Criminal Justice Articles

How do I know if a career as a Crime Scene Investigator is right for me?

Recent television programs, such as CSI, and others, have served to bring attention and interest to the field of crime scene investigation. In fact, according to the US Department of Labor Statistics, it is considered to be one of the fastest growing occupations to date.

Although television shows can make almost any career seem enticing or glamorous, there are real factors that should be taken into consideration before making the decision to enter the field of crime scene investigation such as the nature of the job, the risks involved, and the educational requirements involved.

What is a Crime Scene Investigator?

A crime scene investigator is a highly specialized field. The investigator is responsible to execute an organized approach to carefully evaluate all of the details and evidence involved in a crime. Extensive education and training is involved for the investigator to become proficient. Strong analytical skills and proper evidence retrieval abilities are only a few of the requirements of this demanding career.

Crime Scene Investigative Duties

Most investigations begin at the actual site or location in which the incident took place. It is vital that the first officer to arrive at the crime scene assures that the evidence remains in its original state. In reality, the investigation relies on that first person being able to properly secure the scene.

Next, the crime scene investigator needs to have the interpersonal skills to obtain testimonial evidence from witnesses and carefully preserve any physical evidence. Evidence collected is vital. It may prove the crime has been committed, establish leads, and link suspects to the crime, as well as ruling out innocent parties.

The types of evidence that may be involved in a crime include fingerprints, blood splatter, semen and other bodily fluids, tire marks, footprints, weapons and trace evidence such as fibers or gun-shot residue.

After the evidence has been preserved and examined, a crime scene investigator must rely on their exceptional problem solving and deductive reasoning skills. Many times, investigation of a crime is a long and laborious process.

Depending on what geographical location an investigator works in also comes into play. In large urban communities with a high rate of violent crime, collecting evidence may be a full time job for one investigator while their partner works on other portions of the investigation.

Educational Requirements

Most police departments require some type of college degree to enter into this highly specialized field. It would be wise to contact the departments in the area of your residence to find out their educational requirements.

Generally an investigator's major education will include criminal justice or forensics, with computer training, and photography as well. There are college degrees that include every area of crime scene investigation as well.

Once employed, most departments require a probationary period that includes specific on the job training alongside a field officer. Most of the experience needed to perform properly on the job will be gained during the probationary training period. Ongoing training is generally required and is often provided free of charge by the department. Ongoing training includes specialized classes such as forensic and crime scene photography, fingerprint technology, homicide investigation, and others.

Work Environment and Hours

Most of the time, about 70% of an investigators working hours are spent at the crime scene where evidence is gathered and transported to a lab for further scrutiny. Meanwhile, the other 30% of a crime investigator's day is spent on producing the necessary documents, investigative reports, and findings, as well as attending court hearings.

Being a crime scene investigator means being busy almost around the clock and working on-call most of the time. More than a career, crime scene investigation can easily consume an investigator's entire life. It is a stressful job, since the general public and involved family members are relying on the investigator to wrap up the crime quickly, which is sometimes impossible.

A crime scene investigator deals with the unpleasant side of life most of the time and is exposed to many horrific situations which leave permanent imprints in the minds of investigators. Counselors are readily available to help investigators deal with especially traumatic situations.

These are some of the considerations that must be made when deciding on a career as a crime scene investigator. On the upside, solving a crime and playing your part in bringing a criminal to justice, removing them from the streets and helping to prevent them from possibly striking again, is a very rewarding feeling indeed. Choosing a career as a crime scene investigator is a job to be proud of.

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