HOW TO BECOME A CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATOR

Learn about the duties of a crime scene investigator. Research the skills, education and training needed by reading career books or by searching the Internet. Job requirements and duties may vary depending on the agency and the geographic location. Reading articles or job descriptions online can help you decide if you want to pursue this career.
Enroll in a respected criminal justice program at a four-year university or a community college. Some criminal justice-related jobs only require a high school education or a GED, but you can make yourself more marketable if you pursue a certificate or a bachelor's degree. Most criminal justice courses focus on forensic science and psychology, law enforcement, private security, fraud investigation, crime analysis, and crime scene investigation. Biology and chemistry courses are also helpful if you wish to work in a crime lab.
Prepare for the crime scene investigator position. Depending on where you live, you may pursue an internship with the local police department. Get hands-on experience by surveying the crime scenes, collecting evidence and analyzing everything in the lab. Work with a superior to learn the basics and techniques involved in the work of a crime scene investigator.
Apply for the job and have a resume prepared. At the interview, be prepared to discuss what you know about the department and the community, and how your skill set can contribute to the organization. Besides police departments, look for opportunities at private consulting firms and government organizations such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms or the FBI.

Tip

Having an eye for detail, physical and mental strength, and demonstrating the ability to work individually and as a team are keys to becoming a successful crime scene investigator. Crime scene investigators must learn to use cameras to document the scene and use fingerprint technology to track suspects. CSIs conduct surveillance and interviews outside of the office, then they maintain paperwork, make phone calls and perform computer searches in the office. Public speaking skills are a must since CSIs are sometimes required to testify in court. Because the job of crime scene investigator is an attractive field to many college graduates, the competition is high. People tend to be interested in the field because of the ability to help solve cases and fight crime within the community. This may be a good fit if you have a community service background and you enjoy helping others. When hired for the CSI job, some agencies will put you through a probationary period where you go through on-the-job training. Beginning investigators are paired with a field training officer who already has experience and will teach the basics of crime scene response, evidence collection, forensic photography, and homicide investigations.

Warning

Crime scene investigators must be flexible and able to work more than 40 hours a week. Some night, weekend and holiday work may be required. Don't apply for this job if you're not willing to work such odd hours. Expect the work to be stressful at times, especially when you have to confront suspects or difficult clients. In such situations, assertiveness counts. Also, you must be able to handle the potentially difficult aspects of the job, such as arriving at a murder scene. Stay away from this position if you are squeamish about the effects of violence.

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