When people think Crime Scene Investigations, they think of a glamorized version of the events that occur in reality thanks to shows like CSI or Law and Order. In these shows, the handsome and beautiful investigative team in suits spends a few minutes walking around the crime scene before picking up something seemingly obscure, putting it in a zip-lock bag and sending it off to their witty, smart-alack friends in the lab coats. Less than twelve hours later, they have the results they need to take down the bad guy (or gal!) of the week. Unfortunately, like most things in reality, things are a lot tougher in real life.
Typically, crime scene investigators are working in labs or at desks studying notes. Not only is it often long, grueling work for the investigators to analyze every bit of information given to them in the hopes of catching the criminal, but the evidence they receive or photos at the crime scene that are taken can be pretty horrific stuff. Investigators need to have the stomach and mental capability to work even under these circumstances.
CSI Career Potential
It isn’t the most sexy job in the world, as TV shows seem to imply, but it is deep, fulfilling work that has decent pay–The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) states “the median annual wage of forensic science technicians was $51,570 in May 2010.” That is for investigators working for the local government. However, according to multiple sources, investigators working for the federal government make a significant amount more sometimes averaging over $90,000 per year.
The financial perks are nice, but they simply do not compare to the satisfaction of doing a community a great service and making the world a safer place by helping put criminals behind bars. Through well-done investigative work, one can avoid perpetuating the innocent and ensure that their family remains safe at night.
What students learn whilst pursuing the degree
Many investigators are police officers as well, and they have met the educational requirements needed to become one. This usually means a high school diploma and a bachelors degree in either forensic science or a natural science. Forensics science focuses on “the application of a broad spectrum of sciences and technologies to investigate and establish facts of interest in relation to criminal or civil law” while natural science is about studying biology and physics.
Investigators need to have deep critical thinking skills. Modern day science is not nearly as powerful as TV shows imply, and as such it is mostly up to the investigators to draw to conclusions, not a high-tech machine. Their writing and speaking abilities need to be up to par as well, as their observations and details need to be strong enough to be read to other investigators and in a court of law, either in a testimony or a report.
When investigators first start off, they do not go immediately into independent work. Instead, they are assistants to much more experienced investigators. They need many hours of on the job experience before they can work independently. They also need to learn lots about specific types of laboratory techniques and fire-arms analysis.
Earning the degree online
When students choose to learn their forensics or natural science degree online in the pursuit of being a crime scene investigator, not only can they plan the long hours of studying around their schedule, but they also get the added benefit of having the ability to establish connections with people all around the world. The salaries of investigators varies from state to state, and a fantastic job opportunity in a state with a higher rate of pay can come about through a fellow student.