Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)

black Image of scales on white background with the words, "calibrate the scales" overlaid. As with any set of scales, the scales of justice must, from time to time, be recalibrated. Total balance is never achieved, but all in the criminal justice and legal systems must strive for it as much as possible.

The Role of Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) in Criminal Justice and Law

Crime Scene Investigators (CSI) have a very vital and dominant role at a crime scene. They are the ones who identify, collect and document all the physical evidences found at the crime scene. They may collect hair, tissue and body fluids from a crime victim. They also perform tests on items found at the crime scene. Crime Scene Investigators are typically forensic scientists or field analysts. They are employed by government agencies and laboratories like coroner’s office, crime laboratories and police departments. The nature of the job depends upon the geographical location and the governmental department where the candidate is hired. The candidates are hired by local, state or federal government agency.

US Army CID crime scene investigator
US Army CID crime scene investigator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CSIs are required to be very conscientious and vigilant while collecting and storing their evidence because the information they provide helps to acquit or to convict a person of crime. CSIs photograph the evidence, create drawings of the crime scene, collects samples and write detailed information about the crime. They prepare forms, reports and other written documentations about their findings. They are often called to testify in courts on their findings.

They need to have strong computer and communication skills, must be thorough professionals and are required to be team players as they work with range of people that includes attorneys and law enforcements. The CSIs must be mentally and emotionally very strong as they get to face gruesome and disturbing crime scenes, that includes homicides and sexual assaults they are required to deal professionally in such stressful conditions. They must know how to use their critical thinking to build relation between the physical evidences and the potential suspect. The CSIs must be prepared to work for more than 40 hours a week and at any time of the day or night.

Educational Requirements to Become a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)

A bachelor’s degree in forensic science, forensic anthropology or forensic biology is the most applicable education to become a Crime Scene Investigators (CSI). But professionals in this field come from other educational backgrounds as well, which includes general studies and criminal justice. The graduates of these subjects are required to undergo additional forensic training.

English: A crime scene. .
English: A crime scene. . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many schools offer certificate and degree programs in crime scene investigation. Students who are four year degree holders in biology or chemistry may also apply to become Crime Scene Investigators (CSI). Some agencies hire sworn police officers to be a CSI.

After being hired by the agency the selected candidates undergo a professional and rigorous training. The trainees apprentice under a senior CSI and get the practical training. They get trained for DNA-analysis, firearms analysis, etc. They are required to pass proficiency exams to actually investigate a crime scene.

Further studies like Masters and Ph.D. (Doctors of Philosophy) in forensic science boosts your chances of better career prospects.

Preparation for a Career as a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)

If you wish to pursue a CSI career of Crime Scene Analyst, Crime Laboratory Analyst, Forensic Scientists or Criminalist, you are required to have sharp verbal and written communication skills, analytical mind and must be very patient and composed. If mysteries fascinate you and you like to work in law enforcement, the excellent career choice that you may make is to be a CSI. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can provide you a rewarding career. Some positions may require a background in biology, forensics or chemistry. Some employers may ask for the master’s degree. Having an experience is an additional advantage for placements. The candidate can gain experience through law enforcement work, military services or internship.

How to Apply for a Position as a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) is an official website for job listing in agencies and departments across the country. The individuals who aim for a career in crime scene investigation must check the requirements of the local law enforcement agencies. The candidate must prepare a detailed resume attached with a well-written cover letter (ideally one page). The selected applicants are required to pass a written examination to face the final round of interviews and other capability assessments such as background check, polygraph check, physical and psychological evaluation test.

Additional Information Related to a Career as a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)

The crime scene investigators (CSI) may have one of the following job titles:

  1. Crime Scene Analyst (CSA)
  2. Crime Scene Technician (CST)
  3. Evidence Technician (ET)
  4. Forensic Investigator (FI)
  5. Scenes Of Crime Officer (SOCO)

Average Salary of a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)

Photograph of a footwear impression / shoeprin...
Photograph of a footwear impression / shoeprint left at a crime scene. Forensic investigators can use footwear impressions to link a suspect to a crime scene. For the impression above , a search of a footwear impression database will show that shoe which made the impression was: Manufactured by: “Nike” Model of footwear: “Nike Free Everyday” Size of shoe: US 9.5 or US 11 women’s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the Crime Scene Investigators (CSI) earn an average annual salary of $77,210, as of 2015. The salary may vary depending upon education, experience and geographic locations. Washington, D.C. is the state that paid the highest annual salary of $73,010, as of May 2012. Other states in the United States paid as follows:

  • California paid $72,000
  • Michigan paid $70,650
  • Massachusetts paid $69,360
  • Virginia paid $66,360

The states which have the highest employment levels for Crime Scene Investigators (CSI) are: California, Texas, Florida, Maryland and Arizona.

The salary of Crime Scene Investigators (CSI) also depends upon the agency they work in. For example as per the BLS report, as of May 2012, the CSIs who worked with federal governmental agency earned $94,800 annually, CSIs for local government earned $55,950 a year and $51,100 who worked for state government.

The BLS states 19% employment growth for CSIs which is higher than the national average for all the occupations (14%).


Maximum number of CSIs are ex-police officers. Having an experience in police department is an advantage in getting into crime investigation. The interested candidates may complete a police academy program (though not necessary) before applying for the openings in investigation unit.

International Association for Identification (IAI) offers professional certifications for candidates to upgrade their profiles. It requires the candidate to have one year of experience in crime-scene related activities. The candidate must obtain at least 75% marks to get certified by this body.