Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)

In the world of law enforcement, CSI — which indicates either the task of Crime Scene Investigation or the Crime Scene Investigators — plays a vital role. Their principal function is to gather, safeguard, identify and analyze physical evidence collected at the scene of a crime.

The ultimate goal of a Crime Scene Investigator and CSI personnel is to clearly identify the party responsible for perpetrating a crime. While the position is often referred to as “CSI,” the same job function is also known by other titles, including Crime Scene Technician, Crime Scene Analyst, Evidence Technician and Forensic Investigator.

Degrees for CSI

Though many Crime Scene Investigators are police officers, the number of civilians with specialized skills being hired for CSI jobs is on the rise. Some law enforcement agencies prefer that applicants possess a college degree, but most require one. Depending on the size, location and requirements of the hiring agency, a two-year, four-year or post-graduate degree in the general field of criminal justice or a more specific criminal justice discipline, such as forensic science will be looked upon favorably.

Other degrees that could prove useful in obtaining employment as a Crime Scene Investigator include those with an emphasis in lab sciences, such as chemistry and biology, as they can be applied to Crime Scene Investigation

CSI Job Description

CSI combines knowledge and techniques from a number of different disciplines, including science, law and logic. Applying the scientific method and deductive reasoning to physical evidence is necessary to uncover clues, collect evidence and reconstruct how the crime occurred.

CSI is a specialized application of forensic science (or as it more commonly called, forensics). The essential difference between forensics and CSI is that CSI involves field forensics, or on-site investigation of the physical scene of a crime, while most forensic work takes place in a controlled laboratory setting. Employees in both career fields can benefit from a degree in criminal justice or relevant area of study.

The duties, assignments and procedures of a CSI vary among the many departments and agencies that employ them. There are a number of fundamental responsibilities that virtually all Crime Scene Investigators have in common, including:

  • Securing the crime scene quickly to ensure minimal contamination and disturbance of physical evidence.
  • Processing the scene’s physical evidence, such as fingerprints, shoeprints, bloodstains and any available ballistic evidence.
  • Collecting DNA evidence from hair, skin cells or residual bodily fluids is also becoming standard procedure. In addition, the entire crime scene is documented photographically in great detail for future reference.
  • Analyzing the evidence to reconstruct the scene of the crime. This task applies logical deduction based on the physical evidence and the results of analyzing this evidence.

Despite the popular notion perpetrated by various fictional TV shows, it is not the job of the CSI to solve crimes, apprehend suspects or make arrests. The real-life CSI plays what is fundamentally a supporting role, backing up the investigator to whom a case is assigned. While the position of CSI occasionally involves the possibility of danger, it is essentially a procedural position.

CSI Salary

The average CSI salary range can run from $20,000 to over $50,000, depending on numerous factors such as location, education, training and experience of the Crime Scene Investigator.

Not all CSI personnel are responsible for collecting crime-scene evidence, which is reflected in the differing industry salaries. According to, Crime Scene Investigators who work in law enforcement earn around $38,000, while CSI working for the government or in laboratory services can earn around $56,000.

Police officers who become CSIs generally earn more then their civilian counterparts. Civilian CSI employees also have fewer career opportunities and benefits.

CSI Resources

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