Crime Scene Investigator Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Crime Scene Investigator, or Crime Scene Technician, is responsible for assisting law enforcement officials by collecting evidence from a crime scene for future analysis. Their duties include taking photographs of a crime scene, marking and bagging up potential evidence for forensics professionals and providing insights throughout the investigation and at the trial stage.

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Crime Scene Investigator duties and responsibilities

Crime Scene Investigators have a variety of duties to perform when working a crime scene including: 

  • Collaborating with law enforcement to identify and secure the crime scene
  • Looking for and identifying physical clues at the crime scene to help reconstruct the act of the crime
  • Identifying and recording physical evidence such as impressions, DNA evidence, firearms evidence and chemical evidence
  • Following a strict procedural code to document and preserve physical evidence to send to a forensic lab for analysis

What does a Crime Scene Investigator do?

Crime Scene Investigators are typically employed by law enforcement agencies or coroner’s offices to help identify and preserve evidence from crime scenes. They take written notes at the crime scene that they can then use in conjunction with photographs and other details to create a written report of what they saw. Their job is to survey the scene to identify any potential evidence like household objects, blood, hair or other bodily fluids. They also take preventative measures by wearing shoe coverings, gloves and sometimes even masks or hazmat suits. This is to make sure that they don’t contaminate the scene in any way.

Crime Scene Investigator skills and qualifications

A successful Crime Scene Investigator candidate has a combination of prerequisite skills and qualifications needed to perform their duties: 

  • Understanding of the law: Crime Scene Investigators often work with law enforcement agencies and use their knowledge of the law to follow strict protocol. 
  • Problem-solving: Crime Scene Investigators use their expertise in identifying evidence to help law enforcement determine what happened at the crime scene. 
  • Photography: While working the crime scene, Crime Scene Investigators document physical evidence through photography. They properly light areas that they photograph and take pictures from different angles. 
  • Attention to detail: Crime Scene Investigators look for physical evidence such as impressions, DNA and chemical evidence that may be barely noticeable or which may need to undergo a chemical test to be visible. 

Crime Scene Investigator salary expectations

Crime Scene Technicians working in the United States make an average salary of $18.77 per hour. This estimate is based on the average salary of 234 Crime Scene Technicians, users and job advertisements submitted anonymously to Indeed in the last 36 months. 

Crime Scene Investigator education and training requirements

A high school diploma or GED is the minimum educational requirement to become a Crime Scene Investigator, but many law enforcement agencies require candidates to hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a natural science such as biology or chemistry. Those who have earned an undergraduate degree in an unrelated field can learn the fundamentals of crime scene investigation and management by completing a crime scene technician certification program. Crime Scene Investigators who work for a police department may need to complete police academy training and earn a license through their state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training program to become a sworn police officer. 

Crime Scene Investigator experience requirements

Crime Scene Investigators need to be familiar with procedures such as processing evidence and testifying in court. Many positions require previous experience working as a Crime Scene Investigator, though entry-level candidates can gain professional experience in the field by completing an internship with a law enforcement group. Some programs of study require students to complete an internship so that they graduate with applicable experience. 

Recent graduates can also gain experience by working in a similar work environment in positions such as a crime scene custodian, police officer or dispatcher. Many Crime Scene Investigator jobs require candidates to obtain a Certified Crime Scene Investigator certificate through the International Association for Identification (IAI), which Crime Scene Investigators can complete after a year working in the profession.

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Frequently asked questions about Crime Scene Investigators

 

What is the difference between a Crime Scene Investigator and a Detective?

The difference between a Crime Scene Investigator and a Detective is that Detectives have a more senior role in the investigative process. Crime Scene Investigators are the only ones responsible for collecting evidence from the scene of the crime. While Detectives may be present at the crime scene, they don’t partake in those duties. Instead, they might survey the scene and interview witnesses. Later in the process, Detectives use the information gathered by Crime Scene Investigators and analyzed by Forensic Scientists to create a list of suspects for the crime.

 

What are the daily duties of a Crime Scene Investigator?

On a typical day, Crime Scene Investigators may start by reviewing evidence photos and notes from a previous crime scene. From this, they may begin or continue creating a crime scene report. Throughout the day, they may communicate with detectives and other law enforcement personnel about the status of their report as they wait to hear back about evidence in the lab.

 They may be asked to go to a crime scene during their work hours to conduct their routine analysis and collection of evidence. On another day, they might testify in court as an expert witness to a crime scene they worked on in the past.

 

What makes a good Crime Scene Investigator?

A good Crime Scene Investigator is someone who has a detail-oriented mindset, which allows them to pick out small details that others might miss. Due to the nature of certain crime scenes, a good Crime Scene Investigator should be able to handle potentially unsettling crime scenes. They should also be able to channel their passion for justice into a way to carry out their job duties even in stressful environments. 

Crime Scene Investigators should also be able to speak and write well, as they may need to communicate what they saw at various stages of an investigation and provide written documentation about a crime scene.

 

Who do Crime Scene Investigators report to?

Crime Scene Investigators typically report to Crime Scene Supervisors, who are in charge of technicians and other personnel at the scene. In lieu of a supervisor, a Coroner or Detective may provide direction and guidance to Crime Scene Investigator.

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