Other names for the Crime Scene Investigator is the Forensic Technician or the Crime Scene Technician. Together with Police Officers and Investigators, the Crime Scene Investigator arrives to a crime scene aiming to gather evidences that will be useful for the investigation of a committed crime and will help to solve it. Crime Scene Investigators not only collect pieces of evidence directly from the crime scene but also preserve them correctly. Their major responsibility is to prevent others from making unauthorized alterations to the collected pieces, whether before their final analysis or during it. Crime Scene Investigators know well how to handle different bits of crime evidence, how to store them, and how to draw the most accurate conclusion about the crime from their analysis. Though they collect evidences about crimes from any field, located inside a building or outside of it, Crime Scene Investigators usually work in laboratories, where they scrutinize materials that they have gathered earlier.
The profession of the Crime Scene Investigator demands narrow specialization. As a rule, Crime Scene Investigators specialize in one or several of the following fields:
The Crime Scene Investigator may also specialize in analyzing fibers, body tissues, body fluids, hair, or glass. But whatever piece of evidence, investigators scrutinize, they invariably help establish key elements of the crime, identify the suspect or victim, confirm verbal witness testimony, and often even exonerate the innocent.
Some employees hire Crime Scene Investigators without education, but such cases are rare.
As a rule, to be employed as a CSI, applicants should have a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and specialize in forensic science. During their studies towards the degree in Criminal Justice, applicants take such courses as biology, criminal psychology, investigation, law, research, and ethics, all of which are indispensable for achieving success in the role of the Crime Scene Investigator. Taking additional electives will also help applicants in their later career; and so will a Master of Science (M.S), especially if it focuses on forensic science. The masters program will allow you to choose your preferred area of specialization such as DNA analysis, digital forensics, firearms, traffic crash reconstruction, and forensic chemistry, among other fields. It will also open the door to the position of a supervisor of the laboratory or the forensic team.
Crime Scene Investigators may also be required to graduate from the Police Academy. There, they can learn what types of crimes are committed and will understand what evidence to look for to make a correct conclusion about a crime. Would-be CSIs will also learn in the Police Academy how to identify, collect, and document pieces of evidence. Being a Police Office will increase candidates’ chances of becoming employed in a new place. Experience in other types of law enforcement may also be needed.
After they have gained work experience, Crime Scene Investigators may need to receive additional certificates that will help them advance their career. One of the organizations that offers a crime scene certification is the International Association for Identification. If applicants pass the IAI’s test with success, they will receive the certification valid for five years.
Because Crime Scene Investigators use a wide range of techniques to obtain forensic evidence, they need to have other skills as well. A qualification in photography can prove useful, considering that investigators record crime scenes by taking photographs or video taping them. If job applicants want to specialize in traffic crash reconstruction, they need to take courses in advance traffic crash investigation and reconstruction, along with motorcycle crash investigation, commercial motor vehicle investigation, and pedestrian investigation.
Apart from knowing how to photograph crime scenes, powder offenders’ fingertips, search for finger prints or other marks, collecting fibers, hair, paint, or glass, and swab blood, Crime Scene Investigators should possess certain character traits to excel in their profession.
Crime Scene Investigators should have good communication skills and work well in a team. They work in tandem with police officers, detectives, attorneys, and other crime technicians and, therefore, should be able to communicate their findings clearly and persuasively. Conducting interviews is also a part of Crime Scene Investigators’ job, for which good communication skills prove useful, too. An ability to write well is also helpful, considering that writing reports is a part of the CSI’s working routine.
Because they work at disturbing and often gruesome crime scenes, investigators should have nerves of steel and remain emotionally unaffected by stressful environment. They also should have good analytical skills and problem-solving abilities. Strong mathematical skills are a must, as is a firm understanding of physics. Crime Scene Investigators also have good attention to details.
Another advantage is to be tech-savvy. Crime Scene Investigators use advanced technology and sensitive lab equipment; thus, it may be helpful to be technologically inclined.
Crime Scene Investigators also should be in a good physical shape, since their duties often involve carrying heavy objects, reaching, climbing, kneeling, and so on. They also have to know how to handle a firearm.
Depending on their education and work experience, Crime Scene Investigators earn between US$32,000 to US$83,000 per year. Law enforcement investigators annually make up to US$90,000. Salaries of private consultants are considerably higher. They may charge up to US$100 per hour for their professional advice.
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