What Is the Job Outlook for a Crime Scene Investigator?

As a crime scene investigator (CSI), you would investigate crimes using physical evidence, along with scientific tools and techniques acquired through education and experience. Employment growth is expected to greater than most for forensic science technicians but slower than most for police and detectives from 2014-2024. Read on to learn more about the job outlook and salary for this field. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Overview of Crime Scene Investigator

Crime Scene Investigators (CSI) apply the skills they learn through both education and experience to gather physical evidence in the investigation of crimes. This type of evidence is necessary in trials to assist prosecutors build their cases.

Important Facts About Crime Scene Investigators

Required Education Bachelor's degree (forensic science technician), high school diploma (police and detectives)
On-the-Job Training Required for both forensic science technicians and detectives
Key Skills Physical stamina, math and science skills, perceptiveness
Similar Occupations Correctional officers, bailiffs, private detectives and investigators

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't keep separate statistics for CSIs; however, some CSI duties fall under the BLS description of a forensic science technician, while others are covered under the job profile for criminal investigators (www.bls.gov). While forensic science technicians are expected to see faster than average employment growth, police and detectives are expected to see slower-than-average employment growth in the decade spanning 2014-2024. The projection for forensic science technicians is 27%, while that for detectives and criminal investigators is 4%.

Forensic evidence is needed for many trials, and courts will need forensic science technicians who can provide this information promptly. The BLS notes that these professionals can expect a lot of competition and that law enforcement budgets will affect the number of job openings across the country.

Salary Information

According to PayScale.com, most CSIs earned between $29,244 and $68,757 as of September 2015. The median income for these professionals was $39,944. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that detectives and criminal investigators earned a median salary of $58,630 as of May 2014.

Job Description

The job of a CSI is often equated with that of a forensic science technician. However, this type of professional collects evidence at a crime scene, while a forensic science technician analyzes evidence in a crime lab. As a CSI, you would conduct the first evaluation of a crime scene. You would preserve, package and document all collected evidence. This might include recording the location of evidence, along with the date and the name of the person who collected it. You may test for blood and other bodily fluids, as well as looking for fingerprints. Other duties might include obtaining tapes from surveillance cameras, transferring evidence to the proper authorities and receiving a receipt for evidence. You could be required to testify in court.

CSIs work crime scenes ranging from murders, robberies and sexual assaults to accidents and catastrophic events. You might find yourself taking photographs of an entire scene, evidence, victims and even onlookers. You may be required to sketch the crime scene and describe it via written notes, including the sounds, smells and weather conditions.

Required Equipment

These professionals use various types of equipment. You probably would wear protective gear to minimize contaminating the scene. You also might need a flashlight, fingerprint kit, tweezers, photographic ruler, collection kit for insects, flares and snow wax. Additionally, you may use video equipment to reconstruct an incident. Other needed materials could include biohazard bags, casting material and containers for evidence. You likely would be responsible for cleaning and sterilizing your equipment between uses and would have to make sure you had sufficient single-use items for collecting biological evidence, such as blood.

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