What Is Crime Scene Investigation?

The popularity of television crime dramas has made CSI, or crime scene investigation, a household term. Crime scene investigation involves collecting, preserving, and analyzing evidence and other data found at crime scenes. Forensics experts who participate in these processes play vital roles in the legal system. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Field Overview

The term 'crime scene investigation' has become largely recognizable, thanks to pop culture and television media. Crime scene investigation, often referred to as CSI, involves collecting, preserving, documenting, and analyzing evidence found at crime scenes. Forensics, the application of science in the legal realm, plays a big role in crime scene investigation and a number of forensic professionals are involved in the process.

While the TV drama version of crime scene investigation involves expensive, high-end equipment, real-life investigators generally work with limited budgets and must rely on their creativity to get the job done. On-screen depictions of crime scene investigation also occasionally skew the reality of working in the field by misrepresenting the career profiles of real-life professionals.

Important Facts About the Crime Scene Investigation Field

Median Pay (2014)$55,360 (for forensic science technicians)
Required Education Bachelor's degree
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training, usually under the guidance of an experienced investigator
Work Environment Police departments, morgue, crime laboratory; also spend a majority of time at crime scene

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Forensics experts are responsible for two main tasks: retrieving and processing evidence found at crime scenes and acting as expert witnesses. The first of these tasks involves studying physical evidence, analyzing clues recovered from crime scenes, and drawing conclusions based on evidence and one's expertise. The second part of a forensic expert's job requires communicating his or her complex findings to judges and juries in understandable terms.

Career Outlook Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the employment of detectives and criminal investigators is expected to decline by 1% between 2014 and 2024, while forensic science technicians could see employment opportunities increase by about 27% during the same decade.

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