How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator in 4 Simple Steps

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What is a Crime Scene Investigator

If you are a Dexter, NCIS or a similar TV series fan the chances are that you have considered becoming a crime scene investigator.

But there is a big difference between what you see on TV and real life.

Before we start talking about what training and education you will need in order to answer how to become a crime scene investigator let’s see a small description of this profession.

There are many names used to describe a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) like: crime scene technician, evidence technician, crime scene analyst, forensic investigator and criminalistics officer.

In the past the work of a CSI was assigned to police officers that were trained to study and analyze crime scenes.

Nowadays with crimes being more complex the work is given to civilians with proper scientific education who work along with police officers and detectives.

A crime scene investigator will spend most of the time on the field analyzing crime scenes.

You will also spend a considerable amount of time at police station filling detailed reports about the evidence you found and the way you collected it.

You will also be expected to appear at court and share your findings and expertise with jurors in order to secure a case.

The daily routine of a crime scene investigator includes:

  • Securing the crime scene
  • Diagram and sketch the scene
  • Take measurements
  • Taking photographs of the crime scene
  • Documenting all the evidence were taken from the crime scene
  • Labeling, package and transfer evidence to the labs
  • Visiting the morgue and attend the autopsy
  • Preparing paperwork by reporting in detail the procedure of evidence collecting and the personal opinion about the crime scene
  • Appearing at Court and testify about the evidence
  • Maintaining, clean and restock the equipment used for evidence collection and analyzing.

Because the majority of a Crime Scene investigator’s work is taking place at crime scenes you should be prepared to work:

  • On a call, on weekends, holidays, and in the middle of the night.
  • Really long shifts
  • In all types of weather
  • At any type of area that a crime has occurred from murky ponds to mountain tops that can be really dangerous.
  • Around disturbing sights and really bad smells
  • Working while wearing really uncomfortable protective equipment
  • Working with cutting edge technology meaning you will have to continually train and learn new technologies.
  • Working alongside a variety of people like attorneys, lab and law enforcement personnel

The average salary of a Crime scene investigator is $79,870
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What is a Crime Scene Investigator

Becoming a Crime Scene Investigator

Step 1: High School Preparation

What High School Classes Do I Need to Take to Become a CSI?

In order to successfully pursue the career of a Crime Scene Investigator a good idea is to start your preparation from high school in order to get accepted to a good university.

Because Crime scene investigator schools have a lot of biology and chemistry classes a good idea is to start preparing by getting good grades at these classes and even take AP Biology and AP Chemistry if possible.

A class that a lot of students who follow the crime scene investigator path don’t pay much attention is political science.

It is a good idea to take this class and get ahead of competition. As CSI you will have to fill reports and appear at court so you should have a good understanding of the law.

Step 2: Get a Crime Scene Investigator Undergraduate Degree

Crime Scene Technology Certificate 6 months to 1 year

These 20 to 40 semester hour programs can last from 6 months to 1 year and can be completed either online or offline.

They are designed for those that want to enter the work field quickly and it is fairly easy to get accepted.

You will need a high school diploma or a GED.

A typical curriculum of a Crime Scene Investigator Technology Certificate will look like this:

Major Core Courses (16-32 credits)

  • Introduction to Crime Scene Technology
  • Advanced Crime Scene Technology
  • Crime Scene Safety
  • Introduction to Forensic Science
  • Fingerprint Classification
  • Crime Scene Photography
  • Latent Fingerprint Development
  • Introduction to Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Crime Scene Photography
  • Courtroom Presentation of Scientific Evidence
  • Crime Scene Management
  • Autopsy: Medicolegal Death Investigation
  • Fingerprint Techniques and Impression Evidence
  • Forensic Report Writing
  • Survey of Criminalistics
  • Biological Evidence
  • Crime Scene Investigation Practicum

Elective Courses (4 – 8 credits)

  • Forensic Entomology
  • Introduction to Computer and Digital Media Forensics
  • Rules of Evidence
  • Blood Stain Pattern Analysis
  • Field Methods of Forensic Anthropology: Search and Recovery of Human Remains
  • Forensic Digital Imaging
  • Introduction to Forensic Handwriting Examination

The cost of a Crime Scene Investigator Technology Certificate program is relatively low, ranging between $5,500 and $15,500.

When deciding which college or university to attend, we strongly recommend contacting them for further information and details.

Click the button below to get free info about accredited Training Certificate programs near you.
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Crime Scene Technology Associates Degree 2 years

Crime scene technology associates degree is a 60 to 90 semester hours program that can be completed either online or offline. It is a relatively easy program to get accepted at as you will only need a high school diploma or a GED Some schools maybe require to take a placement test.

A typical curriculum of a Crime Scene Investigator Associates Degree will look like this:

General Education Requirements (20 – 30 Credits)

  • Composition I
  • Composition II
  • Oral Communications
  • College Algebra
  • General Psychology
  • Basic Critical Thinking
  • Introduction to American Literature
  • American Literature II
  • Understanding Art
  • Humanities
  • Environmental Science
  • Basic Computer and Information Literacy

Core Courses (19 – 28 Credits)

  • Human Behavior in Criminal Justice
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Forensic Science 1
  • Criminal Investigation
  • Crime Scene Technology 1
  • Basic Fingerprinting
  • Administration of Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Psychology
  • Police Administration
  • Criminal Law
  • Advanced Crime Special Topics
  • Introduction to Forensic Science
  • Biological Evidence

Elective Courses (21 – 32 Credits)

  • Criminal Justice Reporting
  • Criminal Justice Ethics and Professionalism
  • Introduction to Crime Scene Technology
  • Fingerprint Classification
  • Crime Scene Technology
  • Courtroom Presentation of Scientific Evidence
  • Crime Scene Safety
  • Advanced Crime Scene Technology
  • Fingerprint Development
  • Injury and Death Investigation
  • Latent Fingerprint Development
  • Biological Evidence
  • Criminalistics I
  • Criminalistics II
  • Graphics & Documentation I
  • Graphics & Documentation II
  • Biological Evidence I
  • Biological Evidence II
  • Crime Scene Photography 1
  • Crime Scene Photography 2
  • Crime Scene Dynamics I
  • Crime Scene Dynamics II
  • Technology Crimes I
  • Technology Crimes II
  • Collecting and Presenting Audio & Visual Evidence
  • Criminal Justice Communications
  • Current Issues in Criminal Justice

The cost of a crime scene technology associate degree program is relatively low, ranging between $7,000 and $25,500.

When deciding which college or university to attend, we strongly recommend contacting them for further information and details.

Click the button below to get free info about accredited Associate’s Degree programs near you.
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Bachelor of Science degree in Crime Scene Investigation 4 years

These 120 semester credit hours programs can be completed either online or offline.

It is a bit more difficult to get accepted at a bachelor’s degree program than an associate’s degree program.

You will need to have a high school diploma with good grades at biology and chemistry, and at certain universities you will be asked for an associate’s degree of Crime Scene Technology.

A typical curriculum of a Bachelor of Science degree in Crime Scene Investigation will look like this:

General Education Requirements (45 Credits)

  • Speech Communication
  • Modern Grammar
  • Advanced Expository Writing
  • Mathematics for Liberal Arts
  • College Algebra
  • Introduction to Probability and Statistics
  • Art Appreciation
  • Western Culture
  • American Literature I
  • American Literature II
  • English Literature I
  • English Literature II
  • World Literature I
  • World Literature II
  • Contemporary Worldviews
  • Art Appreciation
  • Intermediate Business Computer Applications
  • Introduction to Information Sciences and Systems
  • Drugs in Society

Core Courses (24 Credits)

  • The Criminal Justice System
  • Evidential Reasoning for Research & Investigation
  • Computer Applications for Public Safety and Security
  • Forensic Science in Investigation
  • Criminal Investigation: Theory & Practice
  • Conduct of Investigation
  • Crime & Accident Scene Imaging & Reconstruction
  • Crime & Accident Scene Imaging & Reconstruction Lab
  • Impression and Pattern Evidence
  • Impression and Pattern Evidence Lab
  • Trace & Biometric Evidence
  • Trace & Biometric Evidence Lab
  • Crime Scene Professionalism
  • Forensic Death Investigation
  • Forensic Death Investigation Lab
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Justice Research & Writing
  • Administration of Justice Organizations
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Corrections
  • Judicial Process
  • Criminology
  • Criminal Justice Ethics
  • Criminal Law
  • Constitutional Criminal Procedure
  • Criminal Investigations
  • Terrorism

Elective Courses (21 – 32 Credits)

  • Applied Probability for Research & Investigation
  • Policing Diversity: Race, Gender, Religion and Crime
  • Interview and Interrogation
  • Corrections: Practices and Perspectives
  • Youth Culture and Crime
  • Drugs and Crime
  • Community Policing
  • Homeland Security & Criminal Justice
  • Crime in Media
  • Ethics in Policing and Intelligence
  • Introduction to Forensics
  • Crime Scene Photography
  • Crime Scene Management
  • Computer & Cyber Forensics
  • Crime Scene Photography 1
  • Crime Scene Photography 2
  • Crime Scene Safety
  • Fingerprint Classification
  • Latent Fingerprint Development
  • Biological Evidence
  • Criminalistics I
  • Criminalistics II
  • Graphics & Documentation I
  • Graphics & Documentation II
  • Biological Evidence I
  • Biological Evidence II
  • Crime Scene Dynamics I
  • Crime Scene Dynamics II
  • Technology Crimes I
  • Technology Crimes II
  • Collecting and Presenting Audio & Visual Evidence
  • Criminal Justice Communications
  • Current Issues in Criminal Justice

The cost of a Bachelor of Science degree in Crime Scene Investigation program ranges between $21,500 and $82,500.

When deciding which college or university to attend, we strongly recommend contacting them for further information and details.

Click the button below to get free info about accredited Bachelor’s Degree programs near you.
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Step 3: Get a Crime Scene Investigator Graduate Degree (Optional)

Master of Science in Crime Scene Investigation 1 to 2 years

Master of Science in Crime Scene Investigation is a 28 to 42 semester credit hours program that can be completed either online or offline and it can be completed in 1 or 2 years.

