Since the requirements are set by the agency, there are many ways to become a CSI. As mentioned before, there is no legal licensing or educational requirement (excluding Indiana), however most agencies require a bachelors of arts in science (“CSI Requirements - How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator”). Whether a person decides to attain a degree or not, it is important to have on-the-job training. This training is preferred by agencies and sometimes required but at least recommended to earn certification. For example, the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA) requires at least 2 years of experience and 50 hours of coursework. This means a person can train for 2 years and take certain courses at the college to meet this requirement.
Another possible route is law enforcement experience. Those who have experience working with law enforcement will have an advantage due to the fact they have on-site experience and may have worked alongside a CSI previously (“CSI Requirements - How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator”).
For tests and entrance exams, once again it is not required. However, if a person wants to be more advanced in the field, there are many different options and varies by the type of certificate a person is trying to obtain.
There are many other pathways to becoming a CSI, such as having a degree and working in law enforcement, being trained on-site, having a degree and then getting experience, etc. However, the most successful pathways that will place you higher than your peers are, at a minimum, having a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or a similar field, i.e. criminal justice (“CSI Requirements - How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator”).
The career of a CSI is extremely difficult; it is due to the fact that is emotionally and physically demanding. A CSI can be called at any time and at any hour, therefore they should always be ready to work. But even with the difficulties, the rewarding part outweighs the hardest part of it. According to Alicia Bulter, CSIs are able to form close bonds and friendships with the people they work with. This is rewarding since good, trustworthy friends are hard to come by (10). In addition, CSIs are helping find and understand evidence on crime scene, which could help solve a case and allow justice to be served. That is one of the most rewarding parts.
The longevity of a CSI is not long at all. Due to it being a difficult career, people come and go since it is so demanding (“Crime Scene Investigator Careers - CSI Salary & Job Outlook”). The hours are very long and one could lose a lot of sleep and be extremely tired (“Crime Scene Investigator Hours – How Much Do They Work?”).
Paywise, it varies depending on where you work, i.e. the state and agency. According to Criminal Justice Profiles, the annual wage is $81,490 (“Crime Scene Investigator Responsibilities, Careers & Degrees”). Pay Scale lists that the low end was around $33,000, the average was $45,937, and the high end was around $90,000 (“Average Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Salary”). The report from the 2010-11 US Bureau of Labor Statistics states CSIs earns $37,960 on the low side, $62,110 on average, and $99,980 on the high end (“Crime Scene Investigator Salary”).
As a CSI, advancements occurs typically when the person decides they want to. A person can go back to school and earn another degree that would prove their expertise. If you are going through the path of a uniformed CSI, you can move up the ranks (“Crime Scene Investigator”, [CorrectionalOfficer.org]). After spending some time as a member of a police force, you can apply for advancement. A person can move into new higher positions, such as captain, lieutenant, or sergeant after getting on-the-job experience and adding your name on the list for promotion. It is necessary that the person passes an exam in the department to earn a promotion. Typically, one will continue working with their crime scene investigative team but with a higher pay and rank (Ray, 2019).
Another promotion path is to move to the federal level. Approximately after a year of working on the field with a rural or city forensic team, a person can apply for a job with a federal agency, i.e. the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). One might start off working in a laboratory, identifying samples from crime scenes, operating innovative and sophisticated investigative equipment, and assisting investigators in major crimes and terrorism. Once one reaches management level, they can apply for a position in the FBI academy and become a field agent with their CSI background (Ray, 2019).
A CSI can also leave the body fluid and scene sample collection and be promoted to the position of a detective within the police department. This process is similar to becoming an officer, which was mentioned before. For this promotion, a person has to spend a significant amount of time working as a CSI, successfully assist detectives in solving crimes, and the application process that includes a test (Ray, 2019).
Lastly, as mentioned briefly previously, a CSI can continue working or go on a hiatus to return to school. They can follow a number of different career paths that will build your forensic experience (Ray, 2019). For example, they can go to medical school and become a medical examiner, get a doctorate in anthropology to learn more about skeletal remains, or take photography courses to become a crime scene photographer that will provide more in-depth information about firearms, tool marks, and blood spatters. Continuing going to school will allow a person to be challenged and have a wide range to continue their career.
Being a CSI is a difficult career. In fact, many people cannot go even go through it. Even if it is not cut out for everyone, those who are passionate about this career tend to strive and advance throughout their career. There are many promotions depending on where someone’s interests lie, typically involving education advancements, exams, and experience on the field. In the end, the career is very rewarding and has many pathways.