Crime Scene Investigators (CSI)

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Crime Scene Investigators (CSI)

Note: Crime Scene Investigators fit several job descriptions but are most frequently Forensic Science Technicians. Annual and median wages are reported for Forensic Science Technicians.

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Average Annual Wages (All CSI's)* -
between $32,200 -  $85,210

Median Hourly Wage (Forensic Science Technicians):

Annual Wage Estimate (Forensic Science Technicians)**
: $52,840/year

Work week: 45+ hours per week

Job outlook 2012-2022: 6%

Positions that CSI's are Employed In:

  • Crime Scene Technician
  • Crime Scene Photographer
  • Fingerprint Classification Specialist
  • Crime Lab Assistant
  • Medical Examiner and Investigator
  • Latent Print Examiner/Trainee
  • Fire Inspector/Investigator
  • Forensic Science Specialist
  • Property and Evidence Personnel

Major job duties:

  • Examine, test, and analyze tissue samples, chemical substances, physical materials, and ballistics evidence using recording, measuring, and testing equipment.
  • Interpret laboratory findings and test results to classify substances materials and other evidence collected at the crime scene collect and preserve criminal evidence found at the crime scene.
  • Collect evidence and use it to solve cases in a responsible manner.
  • Confer with ballistics, fingerprinting, handwriting, documents, electronic, medical, chemical, or metallurgical experts to interpret evidence.
  • Reconstruct crime scenes to determine relationships among pieces of evidence.
  • Prepare reports or presentations of findings and investigate methods or laboratory techniques.
  • Testify as a witness in trials or hearings.


Working Conditions 

  • Varies depending on geographical area, climate.
  • Work over 45 hours a week.
  • Usually work on nights , holidays and weekends.
  • Will spend some time each day both in and outside of the police department and office, crime laboratories, morgues, medical examiner/coroner office.
  • Can at times be stressful or even dangerous, especially when the job involves confrontation with suspects or with upset clients.
  • In some particularly potentially dangerous situations, investigators must be armed. Investigators who use handguns must have appropriate licensure. Most of the time, though, carrying a weapon is unnecessary for an investigator.
  • May come in contact with poisonous, flammable, or explosive gases and chemicals as well as radioactive or other hazardous materials that may have immediate or long-term effects on health.

Education and Training

  • Often requires an Associates, Bachelors or Masters degree.
  • Students may also need to earn state licensure or specialized certification for a particular concentration in their field.
  • Many employers prefer applicants who have at least 2 years of specialized training or an associate’s degree in applied science or science-related technology. Because employers’ preferences vary, however, some science technicians have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology, or forensic science or have taken several science and math courses at 4-year colleges..
  • Many certificate programs in crime scene investigation are available. 
  • There is also a significant amount of on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced crime scene investigators. 

Job Outlook

  • Depite the relatively low salaries, competition in the investigation field is high.
  •  The field is an attractive to many recently graduated students as well as to working professionals.

Learn more about becoming a Crime Scene Investigator

* Source - International Crime Scene Investigators Association - FAQ's


**Since crime scene investigators usually have intense schedules, this estimate assumes a 45 hour workweek, 5 days per week.


International Crime Scene Investigators Association - FAQ's - Guide to College Majors in Crime Scene Investigation


Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook