The crime scene investigation (CSI) field has gained a significant amount of popularity thanks to the CSI television series. While Hollywood has taken some artistic liberties and jazzed up the daily life of a crime scene investigator, what you actually encounter while working in a CSI unit is still exciting and always new.
It is important to establish the difference between a degree program in CSI or one in forensic science. The biggest difference is that each of the programs prepares you for two completely separate career paths. A crime scene investigator collects, records, and documents all of the evidence at the crime scene, whereas the majority of the analysis and dissection of the evidence occurs in a laboratory by a forensic scientist. There are some forensic scientists that also go out into the field and act as crime scene investigators, but this is not a common occurrence. While the two positions interact on a constant basis, the crime scene investigator is primarily out in the field and the forensic scientist works in a lab.
How To Become A Crime Scene Investigator
In order to work in CSI and analysis, students can pursue either an associate or bachelor’s degree in CSI and analysis. These programs may also be offered as an associate or bachelor’s of science with a concentration in CSI, and they are available in both an online and traditional educational format. Students interested in a CSI career should have a basic awareness of all aspects of the investigation process, since they will need to interact with a variety of people throughout their careers. Most two and four year programs teach students the fundamentals of CSI as well as introduce forensic science and legal processes. Take a look at some of the CSI classes offered through many degree programs.
- Firearms and Toolmarks Analysis
- Fingerprint Analysis
- Conduct of Investigation
- Crime Scene Professionalism
Certificate programs are also available for students who wish to enhance their skills in a particular subset of CSI and analysis. These programs are available through most educational institutions.
Crime Scene Investigation and Analysis Job Description
A crime scene investigator is typically employed through either the federal, state, or local government. When you are working in a CSI unit, you will find that no two days are the same. The hours may be erratic, you may have to be on-call for extended periods of time, and the crime scene will always be different, making this a career path in which you will never be bored. even though the crime scenes may be different, what you do to analyze and preserve the evidence is the same. Here are some of the common tasks you will need to do as a crime scene investigator.
- Set a perimeter – The police officers are typically the first responders and they act as security, guarding where they perceive the actual crime took place, until further personnel can arrive. It is your job to mark off and document any area effected by the crime to encompass the whole scene.
- Plan and survey the scene – By observing the scene, you will be able to take general photographs of the area and identify if there is any evidence that requires special handling and processing. Often on this walk-through, you are assisted by a lead investigator.
- Document, record, and collect the evidence – Evidence includes fingerprints, possible DNA samples, hair, footprints, tire tracks, blood splatter, and even smells and sounds in the area. All of this, including the crime scene itself, should be carefully documented and processed so that the evidence is not damaged and follows the proper chain-of-command for legal purposes.
Crime scene investigators are invaluable during a criminal investigation. The crime scene may be gory at times, but it is all worth it to know that the evidence that you collect will help justice to be served.
Crime Scene Investigation and Analysis Degree Programs
- Colorado Technical University — BSCJ – Forensic Investigation
- Kaplan University — BSCJ – Crime Scene Investigation
- Liberty University — BSCJ – Crime Scene Investigation
- Saint Leo University — MSCJ – Criminal Investigation
- Saint Leo University — MSCJ – Forensic Science
- Salem International University — BSCJ – Crime Scene Investigation