In order to get accepted you need a bachelor’s degree either at Crime Scene investigation or a Bachelor’s degree with the courses of Biology, General Chemistry and Physics.

A typical curriculum of a Master of Science in Crime Scene Investigation will look like:

Core Courses (18 – 28 Credits)

  • Fundamentals of Forensic Sciences I
  • Criminal Law for Forensic Scientists
  • Crime Scene Investigation I
  • Crime Scene Investigation II
  • Photography in the Forensic Sciences
  • Forensic Pathology
  • Medicolegal Death Investigation
  • Science of Fingerprints
  • Pattern Analysis
  • Crime Scene Photography

Elective Courses (10 – 14 credits)

  • Examination of Questioned Documents
  • Firearms and Toolmark Identification
  • Trace Evidence Analysis
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Investigation of Child Abuse
  • Forensic Sciences Practicum
  • Trace Evidence
  • Drug Analysis
  • Toxicology
  • DNA Analysis

The cost of a Master of Science in Crime Scene Investigation program is relatively low, ranging between $20,000 and $35,000.

When deciding which college or university to attend, we strongly recommend contacting them for further information and details.

Click the button below to get free info about accredited Master’s Degree programs near you.
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Step 4: Get a Crime Scene Investigator Certification

The last step of becoming a crime scene investigator is to get certified.

There are a couple of organizations that offer certification.

We have listed all of them with all the details you need to know in order to get certified.

(ICSIA) International Crime Scene Investigators Association

Requirements

  • 50 hours of post-secondary courses of crime scene Investigation
  • Two years of service as Crime Scene investigator with a state police department, country sheriff’s office, municipal police department, or other law enforcement agency.

In order to prove your experience you need to provide:

  • Macro photography assessment
  • Photos of a crime scene being processed at night

You will also need to prove your experience working at crime scenes including:

  • Indoor crime
  • Outdoor crime
  • Motor vehicle crime

The proof you will need to present for each crime scene include:

  • Photos of crime scene evidence
  • Crime scene photos
  • Official crime scene report
  • List of the evidence found and processed
  • Affidavit affirming the integrity of the submissions

Examination

The examination consists of a 3 hour, 100 questions, written test and a 1 hour paper test of proper handling and processing protocols of a mock crime scene.
Cost: $50

(IAI) International Association for Identification

International Association for Identification is the biggest organization that offers crime scene investigation certification. There are 4 different fields where you can get certified:

  • Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst
  • Certified Crime Scene Investigator
  • Certified Crime Scene Reconstructionist
  • Certified Crime Scene Analyst

Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst

Requirements

  • 6 years of working experience as a crime scene investigator
  • 144 hours of CSI Board-Approved training within the last 5 years

And fulfill one of the requirements below

  • Authored or coauthored an article of crime scene investigation published in a professional journal.
  • Made a presentation of crime scene investigation to a professional organization.
  • Be an active instructor of crime scene investigation teaching at least once a year.
  • Submit a court transcript from an actual case of crime scene investigation.

Examination

5 hour 400 question written test with a score at least 75 at 100

Cost: $300 (non-members) $200 (members)

Certified Crime Scene Investigator

Requirements

  • 1 year of working experience as a crime scene investigator
  • 48 hours of CSI Board-Approved training within the last 5 years

Examination

3 hour, 200 question, written test with a score at least 75 at 100

Cost: $300 (non-members) $200 (members)

Certified Crime Scene Reconstructionist

Requirements

  • 5 years of working experience as a crime scene investigator
  • 120 hours of CSI Board-Approved training within the last 5 years

And fulfill one of the requirements below

  • Authored or coauthored an article of crime scene investigation published in a professional journal.
  • Made a presentation of crime scene investigation to a professional organization.
  • Be an active instructor of crime scene investigation teaching at least once a year.
  • Submit a court transcript from an actual case of crime scene investigation.

Examination

4 ½ hour, 300 question, written test with a score at least 75 at 100

Certified Crime Scene Analyst

Requirements

3 years of working experience as a crime scene investigator

96 hours of CSI Board-Approved training within the last 5 years

Examination

4 hour 300 question written test with a score at least 75 at 100

Cost: $300 (non-members) $200 (members)

How Long Does it take to Become a Crime Scene Investigator and How Much does it Cost?

Option1: Certificate

Degree Time Cost
Certificate 6 months – 12 months$5,500- $15,500
Certification 1 month$50 - $300
Total 7 months – 13 months $5,550 - $15,800

Option 2: Associate’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Associates Degree2 years$7,000 to $25,000
Certification 1 month $50 - $300
Total 2 years & 1 month $7,050 - $25,300

Option 3: Bachelor’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$21, 500 - $82, 500
Certification 1 month $50 - $300
Total 4 years & 1 month$21,550 - $82,800

Option 4: Master’s Degree

DegreeTime Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$21, 500 - $82, 500
Master's2 years$20, 000 - $35, 000
Certification1 month $50 - $300
Total6 years $41, 550 - $117, 800
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Crime Scene Investigator Training Video


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