What Is the Average Salary for a Crime Scene Investigator?

As a crime scene investigator, your annual average salary could depend on several factors. Things that might affect your earnings include where you live, how much experience you have and what kind of industry you work in. Keep reading to learn more about what you can earn in this field. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties

As a crime scene investigator, you're one of the first to arrive at the scene of the crime. You take an accurate picture of the scene through sketches and photographs, and you collect and preserve evidence for analysis while protecting yourself and others from potential health hazards. If you're an investigator for a smaller agency, you may have to be proficient in all types of evidence collection. If you work for a larger agency, you might specialize in a sub-field such as arson accelerants or ballistics.

Education and Training Requirements

Both a degree and training are required for this career. Many people enter the field with a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related science field, but if you want to become an authority or specialize, you might consider a master's degree. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences is the accrediting authority for these programs. Training is usually completed through police academies or on-the-job, depending on what kind of organization you work for.

Salary Overview

In January 2014, PayScale.com reported that crime scene investigators who earned annual salaries ranging from the 10th-90th percentiles made $28,460-$67,297. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes crime scene investigators as forensic science technicians (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported in May 2012 that forensic science technicians earned a median annual salary of $52,840.

Salary By Industry

As of May 2012, the BLS reported the average wages for the following five industries that employed the most forensic science technicians:

Top Industries by Employment Annual Mean Wage
Local Government $55,950
State Government $51,100
Medical and Diagnostic Labs $66,390
Federal Executive Government $94,800
Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals $41,200

According to the same May 2012 data from the BLS, the following five industries paid these workers the highest average wages:

Top Industries by Pay Annual Mean Wage
Federal Executive Branch $94,800
Medical and Diagnostic Labs $66,390
Architectural, Engineering and Related Services $61,680
Local Government $55,950
State Government $51,100

Salary by Location

The BLS reported that the following five states paid the highest average wages for forensic science technicians in May 2012:

Top-Paying States Annual Mean Wage
District of Columbia $73,010
California $72,000
Michigan $70,650
Massachusetts $69,360
Virginia $66,360

Forensic science technicians with the lowest average pay made $34,140-$45,520. These workers were employed in states that included Utah, Louisiana, Maine, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and West Virginia.

Salary by Experience

According to PayScale.com, crime scene investigator salaries varied by experience level in January 2014. The following table shows what you can expect to earn according to your experience in the field:

Years of Experience Salary Range
Less than a year $30,000-$43,000
1-4 years $24,917-$67,871
5-9 years $35,756-$51,000
10-19 years $22,096-$45,781

Job Outlook

From 2012-2022, the BLS expects that forensic science technician employment growth will be at a slow rate of six percent. There will also be strong competition. The BLS reports that you can improve your job prospects with a natural science bachelor's degree and a forensic science master's degree. If you specialize in DNA or computer forensics, you might benefit from better job growth.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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