Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)
Crime scene investigators (CSIs) go by many names, including evidence technician, crime scene technician, forensic investigator, crime scene analyst, criminalistics officer and more.
In the past, most CSIs were trained police officers. In fact, most still work out of police stations today. However, the role is increasingly being given to civilians with scientific, rather than law enforcement, expertise.
CSIs spend most of their time in the field, working at crime scenes. The CSI’s job is to:
The physical evidence collected by CSIs may include fingerprints, footprints, trace materials, hair and fibers and biological evidence found at the scene and on the victim’s body.
The evidence collected by the CSI is then transferred to a lab, in strict accordance with chain-of-evidence procedures. In the lab, technicians, including forensic chemists, forensic biologists and forensic toxicologists, analyze the samples. CSIs rarely process evidence, unless they have special training in fingerprint processing or blood spatter analysis, for example.
The CSI then prepares a written report detailing how and where all the evidence was collected. CSIs often must testify in court about their findings.
A CSI’s work is often messy, smelly, long and physically demanding. But most CSIs find helping to solve crimes by uncovering the physical evidence rewarding and challenging.
A CSI must be prepared to work:
Seeing the results of crimes on a daily basis can be emotionally taxing on the CSI. The workload can be overwhelming and the pressure to “work faster” intense. Being on call can take time away from family and friends, leading to burnout.
About Health Care Careers
Note: The American Academy of Forensic Sciences reviewed this profile.
To Do and Not to Do: Writing the College Essay
Part 4: How to Attend College Without Going into Too Much Debt
Part 2: How to Attend College Without Going into Too Much Debt
Criminal Background Check? But, I’m Not A Criminal!
Applying for Financial Aid (Part II)
Why Diversity Matters in the Health Professions
Start Preparing for Your Health Care Career in High School
Reconciliation Act of 2010 Includes Significant Student Aid Provisions
Healthcare Reform 101
Keep Past Mistakes from Limiting Your Future Health Care Career
Top 10 Reasons to Pursue a Health Career Now
Explore the Fascinating Field of Forensic Science
Educational requirements are often set by the hiring agency. Some require a two-year degree, while others demand a bachelor's or even master's degree with extensive study in both scientific subjects and criminal justice.
If you are interested in becoming a crime scene investigator (CSI), start asking questions now. If you want to work as a CSI in a specific city or county, contact the police department or sheriff’s department and ask whether the local CSIs are trained as police officers or civilian CSIs. In many areas, police officers do double duty as CSIs, spending the rest of their time doing police work.
If you decide to train as a police officer, you will likely need several years of experience before you can apply to work as a CSI.
Think ahead. Most CSIs eventually stop working in the field and go back to police work or transfer to the lab as forensic technicians.
Keep your record clean. CSIs must undergo background checks and, while a perfect record is not essential, you will have to answer for any legal infractions, even traffic tickets.
In High School
Search for funding opportunities related to this career
Search for enrichment programs related to this career
Search for academic degree and certificate programs related to this career
Last updated: May 26, 2016
©2012 American Dental Education Association