The educational requirements for crime scene investigators vary by employer. Forensic science technicians need a bachelor’s degree to work in crime labs. Extensive amounts of on-the-job training are required for both those who investigate crime scenes and those who work in labs.
Many crime scene investigators are sworn police officers and have met educational requirements necessary for admittance to the police academy. Applicants for non-uniform crime scene investigator jobs at larger law enforcement agencies should have a bachelor’s degree in either forensic science or a natural science, but many rural agencies hire applicants with a high school diploma. For more information on police officers, see the profile on police and detectives.
Technicians who work in crime laboratories typically need a bachelor’s degree in either forensic science or a natural science such as biology or chemistry. Students who major in forensic science should ensure that their program includes extensive course work in mathematics, chemistry, and biology. A list of schools that offer degrees in forensic science is available from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
Composure. Crime scenes can be gruesome, but technicians have to maintain their professionalism.
Critical-thinking skills. Forensic science technicians use their best judgment when matching physical evidence, such as fingerprints and DNA, to suspects.
Detail oriented. Forensic science technicians cannot afford to make mistakes when they collect and analyze evidence.
Problem-solving skills. Forensic science technicians use scientific tests and methods to help law enforcement officials solve crimes.
Speaking skills. Forensic science technicians frequently present their findings to police and other law enforcement workers. They may be called upon to provide expert testimony in a court of law.
Writing skills. Forensic science technicians prepare written reports that must stand up to legal scrutiny.
Forensic science technicians need extensive on-the-job training before they are ready to work on cases independently.
Newly hired crime scene investigators serve as apprentices to more experienced investigators. During their apprenticeship, investigators learn proper procedures and methods for collecting and documenting evidence.
Forensic science technicians learn laboratory specialties on the job. The length of this training varies by specialty. Most DNA-analysis training programs last 6 to 12 months, but firearms-analysis training may last up to 3 years. Technicians need to pass a proficiency exam before they may perform independent casework or testify in court.
Throughout their careers, forensic science technicians need to keep abreast of advances in technology and science that improve the collection or analysis of evidence.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition