How Do I Become a Forensic Investigator?

If you think critically, solve problems resourcefully and have an interest in solving crimes, you might be wondering how to become a forensic investigator. Forensic investigators are also known as crime scene investigators. This type of forensic scientist, or forensic science technician, specializes in field work rather than laboratory work. Most forensic investigators work for law enforcement agencies as uniformed police officers, so they must meet the background check, training and physical fitness requirements.

Many aspiring forensic investigators developed an interest in the career from watching television crime dramas. Unlike many of the characters in these fictionalized serious, forensic investigators typically do not perform laboratory analyses on the evidence they collect. This is usually a separate job, performed by other forensic scientists who have specialized in laboratory work and who may have even entered the field from a different educational path and undergone different training. However, the field work performed by forensic investigators is still fulfilling and exciting. These professionals perform walkthroughs of actual crime scenes to develop a preliminary understanding of how the crime occurred. Forensic investigators preserve the integrity of the crime scene by taking photographs and sketching the area.

Collecting evidence correctly is the most important, and most difficult, part of a forensic investigator’s job. Law enforcement agencies need as much evidence as possible to determine who committed a crime and prosecute the alleged perpetrator in a criminal case. If forensic investigators miss important pieces of evidence, a crime could go unsolved or there might not be enough evidence to convict the perpetrator in a court of law. The same is true if the evidence becomes contaminated. That’s why forensic investigators must carefully acquire and catalog evidence by using approved methods, such as picking items up with tweezers rather than their hands and using specialized kits to collect finger prints, blood, and other physical evidence. They must carefully note where evidence was found.

A college education is not an absolute requirement for a position as a police officer, but many law enforcement agencies seek candidates who have earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or law enforcement. Forensic science courses may also be an asset for aspiring investigators. Candidates must apply for a law enforcement position and receive training at a police academy. Once they attain a position as a crime scene investigator, these professionals work under the guidance of experienced investigators until they learn the correct procedures for finding and collecting evidence.

Forensic science technicians as a whole – including forensic investigators – earn a median salary of $51,570 per year, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. While the career might not be quite as glamorous as it appears on television shows, the job is an indispensable part of law enforcement. If you pay close attention to details, can carefully follow instructions regarding evidence collection and want to help solve crimes, knowing how to become a forensic investigator could be your first step toward a dynamic new career.

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