Thanks to the growing popularity of specific TV programmings, CSI has become a growing field of interest in the law enforcement and criminal justice community. These shows document crime-solving techniques including new technology, creative thinking, and good ole fashioned cops-and-robbers detective work.
CSI stands for Crime Scene Investigator; however, there are several names that may apply to the same job description. These include CSI, ET (evidence technician), CST (crime scene technician), FI (forensic investigator), SOCO (scenes of crime officer), CSA (crime scene analyst), CO (criminalisticts officer), medico-legal death investigators, Forensic Photographers, Latent Print Technician and more.
The job of a CSI is to collect physical evidence from a crime scene with the goal of determining the victim of the crime, when and how it took place and the guilty party. CSIs work alongside police, military officers and medical personnel.
Not only do they collect and document evidence from crime scenes, they may also be required to take photographs of items at the scene, view autopsies, formulate detailed reports regarding the crime and be a part of police briefings. Additionally, they may even be called to testify in court as expert witnesses or to present information about specific cases.
Forensic scientists and CSIs work closely together. Forensic Scientists work mainly in the laboratory, analyzing and examining the evidence brought in by the CSIs; while crime scene investigators tend to work at the actual crime scene by collecting evidence that is later processed in the lab, such as fibers and hair.
In order to pursue a career as a Crime Scene Investigator, it is required to have at least an Associates Degree in Law or Criminal Justice. A Bachelors degree or higher is preferred and oftentimes it is required to have completed degree-level coursework in one or more applied science disciplines, particularly biology, chemistry or physics. In other cases, it may also be required that CSIs have earned police or military officer status.
In May 2009 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the mean hourly wage was $26.47 and the mean annual wage was $55,070 (annual wages at the 10 percentile were $32,420 and the 90 percentile were $84,260) for forensic science technicians. (Read the Bureau of Labor Statistics report). The difference in the salary range is mainly geographical but also is based on education, training and experience level.
Some recent job openings posted have the following pay scales listed:
- Crime Scene Technician: $51,204 — $63,444
- Identification Technician: $44,740 — $73,965
- Latent Print Technician: $38,822 — $64,704
- Forensic Scientist Trainee: $46,815 — $78,319
- Forensic Photographer: $45,780 — $53,290
- Crime Scene Section Supervisor: $65,813 — $98,197
- Criminalist: $65,645 — $102,190
- Police Evidence Technician I/II: $34,598 — $67,197
- Latent Print Technician: $51,250 — $66,851
If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a Crime Scene Investigator, one of the best things you can do is to contact agencies in the geographical area you wish to work and find out what their Crime Scene Investigators do on the job, what their minimum requirements for applying are, projected salary and how often the have job openings.
Additional specialties within the Criminal Justice field that you can look into as a career:
- Criminal Investigations
- Correction Officers
- FBI Special Agent
- Homeland Security
- Law Enforcement