Thanks to the wildly popular “CSI” series, and shows such as “Cold Case” and “Forensic Files,” there is now a slew of incoming college students (young and old alike) who want to become some sort of crime scene investigator. However it’s important that people know up front that being a crime scene tech is no more glamorous in real life than being a lawyer or a police officer is, though it might look that way on cop dramas.
Crime scene investigators will spend half their time digging through blood, semen, body hair and all sorts of human refuse looking for evidence of crimes. The the other half of their time will be spent in labs analyzing what they found. If on the other hand that sounds right up your alley, then maybe becoming a crime scene investigator is right for you.
First of all you need a degree to become a CSI technician. Which type of investigator you want to be will depend on what sort of degree you should earn. If you want to take samples from the crime scene, dig through trash and deal with general clean up then you could get a criminal justice or crime scene investigation degree. If on the other hand you want to work in an actual lab and analyze the evidence that’s collected, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in one of the physical sciences. Chemistry is a good choice, but so is biology and even geology. Before enrolling for classes you should check with the local and state police department to see what they require as far as education goes.
Once you have your degree in hand you should take the next step towards attaining crime scene investigator status. Some jurisdictions require CSI technicians to also have police status, and to be a part of the department. Other jurisdictions will have police officers collect the evidence, but the lab that they use will be staffed by private technicians. This means all of the analysis is done by private contractors. Depending on how things work in your area, submit your resume to the appropriate businesses and government agencies.
If you have difficulty getting a position immediately as a CSI agent (which is very likely, since it’s become a popular field due to the media attention), then it might be a good idea to pick up some job experience elsewhere that’s related to your degree. If you have a criminal justice degree then find work as a police officer or as a prison guard until opportunity elsewhere shows up. If you have a specialty in chemistry then perhaps a job in a hospital laboratory would be up your alley (especially if you want to specialize in blood analysis). Keep your resume in circulation as well since a job may open up unexpectedly. A job history in a related field can make you a much better candidate for when a position for a CSI agent does open up.