expect to learn the following skills:

  • Crime Scene Photography and Sketching
  • Latent Prints and Fingerprint Identification
  • Blood Patterns and Crime Scenes
  • Ballistics and Firearm Identification
  • History of the Criminal Justice System
  • Research Techniques
  • Public Speaking/Communication
  • Courtroom Testimony and Report Writing

Master Degree programs in crime scene investigation also are available through both traditional and online programs. These graduate-level programs will help those already working in the field – or those who have just completed an undergraduate degree in crime scene investigation – to further hone their investigative skills. While advanced-degree programs are available,they are not required in order to work in the industry.

Future Outlook

Forensic evidence has become a key component to the successful prosecution of criminals, thus the need for trained experts in this field is continuing to grow.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an additional 2,400 jobs in this field are expected to need filling between now and 2020 – a 19 percent increase in demand. At present, there are over 12,500crime scene investigators on the job in the United States alone.

The average annual salary for a crime scene investigator who possessed at least a bachelor degree is$55,660 as of May 2011. Federal crime scene investigators – who often require more advanced degrees – can earn as much as $96,000 or more a year. 

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