How to Become a Forensic Investigator: Degree & Requirements

Learn more about the career of a forensic investigator, the educational requirements and how you can get a foot in the door to help law enforcement officials solve crimes. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career at a Glance

Forensic investigators collect and analyze evidence from crime scenes or other locations relevant to criminal investigations and work with law enforcement officials to resolve legal or criminal cases. They may work in the field or in laboratories and provide expert testimony before court.

Degree Required Minimum of a bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Natural science, forensic science
Key Skills Attention to detail, critical thinking, problem solving, analytical, communication
Job Growth (2016-2026) 17% (Forensic science technicians)*
Median Annual Wage (2017) $57,850 (Forensic science technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Forensic Investigator Do?

Forensic investigators help to solve crimes, working in close collaboration with law enforcement officials and other forensics professionals. They collect evidence such as fingerprints, bodily fluids and human tissue; take photos and make sketches of locations and scenes; and analyze evidence in laboratories. Evidence collection and investigation can also involve recovering and analyzing data from computers or consulting with other professionals to identify victims with the help of dental records.

Job duties also include interviewing relatives or other relevant persons to obtain more information about the incident as well as informing next of kin of a death and its circumstances. Further, forensic investigators prepare reports about their findings and testify before court. As crimes can happen any time of the day and night, the job usually involves shift work, and conditions can be hazardous.

What Education Do I Need to Become a Forensic Investigator?

You need at least a bachelor's degree in science, such as biology, chemistry, or forensic science, to become a forensic investigator. However, it is not uncommon to complete a master's in forensic science after a bachelor's in natural science. Master's programs in forensic science allow students to specialize in an area, such as DNA analysis or toxicology, and potentially increase employment prospects.

What Additional Experience Do I Need?

To get a better idea of what this profession entails while also gathering experience with potential employers, you can apply for internship programs during the final semesters of your degree. New forensic investigators typically shadow experienced professionals and receive significant on-the-job training in laboratory analysis procedures and other specifics before working independently. Those who work for police departments are often sworn police officers. Forensic investigators need to keep abreast of technical and scientific advances in the field, making this job one where continued learning is vital to success.

What Key Skills Do I Need?

Forensic investigators need great attention to detail as well as analytical skills; they have to decide what evidence is important in relation to a crime and analyze findings using their knowledge in forensic science. These professionals also need to have strong communication skills, as they collaborate with a range of other professionals in the field. They also need writing skills to produce reports and provide expert testimony before court.

What Income and Job Growth Can I Expect?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics groups forensic investigators under forensic science technicians. The median salary for forensic science technicians in 2017 was $57,850, with income across all reported salaries ranging from below $33,880 to over $95,600. At 17%, job growth for forensic science technicians is forecast to be much stronger than average. Demand for forensic science technicians is expected to grow because advances in technology are making forensic evidence increasingly valuable during criminal trials.

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