What Does it Mean to Study Crime Scene Investigation?
Crime scene investigation may be one of the most challenging fields of our time. Crime scene investigators are often the first people on the scene after a crime has been reported. These professionals are given the responsibility of securing the crime scene and collecting information that can be essential to criminal convictions. It requires an exceptionally focused mindset and the ability to separate one's emotions from one's work.
Crime scene investigators and forensic scientists must:
- Collect and preserve material evidence found at the crime scene
- Measure, record and analyze chemical substances, tissue samples, physical materials, and ballistics evidence using advanced equipment
- Analyze laboratory findings and test results to classify evidence collected at the crime
- Confer with experts in fingerprinting, ballistics, documents, handwriting, electronics, medicine, chemistry, or metallurgy to interpret evidence
- Reconstruct crime scenes
- Prepare presentations and reports of findings (including investigation methods and laboratory techniques)
- Testify as a witness in trials or hearings
Types of Crime Scene Investigation Degrees
Careers in crime scene investigation generally require earning an associate or bachelor's degree in crime scene forensics, criminal justice, forensic science or a related field. Students may also need to earn state licensure or specialized certification for a particular concentration in their field. So when you're setting out to get your degree, license or certification, spend some time thinking about your ultimate career goals. Is there a particular type of crime you'd like to specialize in investigating, or a particular state in which you want to practice? Be sure to find out exactly what the requirements are.
Online College Degrees in Crime Scene Investigation
Working adults can earn a degree in crime scene investigation through on-campus or online college degree programs. Online degree programs in crime scene investigation address various aspects of forensic science, law enforcement and technological advancements, educating students who don't have the resources or availability for a traditional campus program.
Even in an online program, real-world experience is an indispensable component of the education. Fortunately, local internships and apprenticeships can be a source of the hands-on experience that students in online degree programs need.
CSI Online Certificate Programs
Certificates in crime scene investigation are also quite popular for those seeking entry-level experience in the criminal justice field. There are many opportunities to complete certificate requirements online. Certificate recipients may learn the correct way to examine a scene, using the evidence from fingerprint examinations and other material that can be helpful to other investigators and prosecutors. In many cases, online certificate programs are designed to add a layer of expertise to a professional who already has experience in other facets of the criminal justice or law enforcement field.
On-the-Job Career Training
Your education shouldn't end with your college degree. The opportunity for younger recruits to learn from seasoned professionals is one of the advantages of the law enforcement field. The reverse is also true: recently trained employees can share their knowledge of new technologies and methods with veterans of the force.
What can you do with a CSI College Degree?
Though the media may glamorize the image of a crime scene investigator, in reality the work is usually grueling and time-consuming. However, as with many other public service positions, the motivation for this job involves a dedication to solving crime and protecting the public. Earning a crime scene investigation degree might help a student to earn a position in one of the following public service careers:
- Crime Scene Technician
- Crime Scene Photographer
- Fingerprint Classification Specialist
- Crime Lab Assistant
- Medical Examiner and Investigator
- Latent Print Examiner/Trainee
- Fire Inspector/Investigator
- Forensic Science Specialist
- Property and Evidence Personnel
- Crime Prevention Instructor
CSI professions are traditionally male-dominated, but as opportunities for women have increased and societal stereotypes continue to change, more and more women are making their mark in this field. Regardless of gender, crime scene investigation professionals should possess:
- Keen observational skills and an eye for the unexpected
- Strong physical conditioning
- The mentality to cope with very unpleasant and gruesome situations
- A strong interest in the sciences
- The ability to work independently and also as part of a team
- Direct and clear ability to communicate with co-workers
- Strong technical skills
- Receptivity to constantly learning new skills and technologies
Believe it or not, an appreciation for solving puzzles can also be useful in this line of work; in a certain light, approaching a crime is very similar to solving a puzzle, and that perspective can sometimes be useful for coping with the horror and trauma of a crime scene.
Work environments can vary greatly depending on your location, the climate, and the challenges that go along with investigating the scene. Students must be trained in the proper use of cameras to document the crime scene. The variety of skills used by crime scene investigators is one of the most attractive features of this growing profession.
It is not uncommon for investigators to work hours outside of a regular 40-hour workweek. Investigators must frequently work night, weekend, early morning, and holiday hours. Most investigators spend much of their time in the office or lab, examining evidence, writing reports and coming up with recommendations and theories.
Crime Scene Investigation Certification and Licensure
Most investigative employers do not have official requirements for the education and training of their employees, though most private investigators have previous job experience in other fields and often have college degrees. Most often, those who pursue a career as a private investigator have an occupational background in law enforcement, government jobs, the military, or working for insurance companies or private security companies.
Most states require that investigators have appropriate licensure. The requirements for licensure vary from state to state, though many states require that private investigators and detectives complete a mandatory training program. Some states, including Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi and South Dakota, have no licensing requirements for investigators and detectives. California, however, ensures that investigators meet strict parameters that include passing a background check, passing an examination, and passing an evaluation given by the Federal Department of Justice.