Courses Needed to Be a Crime Scene Investigator

Crime scene investigators are usually expected to hold a bachelor's degree, while some candidates rely on certificate programs or on-the-job training and others obtain advanced degrees. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Qualifications Are Necessary to Become a Crime Scene Investigator?

One route to become a crime scene investigator (CSI) is to become a police officer first, and then obtain some experience before applying for a CSI position. There are also some jobs available for civilian CSIs - a few of the roughly 18,000 police agencies in the United States hire full-time crime scene investigators. Most require a bachelor's degree or higher, while some smaller, rural agencies will accept candidates with a two-year degree or no college education.

Degree LevelBachelor's degree, though some employers don't require one
Preferred Degree FieldsChemistry, biology, forensic science, criminal justice
Required Skills Photography, sketching, fingerprint identification, writing, verbal communication, attention to detail
Median Annual Salary (2018) and Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)$58,230; 17% increase (for forensic science technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Skills Are Required?

A crime scene investigator identifies, collects, documents, handles and preserves physical evidence from the scene of a crime and provides support to the lead investigator. Some of the skills and duties required include:

  • Photography
  • Crime scene measuring
  • Sketching
  • Fingerprint identification
  • Laboratory analysis
  • Comprehensive written reports
  • Verbal communication skills, including court testimonies
  • Attention to detail
  • Facility with numbers

Crime scene investigators often work long shifts and unusual hours, and they are sometimes required to handle hazardous materials or be in dangerous environments.

What Courses and Degrees Are Preferred?

One ideal form of educational preparation for a career as a CSI would be to obtain a degree in chemistry or biology with a minor in criminal justice. Numerous colleges and universities also offer degree programs specifically tailored toward aspiring forensic scientists, including bachelor's degree, master's degree and certificate programs. These provide a focus in forensic science, criminalistics or other applicable areas of study, and can take anywhere from eight months to four years to complete.

Undergraduate certificate programs can be useful for bachelor's degree holders looking to change their career paths, working CSIs who need additional education or candidates looking to apply to agencies that require fewer qualifications. Meanwhile, graduate certificate programs offer forensic science professionals the opportunity to expand their knowledge and credentials and usually require a bachelor's degree to apply.

Following employment, additional training is often provided by the relevant law enforcement agency.

What Job Opportunities Are Available?

Crime scene investigators most often work for law enforcement agencies. Some of the other titles ascribed to crime scene investigators include:

  • Evidence technician (ET)
  • Crime scene technician (CST)
  • Forensic investigator (FI)
  • Scenes of crime officer (SOCO)
  • Crime scene analyst (CSA)
  • Criminalistics officer (CO)

Forensic science technicians, including crime scene investigators, earned a median annual salary of $58,230 in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While jobs for forensic science technicians are expected to grow 17% from 2016 to 2026 - much faster than the average across industries - the agency reported that this will only translate into about 2,600 new jobs, meaning that competition for CSI positions will remain fierce.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Strayer University

    Strayer University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Strayer University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

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  • Purdue University Global

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  • Saint Leo University

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    Popular programs at Saint Leo University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs

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  • Regent University

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    Popular programs at Regent University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

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  • Colorado State University Global

    Colorado State University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Colorado State University Global:

    • Master
    • Certificates

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  • Colorado Christian University

    Colorado Christian University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Colorado Christian University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs

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  • Northcentral University

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  • Southern New Hampshire University

    Southern New Hampshire University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Master
      • Masters - Accounting: Forensic Accounting

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  • Miller-Motte College

    Miller-Motte College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Miller-Motte College:

    • Associate Programs

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  • Liberty University

    Liberty University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Liberty University:

    • Master

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